Cologne at home – Thursday 21h00 & Chelsea away – Sunday 14h30

Two games this week and that will be the case for the next three weeks all the way through until Sunday 1st October whereafter we have a free week until we start the two games a week cycle again. That is based on the premise that we win our Carabao Cup match next Wednesday against Doncaster Rovers. This week we have our first Thursday night game aka Europa match against FC Cologne. I suppose the most common knowledge about Cologne for Arsenal players is that this is the club that we bought Lukas Podolski from and for whom he scored thirty three times in 88 appearances, second time round. Cologne have not had a great start to the season, losing all three of their Bundesliga matches. They ended last season in 5th spot, a distant 13 points behind 4th placed finishers, 1899 Hoffenheim. So under normal circumstances this would be a team that we should have no problem with however, there are a number of circumstances that could cause this not to be the case. I don’t think anyone is too sure as to what Arsene’s tactics are going to be in Europe this season. I think it’s fair to say that the Premier League is his number one target, but will he consider the Europa Cup as a big competition? Bigger than the FA Cup? Probably, because by winning this competition the rewards are far greater (entry into next season’s UCL as opposed to a Community Shield match against the team that finishes second in the league – see what I did there J). The true question is though “To what degree” will he compete? There is much talk of giving the youngsters an opportunity, something that happens without batting an eyelid in the EFL Cup and maybe not so often in the FA Cup. But with the Europa Cup squad containing 42 players, it’s impossible to say whether he will favour the youngsters. He has the following to draw on: Deyan Iliev, Matt Macey, Chuba Akpom, Ryan Huddart, Hugo Keto, Tolaji Bola, Chiori Johnson, Tafari Moore, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Krystian Bielik, Charlie Gilmour, Marcus McGuane, Reiss Nelson, Ben Sheaf, Pelenda Da Silva, Aaron Eyoma, Edward Nketiah and Joseph Willock!! Add to that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy then Arsene has plenty of ammo to surprise us!

This first game against Cologne could very well be the game to surprise us as we then come up against Chelski on Sunday and Wenger will want to make sure he has the strongest squad available for that match. Our record against Chelski has been chequered, winning the last match on penalties in the Community Shield, getting thrashed somewhere in Asia in pre-season, beating them 2-1 in that all important FA Cup Final, losing 3-1 in the equivalent away fixture last season and beating them 3-0 in the home fixture last season. Chelsea themselves have a comfortable home tie against Qarabag on Tuesday night so they should be well rested by the time they pitch up at The Emirates.

That last game against Chelsea at The Emirates, where we won 3-0 was a turning point for them and they subsequently went on a run of games that saw them climb up the table and maintain that no 1 spot til the end of the season. So, as much as we’d like to see a similar result to that one, it would also be somewhat painful to see a similar long term result. Looking at the team sheet in that match, we had Santi playing, and I think that speaks volumes to the form we were in then to what has happened since seeing him limp off the pitch in the 6-0 victory against Ludogrets last October. The bottom line is that we have not found a replacement for him and as hard as Wenger tried to bring in Thomas Lemar and Jean-Michael Seri, we still do not have that gifted midfielder that can spark the team into life.

I expect Wenger to field a similar starting XI to the Bournemouth game, but fitting in Sanchez at the expense of Danny. Maybe a harsh call as Danny had a great game and it may be the case that Wenger keeps Sanchez back on the bench, citing fitness issues as an excuse. My only concern is Monreal in the full back role but I think he will remain there for this match.

We’re into our fourth week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru and things are beginning to hot up. The top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League
Welbz FC                             Yusuf H                               251
JELLYS NPO                        Eugene Cardoso               230
Lindo United                         Sibusiso Ndlovu                229

Special mention goes to Justin Toerien’s Petr Cech Yourself with a week high score of 80
Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               37,91
Joffie B                                                                              33,75
mecamakan                                                                      31,58

Highest points for the week goes to DutchySA who moved up 26 places to 21st with a well scored 10,5 points.

So, we’re back to winning ways and how nice would it be to keep that feeling going this weekend against Chelsea. It’s a Sunday afternoon match at 2:30pm. We have the patio booked out so why not come down to the Brazenhead for a fight for a fun afternoon and cheer the team on. We will also be at the Brazenhead in the Wine Cellar for the Cologne game so don’t be shy, come down for that one too.

