It’s that time of year when it’s no longer time to look back and indeed time to look forward… look forward to a great season ahead and what’s in store.
Our season starts this Saturday against Barnet before our Austrian tour kicks off next week. We’ve got the Emirates Cup in 2 weeks and a friendly against Liege Warsaw the weekend after the Cup and of course – that’s a week before we play Liverpool at Anfield in the Premiership. Of course, Liverpool is a tough start for any team – in any season. As much as any person says that Arsenal are “under performing” or “under achieving” (considering our investment and responsibilities, I think we’re doing very well)… Liverpool are a club in big trouble.
I mean BIG trouble… Debts are increasing daily, interest, loans, more loans, more interest – a genuine inability to finance themselves. A squad in decline, with a mish mash of a few very good players, a few decent others and a bunch of random players filling in gaps. Benetiz was sacked at the end of last season and they finished a lowly 7th. That kind of puts into perspective how we’ve done comparably – yes, we have spent less, much less than Liverpool.
However, Liverpool vs Arsenal is just that, Liverpool vs Arsenal – and if anything, the perils going on at the club will act and their resolve to do well. Believe me it will be a tough opening. The rest of August has two other games – Blackpool at home and then Blackburn away. If we beat Liverpool, we could end August with a series of wins. And yes, for the first time in a while, we don’t have a Champions League qualifier, as when we finished third, we automatically qualified for the competition, which means that we really only have 3 games in August. And the transfer windows closes at the end of August, so we’ll see how well we’ve started with a chance to strengthen…
Our first big four battle (well after Liverpool) will be Chelsea away, which is in October… as in Man City away… We entertain Sp*rs at home in November – who will all but be knocked out of the Champions League by then… we play Man United at Old Trafford and then Chelsea at the Emirates in December in quick succession with Stoke sandwiched in between. As usual it’s the winter months that have some hard tests – but if you want to win the league, then you’ve got to play everyone twice, don’t you?
We entertain Man City at home in early January, and then have a series of cup games until we take on Sp*rs away, with a few tricky away ties, aka West Ham and Newcastle also in February – we have a pretty straightforward March, maybe because there are International friendlies… but April could be a nightmare, with a potential semi final in the FA cup, then Liverpool at home and then a Champions League game and another home game, this time to Man United – all in the space of two weeks. Oh, with one of our favourite grounds Bolton, away, in there too…
My advice? Let’s wrap it up by March.
In the last couple of days, I’ve been pondering the formations we’ll play and with so many attackers and midfielders at the club, will Chamakh play up top, on the right, on the left? Let’s take a look at who’s on the books:
Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny
Eboue, Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Nordtveit, Clichy, Gibbs, Traore
Fabregas, Song, Nasri, Denilson, Diaby, Wilshere, Ramsey, Eastmond, Walcott, Rosicky, Arshavin
Van Persie, Niklas Bendtner, Maroune Chamakh, Eduardo, Carlos Vela
Now, there is a fairly big squad of players, there is some serious strengthen in depth. But there are some considerations to be made about the quality of the first team. There are no doubts that we have a lot of decent players. A lot of players,who, on their day, can be very very good players, but let’s take a look at the squad and look at what our first XI would be and what positions could better it. There are some areas to me that look like we could do with better – and the goalkeeping position stands out – but if rumours are to be known, then we’re looking to strengthen in that area. The centre backs look light, and I say that only because I don’t really know how Nordtveit will do, neither do I know much about Koscielny nor do I know the fitness of Djourou. There is always a question mark over who will partner Cesc and Song in the middle of the park in our 4-3-3, but it does like we have enough options, and unless one or two go, I doubt Arsene will bring in anyone else.
We have 6 weeks until the transfer window closes, approximately 4 weeks until we travel to Anfield for the opening day of the season and just 2 days until our first friendly…
Just before I sign off, a word directed in the favour of Thierry Henry – who has finally left Barcelona after being treated abysmally – what else would you expect? And joined MLS side “New York Red Bulls”… I hope he does well and rumours are that he may be joined by Freddie Ljungberg too… someone should tell the MLS side that Silvestre, Gallas and Sol Campbell are available on a free…
But in all seriousness, Good Luck Thierry… we’ll all become secret New York fans too now…