Friday, 11 August 2017

Arsenal v Leicester City Preview

Was it just me or did the summer seem to drag out longer than usual as we waited patiently for the new football season to come around. It makes it's return tonight when Arsenal play at home to Leicester and I can't wait for the game even if it is on a Friday night. I still can't say I think Friday night league football is a good idea, but Arsenal did have their greatest ever victory on a Friday night back on May 26th 1989.

Transfer activity has stalled for Arsenal since the arrival of Alexandre Lacazette with him and Sead Kolasinac the only arrivals so far. As difficult as it has been to buy new players it's been even harder to offload players and we have a squad that looks too big if that's possible. Even with a squad that looks too big we still have a few issues and time is running out with a top class central midfielder needed as soon as possible.

At the moment our options in the centre of the park are limited with Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka as the first choice duo and Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in reserve. Cazorla is injured with no certain return date while Wilshere is never too far away from his next injury and the chances of Ramsey not missing a large chunk of the season through injury are slim. Coquelin is injured at the moment and even when he returns he is limited in what he can do while Arsene Wenger showed virtually no trust in Elneny in the second half of last season and is rumoured to be willing to let him leave if the right offer comes in.

That leaves an awful lot of pressure on Xhaka and hopefully his disciplinary record can improve this season. He struggled to adjust to the Premier League for much of last season, but I think we will see a better player this season who is more clued into this league and who will also be utilised better by the manager. We need to bring in a player who can fit in with either Xhaka or Ramsey, but who he is and what he will cost is another matter.

Anyway I digress and I should be looking at the game with Leicester tonight and the team which we will be playing. Alexis Sanchez will miss out because of a slight knock he picked up before the Community Shield if you believe what we are told, but the smart money might be on him "making himself unavailable"as he pushes to leave the club. I hope that's not the case, but I have a horrible feeling that's exactly what's happening.

Laurent Koscielny is suspended so that's another one of our first choice players unavailable with Gabriel Paulista, Cazorla and Coquelin obviously out too. There are real doubts over Mesut Ozil, Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi too and suddenly it looks like we're struggling to put out a strong team. We haven't started well in recent seasons and we need to get three points on the board.

Without all of those players the manager will have to get a little creative and play both Nacho Monreal and Kosalinac as part of the three central defenders. That would leave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as the left wing back and Hector Bellerin on the right with young Rob Holding as the third central defender. It's certainly a makeshift defence in the centre in particular and those players are going to have to be switched on for every minute of the game. 

The rest of the team would probably be the same as it was in the Community Shield and we played well against Chelsea, but it wasn't a competitive game in the true sense. The pace against Leicester will be a lot faster and the tackles a lot harder too with no quarter asked or given. I can't remember the last time we looked prepared for the opening game of the season and that's something that needs to change.

Leicester have some injury problems of their own and they will want to get the season off to a good start too after a very disappointing season last season. They didn't exactly defend their title from the previous season too well, but they did recover when Craig Shakespeare replaced Claudio Ranieri and managed to finish twelvth. With no European distractions this season they will at least want to put some pressure on the teams chasing for those European places.

With the rest of the games not taking place until Saturday and Sunday we have a chance of showing everyone else what we can do before they play. With the right attitude and concentration we should be too good for Leicester once we arrive ready to play. It's going to be a long hard season and the league can't be won in August, but it certainly can be lost by the end of September.

Usually by now I should have written my season preview, but in recent seasons there has been no point in writing it until the transfer window has closed. I can't see this season being any different with so many possible changes to our squad and to other clubs too. With a dreaded international break at the end of the month it seems like the perfect opportunity to write my preview and hopefully it can be a fairly positive one.

At the moment I'm somewhere in between positive and negative and it seems to change by the day. I don't think we can win the league with our current squad and that's really what it's all about, but that could change with the right additions and if Alexis stays. I do think we can and will beat Leicester and I just hope I'm proven right.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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