 

Kind Regards

Arsenal South Africa

Bournemouth Home Saturday 9th September 16h00

Transfer deadline day is now a thing of the past. Thank goodness for that. I really can’t remember the last time we had a satisfactory transfer period. I suppose, when we had our marquee signings of Ozil and Sanchez, we were quite happy about that. But there again, we Arsenal supporters tend to have short memories due to the fact that there is so much in the recent past that we don’t really want to remember! But, if you look at our transfer history over the past years, it reads as follows:

2017-18: Players In – two – Lacazette and Kolasinac. Players Out – twelve – Ox, Gabriel, Szczesny and Gibbs. Net profit of £24.4m

2016-17: Players In – seven – Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez and Holding. Players Out – six – Gnabry. Net loss of £77.3m

2015-16: Players In – seven – Cech and Elneny. Players Out – six – Poldi. Net loss of £19.3m

2014-2015: Players In – twelve – Sanchez, Welbeck, Gabriel, Chambers and Debuchy. Players Out – seventeen – Vermaelen and Djorou. Net loss £72.8m

2013-14: Players In – ten – Ozil. Players Out – twenty four – Gervinho. Net loss £27.7m

2012-13: Players In – seven – Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud and Monreal. Players Out – thirteen – van Persie and Song. Net profit £1.56m

Other than this year, the last time we made a profit on (summer and winter) transfers was back in the 2012-13 season when we were still regarded as a selling club. The years prior to that season and since the 2000-01 season saw an overall net loss on transfer dealings to the tune of £10.3m where we fluctuated between making profits and losses across the years. So, what can we conclude from all this? My feeling is that the club is being run more and more like a business than a football club. It is understandable that one cannot just go out and be reckless and spend more than one earns but in the same breath, there needs to be progress made on the field and we cannot rely on home grown talent to fill the gaps. As has been pointed out, we finished last season outside the top four for the first time since the 1995/96 season and what do we do? Buy a striker and freebie left back! Were those the areas that caused us to fall behind those other four teams and allow Sp*rs to finish above us for the first time in 22 years? Where is that central midfielder we so desperately need? And who is Bellerin’s back up on the right – Chambers, Debuchy? It would appear that Arsene and his team have missed a trick or two in this transfer season and we could find ourselves being punished for it.

However, not all is doom and gloom and I suppose it depends on what your outlook is. On paper, we still have two world class players in Ozil and Sanchez and we have a potent striker with the purchase of Lacazette. We also have a lot of quality across the field that if their heads are in the right place and their hearts follow suit, we can do well this season. And when I say well, we could challenge for the title. But not if we have any further displays similar to the one at Anfield last time out. I don’t profess to know why we played in the manner we did, there could have been a number of factors but it’s safe to say that if we don’t resolve whatever those factors/issues are then we could quite easily drop out of even the Europa qualifying positions. It’s a scary thought and with the supporters ready to turn on any mishap that may occur from this point forward, Arsene has a very tricky situation on his hands. He needs to pull his team together and show us that they are a team capable of winning the league, capable of competing with the Citehs, the Chelskis, the MFUs, the Liverpools and the Sp*rs and at the same side have the qualities to wipe aside the lesser Evertons and Southamptons. These will be his last two seasons in charge (if he makes it that far!) and he will be eager to show the world that he still has it, that x-factor that he had in abundance when he arrived twenty one years ago. We all hope that he can show us all, we now must wait and see whether he can pull it off.

Looking forward, we have a few tricky games to navigate and the results of the next three premier league games will give us a good indication of what the season holds for us. In addition to those, we have a (Thutrsday night) Europa game against Cologne and a Carabao EFL Cup game against Doncaster Rovers to contend. Our next match is on Saturday, which will be a rarity this season due to our Europa commitments. The next Saturday match after this one is mid October, so enjoy this one whilst you can. It’s against Bournemouth, a team unlucky not to have picked up a point against Citeh last Saturday and who caused us all sorts of problems last season. In the same fixture last season, we won 3-1 with a brace from Sanchez and one from Walcott but it was far from plain sailing. The first half saw us take the lead but then get pegged back by a penalty. Bournemouth then proceeded to put us under pressure and had some fine opportunities to take the lead. We were able to hold out to half time and the second half fortunately was a different game with Arsenal scoring twice, however the visitors were never really out of it until injury time when Sanchez put the game to bed. Our return match was a totally different story where we were 3-0 down with 20 minutes left on the clock. The fact that we managed to come home with a point and three late goals showed the character of the team and hopefully this is something that will be more prevalent in our games to come.

