Quiet. All so very quiet. So quiet in fact, that the press are even giving up on rumours it seems, because Draxler/Higuain are the only names I saw banded about on NewsNow when I had a check earlier.
So we find ourselves having to look at alternative things to talk about, with my mind wandering to the beginning of the season and wondering how the late arrivals of some of the international players will affect our tricky opening set of games. Liverpool at home, Leicester away and Watford away are hardly gimmies, but with most international players returning about three weeks late in preparations for the start of the season, what will our opening line up look like?
I suspect that Arsène will take a call on the fitness of some of the international players like he did last season with Alexis. A player like Cech, for example, will surely go straight in on day one. Then there are players who had less of an involvement in the Euro’s. Bellerin springs to mind on that front.
Thankfully, we have a few players who haven’t had the chance for their national sides, or simply haven’t needed to worry about it, with Nacho in a bizarre situation where he was one of the best left backs in the Premier League, yet still didn’t get a look in. The Spaniard’s loss is our game, however, so I expect along with Big Per we’ll see a fairly well rested back four.
I wouldn’t mind reigniting my campaign to give Chambers more game time at centre half though. I think he has real talent. He’s just got to be given the chance and what better way than to start him in those opening games and see if he’s ready to nail down a first team spot alongside Koscielny when he returns? If we all cast our minds back to last season, it was Liverpool at home in which he started shakily, but then had a very composed second half. So if he can eradicated those nerves he had in that game completely, he’s got a real chance this season to be a big starter.
The decisions in midfield are really intriguing too. Arsène has stockpiled midfielders in anticipation for yet more injury problems, so I wonder who will be his first choice? Unlike in the attacking trio, the base of his midfield has so many options, with Cazorla, Elneny, Wilshere, Coquelin and new signing Xhaka all vying for those two positions. I’ll wager, however, that for the start of the season Arsène uses the absence of Özil to plug a temporary hole with one of Cazorla or Wilshere. I feel like Santi will probably get the nod, with a base of Xhaka and Wilshere. Coquelin is a bit of a battering ram, but Xhaka looks all the world to me an upgrade on all technical levels, so I suspect Francis’ game time gets limited this season, which I think might also be the same for Elneny. That would be a shame for the player, because he’s been a real plus point for the squad since he arrived and his simple yet effective style kept us ticking over at times towards the end of last season. But I think Arsène will want a more ‘all action’ style player to sit alongside Xhaka, so I get the feeling that when all players are back, it’ll be one of Ramsey, Wilshere or Cazorla who sit alongside the Swiss.
What is good about all of the above options is that only Xhaka and Ramsey were those that got any major game time at the Euro’s. Jack was there, but was used sparingly by Roy Hodgson, so for me that means he’s got a chance to stake a claim at the beginning of the season. He needs to take it.
In fact, all of those players who didn’t get any real game time at the Euro’s, but remain in positions where competition is fierce, need to see this as an opportunity. Which leads us to the attacking trio, for which we need the most ‘filling’ for the first game of the season. Alexis is injured and so won’t return until September I reckon. Giroud will have been given extended leave having played in the final. Which leaves players like the Ox, Theo, Iwobi and Campbell all probably thinking they’ve got a great chance to start some sort of run in the first team. We’ve all seen the pictures of Theo and the Ox returning early. Perhaps this is them with their game faces on and perhaps we can expect more from them this season. I can’t see Walcott going anywhere else given his wages, so somethings got to give with him, because we need more than what we got in 2015/16. Maybe the lack of game time at the end of the season and the eventual England snub is the jolt he needs. Let’s hope so.
But if Arsène goes in to that first game with those players in attack, then each of them – perhaps Iwobi excluded given his breakthrough into the team – needs to do more than they did last season. That’s where these friendlies coming up will be useful. I remember just before Ramsey’s stellar season, a couple of journals commenting on how driven and focuses he seemed, as well as how good he had looked in a couple of those friendlies. We all know it’s about fitness rather than the result, but if we get some signs like that in relation to Theo and the Ox, then perhaps it can give us hope.
But until we start to see those friendlies, it’s a long old wait for this new season to start, a month in fact. Sigh. Catch you tomorrow.