Friday, 31 July 2015

Arsenal v Chelsea: Community Shield Preview

Arsenal have looked very good in their four pre season games so far with four victories out of four under their belts and 14 goals scored with only one conceded. Pre season is all about getting ready for the real thing though and the results aren't overly important as long as the team arrives ready to roll for the big kick off. Even the Community Shield isn't overly important and a victory in it is no real pointer to how the season will progress.

Arsenal were very impressive in beating City in the Community Shield last season, but they only won two of their first six league games after that. If memory serves me correctly the Invincibles were far from convincing in their pre season and then went on to create history. With all of that in mind Sunday's game against Chelsea isn't really all that important, but I'd still love to see Arsenal win and in style too.

Maybe it's because it's against Chelsea and Jose Mourinho or maybe it's just because I love to see Arsenal win. Arsene Wenger hasn't got a good record against his Chelsea counterpart and there's no love lost between them as we all saw in last season's game at Stamford Bridge. I'd love to see the boss get one over on him at long last even if it isn't in what's considered a competitive game.

The boss has a very strong squad to pick from with only Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, David Ospina and Tomas Rosicky unavailable. Sanchez was Arsenal's outstanding player last season, but the team have looked very good without him so far this pre season. He has had a much needed rest after a long hard season and he should be raring to go when he's back in the team in a couple of weeks.

It's not easy to predict what players will play, but I would imagine Petr Cech is the most likely choice in goal. I would also imagine the combination of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will be the preferred choice in the centre of the defence, but it's not easy to know which two full backs will get the nod. It's easy to make a case for both options on the right and the left and I would say it's probably a fifty fifty call on both sides.

In midfield Francis Coquelin looks like the most obvious choice to play the defensive role and there's a host of players who can play alongside him or in front of him. Which ones of them will play and where they all will play is another matter, but surely Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla will start. I think Olivier Giroud will lead the attack and the chances are Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play too.

If those players are all in the team it only leaves one more place with Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere all deserving a chance and dying to play. I suppose a lot will depend on the system the boss chooses to play and which players will suit that system best. Walcott would surely be the best choice in a wide role but the other two have played there before while either Ramsey or Wilshere could play a more central role in midfield.

Whatever the selection is the team have more than enough to make things very tough for Chelsea and are more than capable of beating them. Despite their progress against the other top teams in the Premier League last season Arsenal still struggled against Chelsea. They lost 2-0 away from home and drew 0-0 at home and they never really looked like scoring in either game.

If they're going to take the next step and genuinely challenge for the league this season they need to overcome the Chelsea hurdle. I might have said the result isn't overly important, but I can't help feeling a win could be what the team need to get the season off to a flyer. Confidence breeds even more confidence and this Arsenal team is good enough to do something special if they can gain that confidence.

The second half of last season gave us fans some real hope for this season and the style the players have shown in pre season has only increased that hope. Winning on Sunday and doing so in style would increase that hope even more and it's something I think this team have every chance of doing. If they don't it's not the end of the world, but if they do it could just prove to be the start of something special.

In other news Wojciech Szczesny has made his loan move to Roma and he'll stay there for the season too with a possibility of the move becoming permanent. By the sounds of what he said yesterday it looks like he would be more than happy to make the move permanent and I get the feeling we might not see him in an Arsenal shirt again. It would be a shame if he did leave, but he has been the author of his own misfortune and Arsenal have two very good goalkeepers for this season.

As usual this season my fantasy league is up and running again and it's open to all comers with a €50 prize (out of my pocket) to the winner. You can join up by using the league code 48497-14043 after you have set your team up here and good luck to all who play. There were over 1,000 teams in my league last season and I'm hoping for even more this season.

I'm also running my Predictions League again this season and it's very enjoyable even if there's no cash prize for the winner. The code for my league is FD757-ARR after you have signed up here and of course both games are completely free to play. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Arsenal Face Lyon And Wolfsburg As Szczesny Heads For Rome

Arsenal are back in England after a good Barclays Asian Trophy in Sinapore where they beat the hosts 4-0 and Everton 3-1. The win over Everton was very convincing and it was difficult to believe it was only the second of their pre season games. They are back at home though and they face a very busy weekend with games on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

In team news the only doubt from the players who traveled to Singapore is Mathieu Flamini who has apparently picked up a slight knock and might not play. I don't know if his possible absence has anything to do with his supposed pending transfer to Galatasaray, but it's hard to believe it doesn't if that move is going to happen. Flamini has always seen out his contract before moving in the past, as Arsenal know all too well, and I would be surprised if he agreed to let himself be sold rather than seeing out his contract yet again. I suppose he might have reached the stage where he wants to play more often and the emergence of Francis Coquelin is going to severely hamper his chances at Arsenal.

