All things considered, there’s plenty of nervous supporters and sceptical critics eager to take advantage of Arsenal’s flaws as the new campaign gets under way.
An unsurprising tough start
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a proper welcome back to the rigours of Premier League football without a tough start – champions Leicester away, Watford, Southampton and Chelsea all before September is finished.
But first, it’s a tricky test against Jürgen Klopp’s Reds to get the new season underway.
Billed as the fixture of the opening weekend, it’s no surprise considering some of the crackers that we’ve served up in recent seasons.
With the club’s pursuit of a new central defender well documented in recent weeks, Arsène Wenger refused to confirm nor deny fresh reports suggesting Shkodran Mustafi’s move is edging closer. Per Mertesacker is sidelined for four months, and Gabriel’s injury sustained against Manchester City will keep him out of action for anywhere between six and eight weeks.
In addition, he confirmed the fact that first-choice centre-back Laurent Koscielny is “not ready” having being granted additional leave after his exertions with France at the European Championships.
When questioned, he also said it’s “harder than ever” to try and convince people that you’re able to buy good players at reasonable prices especially with the market being as inflated as it is currently.
Pre-season had gone smoothly up until Gabriel’s injury and on the prospect of hosting Liverpool this weekend, the boss said, “It is not necessarily what Liverpool wanted or what we wanted. The fixtures are what they are and you have to deal with it.”
Interestingly, Wenger hesitated but said there was no reason to be concerned when asked about contract updates for two of our key players in Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil.
Helen’s excellent piece on our transfer business touched on the duo’s futures, and it’s evident that we need to make more quality acquisitions if we’re to tie both down to long-term contracts.
Koscielny, Giroud and the aforementioned Özil all returned to full training this week but will not be expected to feature – while Jack Wilshere, who suffered another minor setback, will not be returning in any capacity this weekend.
Aaron Ramsey and Alexis, who enjoyed time with their respective nations over the summer, made their comeback during the 3-2 victory over Manchester City last Sunday whilst Santi Cazorla was impressive during our 8-0 thrashing over Viking FK.
Granit Xhaka and Rob Holding, both signed earlier in the transfer window, are expected to start.
Possible XI – (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerín, Holding, Chambers, Monreal; Cazorla, Xhaka; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Walcott; Alexis.
Liverpool have been making shrewd signings and building the foundations of a good all-round squad, one that can better their inconsistencies of last season and challenge for a top four place properly this time around.
Simon Mignolet will start in goal after Loris Karius was injured during their pre-season tour, whilst Ragnar Klavan could be introduced from the offset alongside either Joel Matip or Dejan Lovren in the centre of defence.
Despite their active business this summer, the Brazilian duo of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino remain two of the Reds’ key players.
Both James Milner and Daniel Sturridge remain significant fitness doubts for the trip to the Emirates, but Liverpool will still bring a strong side to north London ahead of Sunday’s intriguing clash.
Possible XI – (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Lallana; Mané, Firmino and Coutinho.
Sunday’s importance cannot be understated
It’s obvious that we have a depleted side, but regardless, the importance of a victory on the opening weekend is stronger than ever.
The 2-0 defeat against West Ham this time last season was effective as it was painful. Losing only twice more from August to Christmas in the league, consistency was important as we began to mount a title challenge.
After the festivities, like usual, things began to take a tumble. This time around, there is potential for things to be different – especially with everyone underestimating Arsenal in a field with ‘blockbuster’ new managers and star players galore amongst our other rivals.
It’s time to start, as we mean to go on.