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!