SO just like that the Premier League is back. Summer’s sun seems a long time ago and it’s strange to think that we have sat through months of transfer speculation and tenuous links to reach the first game of the season with fewer additions than I used to manage in maths class! Arsenal’s ever-expanding pre-season tour was a PR success by all accounts and a travelling masterclass by their holiday coordinator! But no amount of free shirts, bus chasing or signatures will cover up the cracks in our team that were evident last season. Aston Villa certainly have enough to trouble our back four, as our Villans fan on the sofa will attest to I’m sure. Can we imagine a home defeat at the start of the season? Surely whether we go on to sign anyone now, the fact Arsenal begin the season with the same 11 that finished the last campaign (if even they can stay fit!), is something few of us could have imagined. So without further ado, I’ll let the lads on the sofa have their say . . .
Well Tom it’s the same frustrations for Arsenal fans as we head into a new campaign having spent absolutely nothing! Most of the players we have been linked with have all gone elsewhere and Bendtner is one injury away from leading the line! We even took to booing Gonzalo Higuain during a pre season game! It’s getting that desperate that if we signed a new tea lady it could appease some of the fans!
With injuries being picked up as well before a balls been kicked of the new season I’m starting to think the thin squad we have “assembled” this summer may not make it to Christmas. No new signings as we were all promised by Ivan and Arsene who are acting more and more like Bill and Ben, and would probably be more productive sat in a flowerpot to be honest. We have been linked with most players in Europe and most of them have had medicals at the club, so either the medical team are on strike, the directions on the site are wrong, or someone has been getting all our hopes up for no reason! The only big name signing for Arsenal this summer has been the confirmation that Gunnersauras will continue for another year as club mascot!
Wages also seem to be an issue despite clearing up nearly £200,000 a week from the wage bill. You want to believe Wenger is the man for the job after what he has done for the club and I will get behind him and the team this season, but for me he is just falling behind the times in the transfer market and in his fashion sense if the above picture is anything to go by!
On a more positive note, preseason was a success with some good results, Olly Giroud scoring for fun and Jack Wilshere getting some more minutes under his belt. We also gave City a footballing lesson despite their big summer additions. A special mention to Gedion Zalalem who looks an absolute gem at 16 years of age and plays with the vision and technique of Xavi! That old chestnut you don’t win anything with kid’s springs to mind though and Wenger knows that by now so it’s time for him to get some established players into the team. Having said that, Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski have all had a years’ experience in the Premier League and that will put them in good stead.
The Villa game this weekend seems to be a good game on paper, so here’s to a win on Saturday and the start of the new season. Despite a frustrating summer we have our Arsenal back and let’s get behind the lads! COYG!!
Team-Player Tom 08.16
Opening day has always had a mystique unlike any other sporting event. After a summer of beers, BBQ’s and pretending to care about cricket, football fans come back to life and begin the mental preparation for the next nine months of turmoil.
So to the Emirates, and after months of speculation, anticipation and an overwhelming lack of action it’s pretty much ‘as you were’ for Saturday. Recent campaigns have taken weeks to splutter into life and with a depleted squad and a tough opening schedule, Arsenal simply don’t have the luxury of repeating their almost annual shaky start. Whilst the departures of Gervinho, Chamakh and co. aren’t comparable to the morale crushing moves completed in previous seasons by RVP and Cesc, there is still a pattern of players not being replaced. Wenger’s attacking line options for Villa are looking limited and with Champions League qualifiers alarmingly close, Gooners such as yourself Nick could be forgiven for questioning his idleness and show of stubbornness. Call me delusional but I truly thought this might be the year to see Wenger splash the prodigal £70 million kitty like he promised, and while she may not yet be singing, somewhere a fat lady is warming up her vocal chords and getting ready to belt out a deadline day sayonara to Arsenal’s ambitions.
If any positives are to be drawn ahead of Saturday it’s that Villa are even more dependable than Arsenal to make a poor start, although I’m sure our Villa fan here will have something to say about that. The end of last term proved how vital each point is and this should be a comfortable game for Arsenal, even with some senior players ruled out. With no fresh blood to speak of, the dependable performers at the back-end of last year’s campaign will be needed to step up once again. Expect Jack to control the game whilst hopefully by the end of the ninety minutes Olly G will have fans asking ‘Luis who?!’
It may not be prudent (or cheerful) to think about season expectations before the first ball has been kicked in anger, however, it is a concern that rival camps have seemed to thrive in the window. Laughing at Spurs may have to wait for now, as they have strengthened an already dangerous squad with Soldado in particular likely to prove an excellent acquisition. If they do indeed succeed where Arsenal have so famously failed in recent seasons and hold onto Bale it is hard to deny that the ‘mind the gap’ slogan may be upturned come May. Likewise City have spent big to replace the outbound Tevez and Balotelli and it would be surprising if the return of Mourinho didn’t significantly buoy the Stamford Bridge old guard. A long nine months looms. Strap in.
Reporter Robbo 08.23
So Villa get their season underway with a trip to the Emirates this Saturday, quickly followed by a jaunt across London to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Throw in a game against Liverpool and it’s fair to say most Villa faithful are not expecting to get much joy from a tough set of opening fixtures.
Having said that there is a quiet confidence brewing among the squad, staff and fans. Lambert moved quickly in the transfer window (take note Arsene) to bring in six new recruits, all of whom may be relatively unheard of but fit the modus operandi of young, hungry players that characterises our team. Furthermore, a raft of key players signed new deals including Guzan, Westwood, Lowton, Weimann and, most importantly of all, star man Christian Benteke after a bizarre 10 day transfer request U-turn. That jittery week and a half aside, it’s been a refreshingly positive summer.
In terms of the new faces, there are a couple who I’m personally looking forward to seeing. Young Danish centre back and Gary Coleman doppelgänger Jores Okore looks a fantastic prospect and will provide plenty of competition for Vlaar, Clark and Baker in the heart of defence. Bulgarian attacking midfielder Aleksandar Tonev has shown encouraging flashes in pre-season and the fabulously bearded Antonio Luna will most likely be our first choice left back.
So to the game itself and given Arsenal’s lack of strengthening so far, playing the Gunners first game might actually be a blessing in disguise. If we come out of the blocks quickly we’re capable of catching the North Londoners cold and in our attacking trident of Gabby-Benteke-Weimann there are goals. Wenger’s boys have started sluggishly in seasons gone by, giving us a whisper of hope to cling on to. The worry is still our defence and we’re always likely to concede so the best we can realistically hope for is a score draw.
I think I aged about 10 years during the course of last year as I’m sure many Gooners did, but even so it’s the most positive many Villa fans have felt about the club and its direction for some time. Something I’m not sure can be heard in parts of North London at the moment . . .
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