Alexis Sanchez is still unavailable of course as he won't return to training until after next week's Community Shield against Chelsea. He's going to miss the start of the season, but it's for his own good and the team's too after his long hard season followed by his exploits in the Copa America. His absence is going to affect my starting fantasy team, but I'm willing to put up with it for the sake of the team.

Danny Welbek still isn't available either as he continues to recover from the injury which caused him to miss out on the FA Cup final win in May. It looks like he'll miss the start of the season too, but according to Arsene Wenger he should be back soon after the big kick off. With no new strikers arriving so far he will be needed sooner rather than later and the quicker he recovers the better.

Thankfully Arsenal don't have to play in the final qualifying round for the Champions League this season after they finished third in the league. It means the players will only have to play once a week in August and won't have the added pressure of having to make the group stages yet again. It means there should be plenty of recovery time and time to continue the fitness work too between each game at the start of the season.

David Ospina won't be around this weekend either as he's only coming back to pre season on Monday after playing for Colombia in the Copa America. It looked like he would be the one to be on his way after the arrival of Petr Cech, but he seems determined to stay and fight for his place. With Ospina set to tussle with Cech for the keeper's spot it looks like Wojciech Szczesny will be the one to be on the move.

He's all set to go on loan to Roma for the season with the boss admitting it's just a matter of waiting for the paperwork to be completed. If Szczesny can make himself first choice at Roma he will play in the Champions League with them and get plenty of much needed game time too. A keeper can't learn too much sitting on the bench and his chances at Arsenal this season were going to be severely limited. 

If the rumours are to be believed Roma will have an option to buy, him when the loan spell has finished, but I'm not sure if that is the case or not. The boss has said there is still a future for him at Arsenal and he rates him highly. I suppose it will come down to Szczesny himself and whether he sees a future for him at Arsenal.

The fans will get to see the team play at home for the first time this pre season with games against both Lyon and Wolfsburg. Both games kick off at 4.20 with Lyon on Saturday afternoon followed by Wolfsburg on Sunday in the Emirates Cup. With two games to play in quick succession the whole squad will have to be utilised and virtually every player will get a chance to impress at some stage.

Despite the supposedly meaningless nature of pre season games it's still nice to see the team win and to see them lifting some silverware is even better. I'm sure they will give their all in both games and they have every chance of winning both games, but the most important thing is for the players to continue their progress towards the new season which kicks off in two weeks. A lot is expected of Arsenal this coming season and I think they have to hit the ground running if they're going to seriously contend for the league title.

Finally for today Arsenal director Lord Harris has told all who will listen that the club have £200 million to spend if needs be and that the boss can break the club's transfer record if he so requires. His comments won't do anything to help Arsenal's negotiating position with clubs of any potential targets if they believe Arsenal have funds to burn. They might well have loads of money to spend, but it's still not easy to get clubs to part with their best players with the new season approaching quickly. 

It's going to take some very good players to improve on what Arsenal already have and the boss has said he will buy players that will improve the team/squad if he can get them. He's proved that by spending so much on Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in the last two summers and there can be no doubt that both players have improved the team. If a player of the calibre of either of those is available and the boss feels he would fit in at Arsenal I think Arsenal will certainly make a move, but those players are few and far between. I hope it happens and I think the squad needs to be strengthened, but it's by no means certain that it will be.

As usual this season my fantasy league is up and running again and it's open to all comers with a €50 prize (out of my pocket) to the winner. You can join up by using the league code 48497-14043 after you have set your team up here and good luck to all who play. There were over 1,000 teams in my league last season and I'm hoping for even more this season.

I'm also running my Predictions League again this season and it's very enjoyable even if there's no cash prize for the winner. The code for my league is FD757-ARR after you have signed up here and of course both games are completely free to play. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Arsenal Face Everton In Singapore And Sanogo Joins The Master

After easing to a 4-0 victory against a Singapore Select team on Wednesday Arsenal will play Everton later today in the Asia Trophy final. It's only their second pre season game and the result means very little, but the pressures of the modern game means every game is pored over and judged by one and all. For me the most important thing is for the players to continue on the path to match fitness and come through the game unscathed.

With that in mind it's probably just as well that Everton managed to dispose of Stoke on penalties on Wednesday as Stoke have a nasty habit of injuring Arsenal players. Without even going into Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Shawcross there was Charlie Adam getting away with a wrestling hold on Alexis Sanchez in the game in Stoke last season. If I'm not mistaken Mathieu Debuchy picked up his second bad injury of last season at home to Stoke and the Stoke players went unpunished on both occasions.

The game on Wednesday was a personal triumph for Chuba Akpom who bagged himself a hat trick. These games count for very little, but scoring three goals can only be positive for him and it looks like he will stick around for the rest of the pre season and maybe even the start of the season too. He still has a lot to learn, but the signs are positive at the moment and hopefully he will continue to progress.

