Saturday, 18 August 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Sunderland Previewed

Arsenal kick off the new Premier League season with a home game against Sunderland. They go into the game right after the departure of their captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United. It was a real blow for Arsenal to lose him, but he had made his position quite clear, and he had to be sold.

The captaincy will now be handed to Thomas Vermaelen, and hopefully he can prove worthy of the honour. The disrespect the previous holder of that honour showed to his position and the club is something I will not quickly forget. He can make all the arguments he wants to about winning trophies elsewhere, but his claims of being a true Gunner were just a pile of rubbish.

If he genuinely felt the club could not deliver the success he wanted he should have resigned the captaincy and handed in a transfer request. By not doing so he probably received a nice chunk of the transfer for himself, and that was obviously of utmost importance to him. He has joined a club could well deliver the trophies he apparently craves, but if his past injury record is anything to go by they might have to do so without him on a regular basis.

Thankfully Arsenal were proactive in the transfer market, and they signed three players before the transfer of van Persie was announced. Lukasz Podolski, Oliver Giroud and Santi Carzola all have plenty to offer the team, and will more than make up his loss.

For me van Persie is just another ex Arsenal player now, and his exploits at the club are already a distant memory. Arsenal have lost better players in the past and survived, and they will in the future too I'm sure. I hope they have a large stock of horse placenta in the medical room at Old Trafford.

I did hear it suggested that van Persie had a change of heart when he saw the players Arsenal had signed. He supposedly approached Wenger and told him so, but the boss said he was no longer part of his plans and promptly sold him. I don't know if there is any truth in it, but I absolutely love the thought that there might be.

It's not easy to keep up with the build up to a new season from a beach in Spain, but such is my lot at the moment. On the occasions I manage to find some working Wi Fi I try to catch up, as the price of data on my phone plan is absolutely absurd while out of Ireland. As a result I have myself a little out of the loop with events surrounding Alex Song.

The last I heard he had three years left on his contract, and there was no need for Arsenal to consider selling him despite interest from Barcelona. Now it appears his departure is imminent after rumours of a training ground bust up with Arsene Wenger. A lot of Arsenal fans I know have never been over impressed with Song, but he needs to be replaced by a better player if he is allowed to leave.

His departure would see Arsenal breaking even in the transfer market this summer, and it must leave quite a bit of money available for new players. If Nuri Sahin can be tempted on loan from Real Madrid I think he might well make the team stronger.

It certainly promises to be an interesting start to the new season with so many players making their official Arsenal debuts, and more possible transfer activity. The most important thing for me is that the team is ready to hit the ground running this season, and not in the mess it was at this time last year. The performances against Sunderland this week and Stoke next week will hopefully show that the team is properly prepared.

There are a couple of first team certainties still injured, and the returns of Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere will be very welcome when they happen. For the moment the team must cope without them, as well as integrating the new boys. The midweek international friendliest didn't make Wenger's task any easier, but little can be done to counter the stupidity of those in charge of football.

The team nearly picks itself in my opinion, but Wenger has a few interesting choices to make. With Vermaelen as captain it's a matter of whether he picks Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker to play alongside him. I would opt for Koscielny, but he may have a slight knock and the choice is not mine.

At left back it's a straight fight between Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos, and both players will think they should be first choice. I think Gibbs offers a little more defensive stability, and that could just get him the nod.

I hope to see Carzola in an attacking midfield role, but he is the most likely to be fatigued from midweek international travel. Mikael Arteta should be in midfield too, and so should Song if all is well between him and the club. His omission would be a sign that his future lies in the graveyard of so many former Arsenal players at Barcelona.

Both Podolski and Giroud must be certain to start with Theo Walcott making up the other player in the from three. Where is future lies is still uncertain too, but I doubt if he will beefy out.

The bench should have some good options on it too, and hopefully their presence will help to I spire those on the pitch. Sometimes the best inspiration for a player can be the thought of losing his place.

Sunderland have picked up Louis Saha, and he could well feature against Arsenal at some stage. They haven't really gotten any stronger since last season, but Martin O'Neill's teams are never easy to beat. They will work very hard without the ball, and make life as difficult as possible for the Arsenal players.

It's set to be a very hot day in London if the weather forecasters are to believed, and that could make things difficult for Sunderland. If Arsenal can pass the ball around with real pace and purpose I expect Sunderland to tire in the second half. Hopefully it will open the way for Arsenal to bang in a few goals, and get their season off to an ideal start.

I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal, and I have a feeling Podolski will score at least one of the goals. After the game there's a week before Arsenal play again, and the new players are introduced to football as seen through the eyes of Stoke City RFC. It will be a real challenge for the team, but a good result against Sunderland should hopefully set them up to meet that challenge head on.

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 , http://predictor.talksport.co.uk/landing.htm and use the code FD047-YLG to join my league once you have registered.

See you tomorrow.

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