So, the season officially kicks off on August 12th/13th with our Champions League qualifier against [insert team here]. That game is less than a month away, and by then we'll have our squad sorted (we hope) and will be focused on the game at hand. Tomorrow will see the first leg of the first round of qualifying and the schedule for the earlier rounds are as follows:
- First qualifying round
15 – 23 July 2008
- Second qualifying round
29 Jul – 06 Aug 2008
- Third qualifying round
12 – 27 August 2008
So by Friday 8th August (considering it’s normally the Friday that things get decided), we’ll know who we will get in the third round…
The game against West Brom (live on SKY) will be the first game of the Premiership campaign and that’s on the following weekend. Before the season starts though, of course, we have the luxury of many friendlies. The Barnet game kicks it all off in a couple of weeks, but the big ones are the Emirates Cup and the Amsterdam Tournament, which will see our big guns have a run out.
With Hleb all but signed with Barcelona, according to tomorrow’s papers…
Alexander Hlebwill seal his dream move to Barcelona today, with the Spanish giants set to unveil the Belarusian at the Nou Camp, following his £15million departure from the Emirates. Barcawill stump up £12.5m up front for the 27-year-old, with the £2.5m remainder based on appearances and trophies. This summer, Hleb has courted interest from several of Europe’s biggest clubs; including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
… Arsene has been busy snapping up Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri- two players who can play on the wings. Arguably, we were one winger short last season, something which we’ve potentially changed with Ramsey’s signing and of course, replacing Hleb, which we’ve done with the Nasrisigning. With Rosicky, Eboue, Walcott and Vela bouncing around too, you’d consider 6 wingers enough of strengthin depth in that area at least. Nasri and Rosicky being first choice, with the other 4 coming in when required. Despite Arsene’s decision to use Vela and Walcott as strikers, you’d have to consider them for wing roles too. No more wingers required.
So where does that leave us now, we’ve recently seen Flamini and Diarra depart, and if reports are correct, Gilberto could be on his way to Pathaniakos. Of course we have Denilson, Diaby and Alex Song, but neither of the aforementioned players have seen much game time in the defensive midifield position. We have also been linked with a French youngster called Bischoff, who can play there too, but has been injured for most of the last year and a half. Considering Alex Song is going to the Olympics, that would leave Diaby and Denilson (and Bischoff) as the three choices for the DM position at the beginning of the season. It’s an area that you can see Arsene strengthening. One more defensive midfielder required.
With Ade-bye-yawn (Adebayor) still at the clubs, our striking options are: Ade, Van Persie, Eduardo, Bendtner, Vela and Walcott. That’s 3 provenand 3 youngsters. Of course, two of which are also considered as wingers. Where does that leave us up front? Well, I’d say it’s above adequate. If you imagine that none of the first three players were fit at the same time last season, you can imagine having them all there and Vela joining naturally adds more steel to the front line. If Ade does go, either with the Eto’o + 10m euro (then we have Eto’o) or in cash, we would need a replacement. If it’s a cash deal, then we would need a proven striker as a replacement. So either way, in numbers, nothing else needed. If one goes, one will be replaced. No more stikers needed.
Turning my attention to the defence. It’s an area that Arsene admitted let us down last season. Defensive errors, complacency, or Gallas? I’m not sure, but it’s an area that we haven’t heard much about. We have been linked with players such as Kompanyand Zapata, but nothing has materialised. It’s possible that we start the season with the same group of players. It would see Clichy, Traore, Sagna, Eboue, Toure, Gallas, Djourou, Senderos and Alex Song in the “potential starters”. Many people, including Arsenehave called for a player with greater defensive attributes, and I’d be surprised if Arsenedidn’t bring in a central defender at least; I do fear in the back of my head that he may not and go with this group again, but I do feel there is something missing, maybe “calm” is missing; against Sp*rs, United, Chelsea and Liverpool, we let panic into our defence and that’s what cost us vital points… One central defender required.
Finally, let’s take a look at the goalkeeping department. Almuniahas the #1 and has shown last season that he’s a good keeper. Someone who can win us points. I can recall some games when I’ve literally praised him for most of it. He needs to keep consistent, but with Casillas and Buffon aside, I’m happy that we’ve got a good keeper in between the sticks. Fabianski has impressed me and I think he’s a worthy #2 and Manonneis definitely a young player withpotential, whom will be biting at the heels of both Almunia and Fabianski. No keepers required.
All in all, our squad does need 2 players (Def Mid and Centre Back), so we shall leave it to Arsene to fill the gap and solve the Adebayor issues…
Okie dokie, enough from me… the guys are back in training, and not long until football season one again…