What team will Arsene put out? Coming off the back of this international break, there will be some heavy legs. I think the only question will be whether Sanchez starts as he will most likely be involved in Chile’s encounter with Bolivia which is a must win game for Chile with Ecuador and Brazil being their final two opponents. Other than him, and if there are no surprise injuries I don’t believe anyone else will be rested. That said, who Arsene puts onto the park will be interesting, but of more interest is whether he will revert to a back four. My feeling is that he will and thus the question therefore is will he play Mustafi or Mertesacker with Koscielny, or indeed Holding? As much as Mustafi is a bit of a liability on the pitch with his lunging tackles, he is more mobile than Mertesacker and has more experience than Holding. Bellerin will start on the right and it’s between Monreal and Kolasinac as to who fills that left back position. As much as I would like to see Kolasinac start, I think Wenger will be cautious and stick with Monreal. In midfield we have Xhaka, Ramsey, Coquelin and Elneny. I would probably keep Coquelin on the bench and play the other three. We haven’t seen much from Elneny this season, but he’s a tidy player that keeps the movement and passing going and I think he needs to be brought more into the starting XI. Ozil, Lacazette and preferably Sanchez would complete the team, but if Sanchez does not start then it’s between Walcott and Welbeck. My preference, based on recent games is to go for Walcott. I feel that Welbeck is still too left footed and when I say that I mean that he has got two left feet! He’s great at getting into position but his finishing leaves a lot to be desired. We all know about Walcott’s abilities and I see Bournemouth as a team that will suit his style of play. They won’t cram 11 men into the penalty area and Walcott should have space to run at them. That leaves the goal keeper and as solid as Cech can be, he has had a few hiccups of late and Ospina needs to be given opportunities. I don’t see it happening for this game but I feel that we will soon be seeing a lot more of Ospina.

We’re into our third week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru and the top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League

Oxcatcher                          Jared Timm                        185

JELLYS NPO                        Eugene Cardoso               185

Hedge FC                            Swelihle Ngubeni             185

London Rox                       Mfundo Nkosi                   185

All very tight with 4 teams on the same points. Special mention goes to Cedric Angelo Nappies’ CLK team with a week high score of 70

Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               28,58

Joffie B                                                                             27,50

WBrown                                                                          25,25

Highest points for the week goes to Jonosky who moved up 57 places to 25th with a well scored 11,25 points.

So, back to the wonderful ways of Arsenal FC and as supporters all we can do is…….. support! So let’s do it, down at the Brazenhead, on Saturday and also have some fun. See you there.

 

Liverpool Away * DesignaShirt PUMA 20% discount *

I went to a school that only played rugby and cricket, no soccer, but the storyline still applies. At the end of the rugby term, once all our fixtures were complete, we still had rugby practice as part of our daily exercise in the afternoons. As there was really no further direction to the season, the coaches used to have a bit of fun and swapped the forwards with the backs. This was a great idea for the forwards as we loved to see the centres and wingers scrum down and battle out rucks whilst we forwards sat back in the backline and watched on. However, this is not a good idea Mr Wenger when you are just kicking off the season and are playing for points which, come the end of the season, are very valuable to have in the bag! We won this same fixture 4-1 at the end of last season and to have dropped three points due to players being played out of position, is really not acceptable. All this talk of Ozil not putting in a shift and Ox running down blind alleys is pretty much missing the point and to blame the ref for disallowing goals or not granting penalties is grasping at straws. If the team is not set up correctly at the start of the game then one can only look to the person that put that team out onto the field. Simple as that. Let’s not get into twitter debates about which players did or didn’t do what.

It’s early days still, so don’t despair. There have been seasons quite recently when a team got off to a flying start and were eventually pulled back into the pack. A bit like the Tour de France. So when you see MFU get off to a flyer, conceding no goals and scoring eight in two games don’t get too excited. Things will soon even themselves out. As with Chelski pulling Sp*rs back on the weekend, or Citeh and Everton drawing, so MFU will see their day *crosses fingers* If you look at the other ‘big’ teams, Chelski and Sp*rs have both lost a game and Liverpool and Citeh have drawn one, thus only leaving MFU with the advantage of six out of six points!

Enough of the past, as I indicated in my last blog, it is good to have this fixture behind us now. Who knows, we may only have to visit the bet365 Stadium again in 2019 and maybe Wenger will get his selections sorted by then.

