Today is finally the day Gooners worldwide can rejoice. Today is the day where we can make an impression on the other big boys. Today is the day we take the league by storm.
Every nook and cranny of Twitter is buzzing in anticipation of our home opener against Sunderland, a team who looks ready for a beating. With our new additions and overall positive attitude going into this fixture, a win is a must. Not just for a good start at the table, but as a statement that the Arsenal are to be taken seriously. We’re not licking our wounds about RVP’s departure, but instead we’re a force to be reckoned with. A team to prove serious title contenders need to be feared, not pitied. The only way to make this impression is to leave everything on the pitch. From the minute that whistle blows, it’s war.
First thing’s first, projected lineups. Even some key players missing, we’ve got a strong squad to work with for tomorrow. I think we’ll start out with something like this.
In some cases, players pick themselves out of necessity, but that’s not an issue. For the first time in quite a while we can finally say that our squad has some proper depth to it. We’ve got cover in every position, even with some players being sold or loaned. This is the key to success, as demonstrated by City last season, due to the rigours of challenging on all fronts. No one is expected to play all 40+ games without a break anymore, and that can only be beneficial to overall squad fitness, both physical and mental.
Injuries / Availability Issues
Laurent Koscielny: calf strain
Sagna: Fitness training
Oxlade Chamberlain: Ankle
Despite there being some problems with personnel as of late, we still have a strong team to field today. We’ll finally get a glimpse at the final form of our new look side, with one surprise inclusion in Abou Diaby. Having maintained fitness for weeks and impressing in pre season, Diaby deserves a run of games in the starting lineup. Sometimes the amount of raw talent Diaby possesses is often overlooked, his injuries being the focal point of his stuttering career. Hopefully we’ll have some luck with him as we have with certain star strikers in the past, and Abou will prove his doubters wrong.
Aside from small niggles and fatigue, most players will be available for selection, but don’t bet on seeing Olivier Giroud until the second half, if at all. Giroud came back from international duty mildly fatigued, so our best bet is to start with Podolski up front for the time being. It’s a shame should Jenkinson start, because Carl is easily our best crosser among the team, and Olivier would definitely benefit from well placed back post lobs. We’ll have to leave that for another day most likely, and concentrate on what we do best: possession. Sunderland are a team who have no issues parking the bus if need be, so patience in this match will be key. There’s always time when you can pass as well as our boys, so all we have to do is run them ragged and wait for the openings. We all know that Lukas Podolski has a lethal left foot, and doesn’t need to be told twice to shoot. Here’s hoping he can bag a goal or two before the day is done. it shouldn’t be a problem with Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla behind him. He’s a great player, but I’m not sure how well Cazorla will fare in the EPL, as it could be a sharp learning curve, especially in his adaptation to the physicality and pace of the league. Normally I scoff at statements like those, but we have to remember the former Malaga linchpin is only 5 ft. 5’, so size really does matter when you’re this small. One player who takes no issue with size is Per Mertesacker, or more eloquently labeled the “BFG”. Funnily enough, the German will make his Premier League return to play the opposition at which ground he injured himself back in March of last season. I hope Per can stay fit for the entire season, he’ll be playing a huge role in defence, literally.
Overall, not too much to complain about as we should have a full strength lineup with no injuries by mid december. A healthy squad is a happy squad, and that’s what we’ve got for the most part.
Whether or not we can actually challenge for silverware this season remains to be seen, but as far as Arsène Wenger is concerned, we’re focused and on course to do quite well. When the boss was asked about ambition in his pre-match press conference, he had this to say to fans who dared to dream. From the dot-com:
“I feel our fans can be very ambitious… We want to be more of a team than the other teams and want to play our football.”
“They can have every single ambition to win the Premier League and therefore let’s start well. That will raise the level of ambition and confidence as well.
“We have a massive challenge of course, because we have bought three players. Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla have all been very promising in pre-season games and we have our injured players coming back. Diaby is available again and Wilshere, Sagna are not far. There is a very positive mentality in the group and a very ambitious one as well. The Premier League is the Premier League and on Saturday we start playing for points. Therefore we want to be ready.”
Seems everything’s in order then, and we’re almost ready to kickoff another season of close calls, upsets and controversy. Let the games begin.
• Arsenal have won all 11 of their last opening fixtures.
• On This Day 2001: Sol Campbell made his debut & goals from Henry, Pires & Bergkamp (2) gave Arsenal a 4-0 win @ Boro. (via @MicktheGooner)
That’s it for now, but look out later for reviews on our new boys.