Saturday, 11 August 2012

Arsenal Play Cologne in Last Pre Season Game

Arsenal play their last pre season game against Cologne today in a game which was part of the deal which brought Lukasz Podolski to the club. The game should see the first appearances in an Arsenal shirt for Podolski, Olover Giroud and Santi Carzola. After the proposed game in Nigeria last week was cancelled this will be Arsenal's first game in two weeks.

It's hardly ideal preparation for the new season, as those three new signings will obvious take some time to adjust to playing with their new team mates. They're all very good players though, and I'm sure they will manage to settle in pretty quickly.

With the first Premier League game of the season only six days away I wonder if Arsene Wenger will start with what he sees as his first choice team. There are a few decisions for him to make if that is what he chooses to do, but most of the first choice team picks itself in my opinion. The absence of a couple of first choice players will obviously give a chance for others to stake their claim and possibly shine.

Carl Jenkinson should get the chance to show what he can do at right back, as Bacary Sagna continues his recovery process from his broken leg towards the end of last season. Jenkinson is still a little raw, but he looks like he really wants to play for the team and continue to learn as he does so. Sagna is the best right back in the Premier League, and Jenkinson couldn't ask for a better model to learn his game from.

Despite the continued rumours linking Alex Song with a move to Barcelona I expect him to anchor the midfield trio. I have no idea whether Arsenal will even consider letting Song go, but surely it wouldn't be a good idea with the season just about to start. Song has become an important part of the team, and they can do without the turmoil of losing another player to Barcelona.

I think Mikael Arteta and new boy Carzola will make up the rest of the midfield trio. That should see Carzola playing in the most attacking role of the three, and he has a lot to offer in that position. Those three players will make up a very strong midfield combination which augers well for the new season.

With both Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky to return from injury Wenger will have a lot of midfield options. He also has Abu Diaby, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong to call upon if needed.

Some of his tougher choices might be in the defence where he has to pick a left back, as well as a central defensive partnership. It won't be easy to choose between Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos at left back, but they both have their strengths and weaknesses too. I'm not too sure that either of them have their defensive duties perfected, but they can certainly do a lot of damage to the opposition going forward.

In the centre of the defence the perceived wisdom is that Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny will get the nod, but Per Mertesacker must also have a claim to be included. It's a good thing that Wenger has some options available to him with Johan Djourou, Kyle Bartley and Ignasi Miquel all waiting in the background too. No matter which players are chose it's vital that the players play and defend as a unit.

The real big decision for Wenger could be who he chooses to lead the attack. Robin van Persie was the top scorer in the Premier League last season, but his current situation at the club is far from ideal. His choice not to renew his contract is old news now, and becoming more than a little boring too.

I'm sure the vast majority of Arsenal fans would prefer to see him move immediately, but transfer negotiations are never easy. Where he ends up is anybody's guess, but Manchester United seem to think they are favourites to land him. It would sicken me to see him in a United shirt, but as a fan there is nothing I can do about it.

I'm not too sure what the club can do about it either, as the club who offers the highest fee are the most likely team to sign him. It will hurt to see him in the colours of another team, but such is the lot of a fan. I just hope his injury problems return to haunt him and his new club when he does leave.

I have a sneaking suspicion new boy Giroud will play from the start in a central role. He looks to be a well rounded player with good skill on the ball, as well as a good target man and header of the ball if needed. His inclusion in the team will certainly give options to the players around him in the team.

The two wide roles in the team have an awful lot of players competing to play in them. Podolski will more than likely play on the left against his former team, but Andrey Arshavin, Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will all want a chance to impress too. Chamberlain could play a central role too, and he is bound to see a lot more action this season in either role.

The situation with Walcott is far from ideal too, as he has yet to agree a new contract with less than a year to go. Surely he can't be allowed to remain at the club past transfer deadline day if he still hasn't made a decision on what he wants to do. I am sure that negotiations must be frantically going on in the background despite the outer appearance of calmness.

Hopefully Gervinho will have some more end product this season, as he certainly has the ability to be a very good player. Arshavin could also be on his way out, but if he stays he is still a very good player too. I would like to see Chamberlain play from the start, and stake his claim for a starting role in the team.

At this stage a couple of seasons ago Arsenal played a very entertaining game with Legia Warsaw which ended in a 6-5 victory. It was a lesson in how not to defend, and hopefully Steve Bould's influence on the defensive training will help to make the defence much tighter.

I expect to see a strong Arsenal side, but I would also expect to see all of the players get a chance at some stage. I won't be happy to see RVP with the captain's armband if he does get to wear it, and I can't imagine the reaction if he scores.

It's not easy for a club to lose their best player, but Arsenal fans have got used to it. Wenger has gone out and bought players to really improve the team and the squad, and managed to do it before van Persie leaves too. I don't imagine that deadline day will be quite so hectic for Arsenal this season thankfully.

They may not have finished all of their acquisitions for the summer, but they have done very well so far. The next step of course is to get rid of a few of the players who are surplus to requirements, and hopefully that can happen over the next couple of weeks. There's no need to list the players who are in need of a fresh challenge, but the club could do with cutting the wage bill by selling them.

I'll be watching today's game with real interest, as it's the one and only proper pre season game in my opinion. The tour of Asia was short of a lot of the best players, and the games were really only exercises in fitness. Hopefully a good performance will get the players and fans in the right mood for the new season.

Finally for today don't forget to join my Fantasy Premier league for the new season with prizes for the top three teams. To join up just go to the site and use the code 17031-6252 to join my league when your team is set up. If you were in my league last season you should automatically be given a choice to rejoin it once your team is set up. There are over 400 teams in my league at the moment, and I'm hoping to match last season's total of over 1,000 teams.

I'm also running my predictions league again, and it's open to anyone who wants to join too. It's an easy game to play with points awarded for predicting the outcomes of every Premier League game. To sign up just go to the site , and use the code FD047-YLG to join my league once you have registered.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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