The fixture lists may have been distributed out to the public over a month ago, but as one mate put it on a WhatsApp group I’m on, they weren’t the ‘real’ fixtures, because the TV companies hadn’t got their grubby mits on them.
Well now they have. And it’s a Friday night start to the season at home to Leicester for Arsenal in August which, actually, I don’t mind that much. Far better than a 5.30 Saturday kick off I must say, although it won’t have been too long before we have to endure those, as Stoke away is the following week and that has been earmarked by the powers that be.
But back to the Leicester game and I’m kind of looking forward to it. A finish of work on Friday and then heading over to Highbury for hopefully a warm summers evening and a few beers; I could certainly get used to it. Whether or not it becomes our latest hoodoo or not remains to be seen (remember the comments about how we don’t like Saturday lunchtime kick offs?) but for now I’m pleased that we’ll be the ones kicking off our season at home in the summers air. Which is nice before we have to cross the lands of Mordor to face the Orcs.
The Europa League will also determine our fixtures for Sunday games and with three of the first four games followed by Chelski, Everton and City away, it was always going to be the case that we see Arsenal more on the Lord’s day. What we could have done without is playing those teams with a shorter turn around, all away from home as well. It means we’ll surely have to see Arsène rest and rotate his squad from game-to-game and with players like Giroud surely concerned about his game time, you’d expect we’ll see plenty of decent players playing on Thursday and then Sunday. For example, would it be that much of a surprise to see The Ox, Holding, Gabriel, Per, Chambers, Monreal, Elneny, Coq, Iwobi, Theo and Giroud up top on a Thursday, followed by the usual starting XI for the big match on the Sunday?
It kind of reinforces the point that we need as big a squad as possible, certainly for the first part of the season, which is why you can understand Arsène’s reluctance to let somebody like Giroud go. Between now and Christmas he could realistically get himself eight starts and a load of substitute appearances and whilst I’m sure he’ll want more, I can’t see him not being a regular feature in some capacity through most games.
Being in the position where we are right now, with a heavy squad, is therefore much more advantageous than when we’ve gone in to seasons looking short, because the worst that could happen now is that Arsenal have players sitting idol. I’d rather have senior pros knocking on the door in the League and Europa League games, than playing all the kids, hoping also that the first team stay fit all season. Monreal for Kolasinac, Chambers for Holding, Per for Mustafi, Ox for Bellerin, Elneny for Ramsey, Giroud for Lacazette; we have a lot of experience in our squad now and it needs to be given rotation to keep them all fresh enough to come in should we lose one or two to long term injury. And let’s face it, it’s not like that hasn’t been happening every single season since we moved in to the Emirates!
So I’m pleased that we’re in a position where we have to trim fat rather than build muscle. It makes me feel more comfortable and hopefully if Arsenal are working on other deals, it gives them a stronger hand in negotiating new transfer deals too.
Righto, that’s me, so off I go and I’ll catch thee in the morrow.