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.

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