Onto the weekend and we have an exciting visit to Anfield to look forward to and an opportunity to put things right. This is the last game before that annoying early season international break upsets the rhythm a team may have acquired and therefore it is important that we do not lose ground on the leaders. Looking at the other contenders, MFU have an interesting encounter with Leicester City, which will be their toughest encounter so far and will be of interest to us as comparisons will surely be made to our opening game of the season. Chelski take on Everton and again, comparisons will be drawn against Citehs match on Monday night. Citeh and Sp*rs have what seem like easy games, but that’s what we thought we had last weekend, so they need to be wary. A lot has been said of Sp*rs’ home game dis-advantage and the results speak for themselves, having lost eight times in their eleven appearances at the new Wembley stadium. They will be nervous when they take on Burnley, but it would be difficult to see the visitors pick up another three points in the capital.

The talking point for this Sunday’s match will be what role will Sanchez play, if any. It would be a disaster if Sanchez was not in the squad and this for me would point to one thing, being that he is on his way out. But I’d rather not entertain that thought and although Arsene says that it will be a bit of time before Sanchez hits form, I would immediately have him in my starting eleven. You only have to remember the same trip we made last year, where Wenger did not start him, and we came away a poor second, beaten 3-1, with Liverpool goals from Firmino, Mane and Wijnaldum and a solitary reply from Danny. Sanchez joined the fray at the beginning of the second half, by which time we were already two goals down. If Wenger starts him on the bench, I would be disappointed. His fitness levels may not be 100%, but we’re talking about Sanchez here and his 50% is generally more than any other player’s 100%! He was also close to being in the match squad for the Stoke game and had he been, I’m sure he would have come on as a substitute based on how that game went down. So what I’m saying is that as much as Wenger likes to molly coddle his players, this weekend is not the time to do that!

From an injury perspective, we seem to be in a good place and apart from poor old Santi, everyone else is available for selection. A certain amount has been spoken about our back three/five and whether Arsene will convert to a back four going forward. For this game I don’t think it’s time to change tactics, just selections and making the right ones. I see that Holding played in the U23 game against Citeh on Monday evening and reports are that he had a disappointing game, which probably rules him out from starting on Sunday. The good news is that Koscielny is back from suspension and he should automatically slot into the centre of the defence with Mustafi and Monreal. Bellerin as RWB and Kolasinac as LWB should then give us our best back five. I would persist with the Xhaka – Ramsey combination in midfield and have Ozil, Lacazette and Sanchez up front. Sounds good to me, hopefully Arsene has similar thoughts.

We’re into our second week of ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru. Still early days, but the top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League

Fantastic 11                       Danyal Cajee                     141

Beat Around Debuchy     Siya Ntombela                  135

Oxcatcher                          Jared Timm                        133

Special mention goes to Eugene Cardoso’s JELLYS NPO with a week high score of 75

Superbru

ZeZou                                                                               21,33

mecamakan                                                                    20,00

Joffie B                                                                             19,75

Highest points for the week goes to JarretFrancis87 who moved up 65 places to 9th with a well scored 12,25 points.

So remember, this is the last game for a while due to the international break. Next game will be in two weeks’ time on 9th September. We’ve got the DesignaShirt guys coming through again where they are selling Arsenal shirts at 20% discount (members only) PLUS they will also do your printing requirements for a small fee on the day. What more could you ask for on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Brazenhead patio area has been reserved for all Arsenal supporters so why don’t y’all cmon down and have some fun!

Stoke City Away Saturday 18h30

Our favourite match of the season and it is coming so early on. It will be good to get it behind us. There was a time when we would always lose these matches, however you have to go back three years for our last loss at the Britannia Stadium, which ended 3-2 after being 3-0 down at half time. I didn’t get to see the Everton v Stoke match last weekend, but Stoke lost 1-0 allowing Wayne Rooney a triumphant return to Goodison Park after so many years in the wilderness. Stoke have some useful players, specifically Shaqiri and Bojan whilst they have supplemented their squad with Kurt Zouma, on loan from Chelsea and Bruno Martins Indi from Porto. The more positive news from an Arsenal perspective is that Marco Arnautovic and Jon Walters are no longer Stoke players. Both of these players have been a thorn in our side over the past years and their absence makes life somewhat easier for our boys.

