Season Preview 2017/18

I chose to leave a week gap in between blog posts purely because the transfer merry go round was in full swing and there was far too much Twitter warrior-ing going on for clubs galore, leaving me with nothing but contempt for the click bait merchants so I refrained from posting anything.

We’re now 2 weeks away from the beginning of the Premier League season, however for ourselves we kick off the meaningful stuff against Chelsea this coming weekend. It’s not an official trophy and we all know that but it’s the first taste of competitive football and one that can help set the tone as to how to begin a season. The last time we were in the Community Shield, however, ended in a 1-0 win over the Champions Chelsea after which we really thought it would be our year. We followed it up by stinking up the Emirates with an opening day loss to West Ham. Granted it was a season in which we really should have won the league yet failed with multiple opportunities presented to us. Chelsea went on to finish 10th. So while it doesn’t mean you’re going to go ahead and win everything that falls in front of you, it still gives a platform from which to build. We’re notorious for being undercooked and being short in several areas when the season kicks off, however this time around, whatever happens in the Community Shield, we do look in good shape going into the season.

Thankfully we look to be sorted at the back so we won’t be having to field the likes of an unknown youngster at CB alongside an inexperienced recruit as we did with Liverpool last season. Whilst Koscielny is suspended, we will still be able to field the likes of Mustafi, Mertesacker and now Holding in the 3 CB set up or two of the former if we go with a back 4. We have Bellerin, The Ox, Monreal and Kolasinac all available for the full back roles as well so we are well stocked to begin the season on a solid back 4/5 if nothing else. Cech and Ospina look like the 1 & 2 for us so Cech will likely take the lead role. In midfield we look to be settled on Ramsey and Xhaka as a starting pair, who will both be available for the Chelsea game and hopefully the Leicester game barring any injuries. Ozil has gone through a full pre season and will likely take the no.10 role or slot in as one of the two that sit behind the main CF within the team. Welbeck, Giroud and Lacazette have all gone through a full pre season as well and will be vying for two of the three available positions as I feel that Alexis will be a little short for the Chelsea game at least and likely to only slot in on the bench for the Leicester game. If we go with a back 4 the wide positions will be filled by the likes of The Ox, Welbeck and Iwobi with Walcott pushing for a spot up top of a front 3 which is something that we haven’t really seen Wenger experiment with. It does leave me asking the question; where does Theo Walcott really fit into our new found formation? Even if we go into a back 4 and play with 5 in the middle, he would be looking to take the wide right position. Now with the heavy rumours surrounding Thomas Lemar and Riyad Mahrez coming into the team, you’d have to feel that Wenger doesn’t really trust his current wide options to be ‘top class quality’ as he so perfectly puts it. There has been a lot of chat of outgoings before any further incomings and this next week will certainly be an interesting one around that topic, but more on that later. As it currently stands I feel as though we have the right number of first XI available to us to be difficult to beat at the very least. Our start to the season doesn’t look like it will be an easy one so if we can remain competitive and win a few whilst drawing a few with the background of a couple more signings we will be in good shape, going into the rest of the season. So many moving parts, so much to delight the click bait masters out there, a long way to go before the dust can really settle in what is developing into something of a sandstorm so far as personnel management goes.

Now with regards to the outgoings, the big decision that Wenger has to make is on Jack Wilshere’s future. He’s clearly a very talented footballer, but one who needs the love if he’s to succeed. He’s shown against the very best of teams that he can not only make a difference but stand out and perform when other fan favourites have failed to do so. The problem is, in my opinion, he feels very slightly unsure of himself as to whether he can cut it at Arsenal Football Club. I feel as though he most definitely can, Wenger clearly feels he can else he would have been sold last summer when they supposedly fell out rather than have loaned him out. It’s a key decision simply because Santi Cazorla isn’t likely to be available anytime soon and if Wilshere wants out, the need for a deep lying playmaker is a requirement. Jean Michael Seri has been a name mentioned a fair amount recently and unless we are showing the door to one of our central midfielders it’s not something I can see happening. Will it be Wilshere? Will it be Elneny? Will it be both? A big gap that Wenger has tried to plug by the pursuit of Kante last season (alongside the already purchased Xhaka) so we know that he thinks there’s an external solution that might work. He very much wanted a Kante and Xhaka pivot so that he could play with a back 4 last season, but Chelsea’s money was too much for Kante to turn down. Who knows, had he signed for us we may well have been Champions. People often chuck around the ‘one man team’ phrase (mostly said in jest) but with Kante, while the phrase itself doesn’t prove true so far as Chelsea are concerned, he is worth 2 players with his ridiculous work rate and unexplainable ability to intercept anything and everything. While Seri is in no way Kante, he’s a different solution to our already tried partnerships and one that could well change the dynamic of our team. With the players we’ve been linked with and brought in it’s clear that Wenger is trying to inject something into our team that has been missing for quite some time now; front foot energy. What is this I hear you ask. Lacazette, Kolasinac, Lemar and Seri all have pace and power in common. On top of that Lemar carries a box-to-box quality that we don’t currently have in the squad. Power is high on the agenda and with the additions that we are making as well as looking to make all point to this.

The most important thing from all of the above is that we must try and have it all in place before the Premier League kicks off. It’s likely that it won’t be, but if most of it can be done beforehand we will truly reap the benefits come Christmas time. An early settled squad always reaps the benefits when the fixtures come thick and fast, and Christmas is where we learn a lot about each and every Premier League squad.

In footballing matters we won the Emirates cup over the past weekend and a Seville player (Ben Yedder) seemed to react quite badly to this. Firstly; it’s a pre season ‘competition’ mate, calm yourself. Secondly; surely you knew the rules before it all began? Honestly. Pre season is all about fitness and the avoidance of injury. I for one have absolutely zero care in how it all unfolds as it means very little for the season ahead. I think that it’s a nice bonus if you’re all playing exactly as you would expect the first XI to play, however this is so so rare in modern day football. The ‘type’ of football played as a clubs identity has can only really be seen by the likes of Barcelona in a true sense. If we were playing our strongest XI and playing awfully I would be worried, but we absolutely haven’t done that. Not even close. Yes all of the top players have played but alongside members who aren’t yet ready or are still learning. Twitter’s new fan channel that has taken what AFTV had started and given a platform to fans from all clubs (genius idea by the way, even if I do wholeheartedly disagree with the fact that the content is always terrible) has been displaying some truly irate fans from all over. About Pre season. Go outside chaps, have a day off, enjoy the sun. Truly worrying is the only way I can describe someone who lambasts players and managers in pre bloody season. Everyone wants to be a pundit, unfortunately you can only be tactically clueless if you’ve played the game at the top level.

Anyway. We’re a week away from the good stuff. It’s been a nice break. A welcome one from the stressful season we had, bar the stupendous Cup Final. Get your engines ready folks. It’s going to be epic. No wait, that was all far to Skysy. Here’s to hoping for a trophy laden season. Up the Arsenal.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

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