What a summer: Euro’s, Olympics, Wimbledon, early Arsenal signings and our usual transfer nonsense with our best player. And now the real stuff returns.
Mo Farah started the pre-season off well and I am sure Arsene’s red and white army will continue to lead from the front, 3 points today will be a fine start. A first game at home is a boost, particularly against what will be well marshaled opposition in Sunderland.
We have high hopes of our new boys – but will they play? Who plays midfield or full-back or even centre back? It appears O-C and Koscielny’s injuries are serious enough to exclude them from the squad. The only definite starter is Chezzer, which is the huge improvement in this squad as opposed to recent years. We have strong competition in every area apart from RB and GK. (surely we will buy ). The midfield is awash with top players all itching for a game – Diaby, Frimpong, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arshavin, and Rosicky will all compete for one place alongside what I expect to be the first choice of Arteta, Cazorla and Song (should he stay).
Another difference is that this is a team of men; when Sagna returns there will be grown ups all over the pitch - even O-C and Szczezny have developed following this International summer
Upfront we have also strengthened with different options to last season, we will not be so Robin Reliant. We have signed players with established goal scoring records and in Podolski have what could be the standout import of 2013.
Where can we improve? Well, I will start with “Jigsaw” Gervinho ( so called because he goes to pieces in the box). Give him the ball on the ground with space to run and Gervinho will confuse and confound his markers, but what we do not want to see is him become the new Hleb. We need him to score at least 10 this season because we lacked venom from the left, and a balanced attack is important. But how often will he start a game other than due to losses through injury? IMO the obvious front line is Pod, Giroud, and Theo.
What really cost us last season? The 49 goals conceded. No signings as yet to bolster the defence so our hopes lie with He’s Got No Hair but We Don’t Care. I maintained throughout the season that we have excellent defensive players but lacked defensive cohesion- it will be up to Stevie B to create a secure defence based upon every man knowing his job and where he needs to be. Lee Dixon said of the Famous 5 that he always knew where the others would be and that if he made a mistake the others would cover – we need more of the same. I still fear for us at RB; Jenkinson and Yennaris may well become fine players but to rely upon them for at least 2 months until Sagna returns is foolhardy.
My team: (prior to injury updates)
But this is purely a guess – Cazorla played in Puerto Rico on Weds and may be on the bench, Arteta may not be fit etc etc
As to Sunderland, we know any team managed by MoN will not be short of spirit and endeavour. The stats for the game point to an Arsenal victory (SFC have not won away since Feb). In midfield, Cattermole will make sure Santi gets an English welcome to the PL, and Larsson’s free kicks will test our defence (he scored a beauty at the Grove last season).
I think it needs to said how much admiration I have for Mr Wenger’s manner over the summer. He must have been furious about RvP and yet maintained his sang-froid, being polite and respectful throughout. Now, he faces the same with Song, though in this case DanDan’s revelations show AW playing a different game. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! My reading of AW’s stance is saying to the players ” If you do not feel proud to be wearing our shirt then join the Foreign Office”, a message I can only concur with.
We need to win this game and we should. Last season’s start was the worst in many years which led to us chasing the pack throughout the season (thanks for the meltdown Spurs). The boys on the pitch have to maintain the feel good factor of a new season. To those lucky enough to attend, become the 12th man.
I haven’t found a season’s theme as yet, so this should keep you going until I do…
Written by Big Raddy