I don’t think anyone was ready for what happened in our first game of the season against Leicester City last Friday. Such a great start after 2 minutes, what we thought was a blip after 4 minutes and total frustration after 30 mins left Arsenal supporters a little shell shocked. To add to this, Okazaki and Mahrez had opportunities in the first half that didn’t go far wide. Welbeck managed to equalize in first half injury time using his third left foot by all accounts and things looked a bit brighter at half time. Leicester were going to have none of this though and took the lead again in the 56th minute giving Vardy a double for the game. He could well have had a hat-trick had Cech not been lucky in what looked very much like the last man in a “no-man’s land” area, however Vardy’s control was not as tight as it could have been and the Czech was able to boot the ball away. And then Arsene came up with his master plan – confuse the enemy! As Arseblog put it, he “brought on Ramsey and Giroud for Holding and Elneny, resulting in us playing two left backs at centre half, a right back at left back, a midfielder at right back, our record signing striker on the left of midfield and another striker on the right of midfield”. No wonder poor old Shakespeare (that’s the Leicester City coach) was confused! And what happened after that is now history. Ramsey BOOM, Giroud BOOM BOOM! And we steal it. Not that we didn’t deserve it *cough* And made all the sweeter when the group of people in the adjoining room at the Brazenhead were Leicester City supporters who had taunted us earlier when we went 2-1 down.

If I were to choose three key players from the weekend, it would be Kolasinac, Lacazette and Giroud. Kolasinac was huge in that game and the ArsenalSA supporters at the Brazenhead were singing his praises. We haven’t seen a hard man like that in the Arsenal squad for many a year. Lacazette, purely for his second minute goal. So well taken and being in the right place at the right time. And Giroud. Our super sub. He continues from where he left off last season and the fact that Wenger gave him the option to leave and he turned it down just makes him even more admirable. He must surely have gained a few extra brownie points in the eyes of the disbelievers.

News is that we have got both Mertesacker and Mustafi available for the game this weekend and my feeling is that they will walk straight into the side. Unfortunately, Koscielny is still serving out his red card ban and so I would expect Holding to retain his place. Then we have an abundance of wing-backs, Bellerin, The Ox, Monreal and Kolasinac to choose from. My preference would be The Ox and Kolasinac. I expect Ramsey to step in for Elneny and the front three to remain the same.

Membership/Subscriptions
We are now into our first week of the season and this is a gentle reminder for members to pay their annual subscriptions. This really is a small amount of R150 per person and affords you a number of benefits of which 20% discount on PUMA Arsenal wear and 10% discount at the Brazenhead in Fourways are but a few. It also allows you to enter the annual raffle which this past season was an air ticket to London and a match ticket to an Arsenal home game. We will be negotiating with our sponsors what prize can be put up this year. As that great Arsenal supporter, Teddy Kennedy once said “Don’t ask what ArsenalSA can do for you, ask what you can do for ArsenalSA”

The current list of paid up members are:
Rob Theunissen, Ketan Patel, Gavin O’leary, Ronald Campbell, Chris Herbst, Keshiv Singh, S.West, Dorith & Steven Foxton, Andrew Lee Sun, Devashin Govender, Kalu Chika, Lebogang Nkoana, Mpazi Siwale & Nikhil Bhogal.

Thanks to these guys and girls, we rely on subscriptions to fund us going forward and hopefully there will be more to come. There are 4 other payments that have been made that cannot be identified, 2 by EFT and 2 by SnapScan. If you believe you have made one of these payments, please reply to this email and verify your details.

Payments by SnapScan have been suspended so please, when paying your subscriptions, either pay by cash directly to me on match day or by EFT using the following details:

Arsenal Supporters Club
Standard Bank
Rivonia Branch, 001255
Acc No: 22982744
Reference: Your First and Last Name

Our ArsenalSA Fantasy League and SuperBru kicked off as from last week’s game. Early days, but the top of the respective tables look as follows:

Fantasy Premier League
LALLANAS IN PYJAMAS  Nicholas da Silva               90
nigels thornberries             Benjamin Hay                    85
Tank AFC                           Tarquin Bishop                   80

Superbru
Joffie B                                                                          11,5
MitchyK                                                                         10,75
ZeZou                                                                            10,5

Well done, but remember we have another 37 rounds to go!

So we have a Saturday match this weekend which may become a bit of a rarity going forward this season due to our Thursday night Europa involvement so enjoy whilst you can. It’s more likely to be Sunday games and the odd Monday game. So let’s keep the groove going and c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have some fun.

