Sunday, 12 August 2018

Dawning Of A New Era For Arsenal

Arsenal play their first competitive match under the stewardship of Unai Emery today when the reigning Premier League chanpions come to visit the Emirates. After almost 22 years under Arsene Wenger it’s going to be strange to see a different man patrolling the sideline and he couldn’t have got a tougher task in his first game. He comes to Arsenal with a pretty good pedigree having won eight trophies in his last five seasons as a manager.

It’s a time of change at the club though and the latest goings on from our majority shareholder don’t make the future easy to predict. As a manager there’s nothing he can do to impact what happens among the power brokers at the club and he can only hope Stan Kroeneke gives him the financial backing he needs when he takes complete control of the club. His actual plans are unknown and it’s disappointing to see Emery start his reign with the off field side of the club in so much turmoil yet again.

As for today he has an awful lot of decisions to make about his starting line up. I was surprised to see so many players who returned from the World Cup lining up for their clubs yesterday and on Friday night too and the manager has to decide whether to risk those players in his squad. I’m sure he will have thought long and hard about it and will judge each player on whether he is ready to play from the start against such a strong opponent.

Normally we would expect to see Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka in the team while Aaron Ramsey is just back from a slight knock which kept him out of the last two pre season games. I suspect we might see up to two of them playing, but I would be very surprised if all three started. I would also suspect the ones who do start to come off on or around the hour mark and their replacements will have a crucial role to play too.

He has other choices to make too with the central defensive duo hardly set in stone yet and the absence of a left back due to injuries to Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal. It means Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the only real option at left back and our defence is going to have to be very strong against a City side who score goals for fun. In the last few seasons we seem to have gotten progressively worse in defence and it’s something the boss has being working on, but it will take time to rectify. Torreira could be the missing link in our midfield to help that defence, but he hasn’t exactly had an awful lot of time to work with them yet.

I suppose the other big choice is who starts up front and it has to be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for me ahead of Alexandre Lacazette. Who would have thought a year ago when we finally landed Lacazette that we would be happy to see him on the bench, but Aubameyang is one of the very best finishers in the game and we just have to play him. Maybe the boss can find a formation to accommodate them both, but for the moment I expect to see Aubameyang ahead of Lacazette in the pecking order.

I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing to play City so early, but there’s nothing we can do to change it. Maybe we’ll catch them on the hop early on or maybe they’ll be at their best and give us a footballing lesson like they have done all too often for my liking recently. I think anything other than a defeat will be a good result for us today, but of course I’d love all three points.

In a season where regaining our top four place and the Champions League football that comes with is our top priority this game will not define our chances. We do need to take more points off the rest of the top six sides though and any points we get today would be very welcome in that cause. If we can continue our home form of last season that is a possibility, but the crucial change for us could be in how the new man improves our dismal away record of last season.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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