Speaking of progression Yaya Sanogo has joined Ajax on a season long loan and he could certainly do with getting some game time. Since he joined Arsenal a couple of seasons ago he has spent far too long on the treatment table and he needs to log some serious game time if he is going to progress. A real positive for Sanogo will be the opportunity for him to work with Arsenal legend Denis Bergkamp during his time at Ajax. Hopefully the master can teach Sanogo a thing or two and help him to become the player we all hope he can be.

The transfer rumours still abound and most of them involve Arsenal signing a striker or a defensive midfielder. While Arsenal may have good players in those positions already there is still a gap in the squad and Arsene Wenger had said he will bring a player or players in if the right ones become available. I would be surprised if Arsenal started the season without any more signings and even more surprised if the transfer window closed without any arrivals.

Today's game kicks off at 1.30pm BST and it's live on sky Sports 1. In fact all of the pre season games are on the TV, but I won't get to see any of them after today as the other three games are on BT and my subscription doesn't include BT. A trip to the pub to watch the Coomunity Shield against Chelsea in two weeks time might be called for and the fact that it's a Bank Holiday weekend makes it an even more attractive prospect.

As usual this season my fantasy league is up and running again and it's open to all comers with a €50 prize (out of my pocket) to the winner. You can join up by using the league code 48497-14043 after you have set your team up here and good luck to all who play. There were over 1,000 teams in my league last season and I'm hoping for even more this season.

I'm also running my Predictions League again this season and it's very enjoyable even if there's no cash prize for the winner. The code for my league is FD757-ARR after you have signed up here and of course both games are completely free to play. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Arsenal Unveil New Second Strip Plus Jenkinson And Sanogo Latest

As the new season draws closer Arsenal unveiled their new second strip yesterday to follow on the launch of the new first strip from a few weeks ago. The launch took place on the team's tour of Singapore and it looks pretty good to me on the first view as you can see below. I suppose it could be described as a gold shirt although it looks more yellow than gold to me.

Yellow has been the traditional colour of the away shirt for many years now and the team have had many glorious nights in that colour. The last time they wore a gold away strip they didn't do too badly either as they ended up winning their third league and cup double in 2002.


In other news Carl Jenkinson signed an extended deal with the club and then proceeded to go out on loan to West Ham for the season. He did quite well on loan with them last season and hopefully he will continue to progress. His chances at Arsenal would be limited this season with Mathieu Debuchey back from injury and the emergence of Hector Bellerin. It's hard to know if Jenkinson will have a long term future at Arsenal, but his experience gained at West Ham can't do him any harm. 

It looks as if Yaya Sanogo could be the latest player to leave the club and like Jenkinson he could be loaned out for the season. If the reports are correct Ajax are interested in taking him and again it looks like a smart move for both the player and Arsenal. Ajax look to play good football and Sanogo would get the chance to work with Arsenal legend Denis Bergkamp if he was to make the move. Since he joined Arsenal he has spent an awful lot of time on the injured list and he needs to go through a season relatively injury free if he's going to progress. 

Even though the season hasn't started Arsenal have already had their first injury setback with Tomas Rosicky set to miss the start of the season due to the knock he picked up on international duty. Rosicky isn't a first team starter any more, but when he's fit he still has plenty to offer on occasions. Hopefully he won't be out any longer than the projected four or five weeks, but his past injury record doesn't fill me with confidence on that front. 

At least Danny Welbeck should be back in time for the kick off of the new season as he looks set to eventually recover from the injury which saw him miss the end of the season and of course the cup final. It was such a shame for him to miss out on the cup final after he scored the winning goal in the quarter final away to United. Hopefully he can stay injury free this season and maybe get himself a nice shiney winners medal before it's over too.

Finally for today the first pre season game gets underway later today when Arsenal play a Singapore Select team in the Asia Trophy. The winners will play the winners of Stoke and Everton on Saturday while the losers will play the losers of that game. The game gets underway at 1.30pm BST and is available to watch on Sky Sports 1 or to listen to on the Arsenal Player.

Arsene Wenger has said a few fringe players will get a chance to impress in Singapore with players like Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley possibly the most like to make a breakthrough. Besides those two players Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and Chris Willock are all likely to feature too and will be anxious to show what they can do. It will be great to get the first view of the team this season and it's hard to believe that the Community Shield is only two and half weeks away.

As usual this season my fantasy league is up and running again and it's open to all comers with a €50 prize (out of my pocket) to the winner. You can join up by using the league code 48497-14043 after you have set your team up here and good luck to all who play. There were over 1,000 teams in my league last season and I'm hoping for even more this season.

I'm also running my Predictions League again this season and it's very enjoyable even if there's no cash prize for the winner. The code for my league is FD757-ARR after you have signed up here and of course both games are completely free to play. 

This's it for today.

See you tomorrow.