Kind Regards

Arsenal South Africa

PUMA 20% Discount (for real) / Shirt Printing / Leicester City Home Friday 20h45

A bit of admin first, for those who are interested. Apologies for the stuff up with regards to the PUMA event that was planned for last Saturday evening. A bit of miscommunication there. We have now organised that the event will be held this Friday at the Brazenhead and we will also have Designashirt at the club to do any printing on your shirt that you require. Designashirt will be able to cater for your printing requirements there and then at the Brazenhead, be it your own name or your favourite player, so take advantage of this facility whilst it’s available. Now, the shirts (home and away kit) and the printing are available for everyone but it obviously makes sense to sign up as a member, as the discount being offered is more than the cost of the annual subscription and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist  to work that one out! So come on down to the Brazenhead on Friday, preferably half an hour or so before the game and get your shirt and printing all ready for the new season.

Right, 2017/18 here we go! And it’s Leicester at home that was first out of the bag and although not the easiest start to the season, it could have been much worse, like Liverpool away – won’t have to wait too long for that one though. Since mid-July, Leicester have had seven pre-season friendlies which have resulted in 3 losses, 2 wins and 2 draws. Their last game was on Friday against Borussia Moenchengladbach which they won 2-1, with both goals coming in the second half from that Foxy striker, Jamie Vardy. They also lost out in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy, 2-1 to Liverpool. They managed to get through to the final with a 7-6 penalty shoot out win against West Brom after that game finished 1-1 after the 90 minutes.

It looks as though they have had a good pre-season workout and on the Home page of their website, Captain Morgan says “We’re Ready”. Looking at their Ins and Outs from a transfer perspective, they have had no significant departures and have brought in Harry Maguire and Eldin Jakupovic from Hull City, Kelechi Iheanacho from Citeh, Vicente Iborra from Sevilla and youngster George Thomas from Coventry. Of these, I think Iheanacho is probably their best bit of business as he seemed to score a number of goals for Citeh whilst coming off the bench. The other piece of transfer business that may not be complete is that of Riyad Mahrez. Reports are that he will be involved in the match on Friday and although there have been reports of interest from Arsenal (which I believe to be pure media speculation), it is quite possible that he may end up on the continent at an Italian or Spanish team before the end of August. There again, maybe no one wants him that much.

Arsenal’s pre-season has been interesting with two penalty shoot outs, a couple of losses and a couple of wins. Looking back to the last game of the pre-season, we look to be cohesive in our play, which says a lot considering the number of senior players that were not in the squad. Iwobi has made great strides and is proof that players can make it through the system to earn a first team place. Kolasinac looks strong and exciting and his header was so well placed that he may take over as our leading defensive goal scorer from Koscielny.

There are a number of doubts for Friday’s game. Sanchez is definitely out and will probably miss Stoke as well. It’s going to be an awkward introduction for him into the team this season as he has not been involved in any pre-season games and now misses the first two games of the league. It could be a while before we see him starting however, with our third game of the season being away against Liverpool and the whole palaver last season in the same match where he did not start, maybe we’ll see him sooner rather than later. Doubts also exist for Ozil and Ramsey who were not in the squad for the Community Shield game and Mertesacker who earned himself a nasty cut to the face from Gary ‘elbows’ Cahill. Add to this the fact that both Coquelin and Gabriel are both out with injuries and Koscielny is serving the end of his red card ban, then one starts to get that oldArsenal start of the season feeling where we are down to the raw bones when it comes to selection.

Fortunately, Wenger has built up great depth in the team and based on what we saw last Sunday, I would feel confident enough that the team we put out has enough experience to see out this game. Our starts to the past seasons have not been great and working back, we have seen a loss to Liverpool (3-4), a loss to West Ham (0-2), a squeaky injury time win against Palace, a loss to Villa (1-3) and a draw to Sunderland (0-0). Not exactly a set of results to inspire anyone and interestingly enough, all these matches have been at home. So, if we are going to prove the doubters wrong this season and seriously challenge for the league title, we must win games like these. If Burnley could be so strong at home last season then there’s no reason why we can’t and we should be looking for a 100% outcome at home.

Other than our poor season starts, we also need to up our game when it comes to our head to head matches with the other four or five teams that are challenging for the title. It has been well noted that we had the worst record of the top six last season when it came to head to heads and I’m sure you will find this to be the case if you look to earlier seasons too. And, when we do achieve a better record against the top six, then we tend to falter against the minnows. Arsene obviously knows this and will be looking for better performances on both these counts and if he can achieve them, then we will obviously be in a good position at the end of the season to make a challenge.
So guys and girls, a new experience this weekend with a Friday night kick off. I suppose the one good thing about it is that we will have the whole weekend to recover (from the celebrations?) and watch the other teams battle it out. With the shirt and printing discount and the Arsenal game, why don’t you c’mon down to the Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun!