Good morning Gooners and welcome to Saturday! We are on less than two weeks and counting until the season proper and tonight the lads conclude the US tour with a game against those scummers Chelsea. This is a Chelsea side buoyed by the arrival of Raheem Sterling, who i’d expect to get some minutes tonight, but also smarting from the loss of their two main centre halves in Rudiger and Christiensen, both of whom have moved on to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. They’ve bought in Koulibaly for an overly inflated £30million+ deal, but he’ll most likely slot in and be a good player for them. But as I said yesterday when I was trying to think about what our season will entail, I’ll be intrigued to see how good this Chelsea team is and how Tuchel lines them up. Especially against us and our new look, with the arrival of the likes of Gabriel Jesus and the newly confirmed Oleksandr Zinchenko, who did his pictures and interviews and was on the official site yesterday.
I’ve spoken so much about him already that it doesn’t really feel like there’s many stones to unturn, if I’m honest. So I’ll keep it brief; this is a good signing, it makes us stronger, it gives us more options and greater versatility in a squad that you could already tell Arteta was building for that purpose.
The hope tonight is that we don’t get the same bunch of pr*cks that we got when we played them last summer. A year ago we lost Thomas Partey because of a nasty challenge in a friendly and whilst sometimes you can argue that these things happen, the fact that I seem to recall a number of those types of hard ‘challenges’ going in during that game, just serves to highlight what those w*nkers were all aboutt hat day. I am hoping that we don’t get the same tonight but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tuchel sends his men out to leave one in on us. If that’s the case it certainly leaves Arteta with a dilemma; does he play a heavily rotated side from the start to see what that sh*thole of a club do? Or does he go with a stronger starting XI because he wants minutes in the tank to prep them for the season proper?
I am a naturally cautious person with these kinds of things and I’d probably start with the reserves and see what Chelsea do. If it’s clear they are trying to see if they can rough us up a bit, then Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu need to be nowhere near the pitch at any stage. Play the rotation options and let’s just get out of Dodge, getting back to the UK and playing those players from the off against Sevilla in the Emirates Cup next weekend. That would be my approach. But we’ll just need to see.
What it will be good to start to look at is how we might shift our approach depending on the opponent. Everton were just clobbermeisters and Lampard has said that this season they might struggle as it is, whilst Ipswich, Nurnberg and Orlando City were just a level below what we’re going to face in the Premier League, so it’s difficult to gauge how we’ll shift our tactical approach. But the game tonight – or in the early hours of the morning if you’re in the UK like me – will start to see us doing a little bit of experimentation tactically I reckon.
For example, I’d like to see what we do with the five subs rule and maybe Arteta will take the view that with the season rapidly approaching, he needs to set up his team like this was a proper game, with a set formation and then he only utilises five subs in order to replicate what life will be like when we kick off at the beginning of August. Treat it as a ‘dry run’, if you will.
I’d also be interested to see if he toys with the idea of a back three. If we’re making the assumption that Chelsea go with a front three that might include Sterling on the left, Havertz through the middle, then maybe a Mason Mount or Ziyech on the right, it might be a good time to test out a White/Saliba/Gabriel back three. In Chelsea’s last game they lined up in a 3-4-3 formation and so maybe they’re going to do the same tonight, so matching up like-for-like will give Arteta some insight on how likely it could be for this to be a success.
If he does go that way, then it will be interesting to see what happens with the wing backs. Tomiyasu isn’t really a wing back, Tierney would be good on the left, but maybe it’ll be Bukayo Saka on the right? However way you set the team up though, tonight will be – clobbermesietring aside – a good chance to us to get a better gauge on what we’re going to be treated to this season. Palace played yesterday and we have them for the first game of the season. They lined up with a 4-3-3 by the looks of it so maybe Arteta focuses on matching up to that rather than the three at the back?
However we play, I’m just hoping for a good game with no injuries, with perhaps one of Vieira or Zinchenko getting on the pitch for their non-competitive debuts. With Zinchenko it would be interesting to see him get on the pitch mainly because we’d get to see what position Arteta might predominantly view him in. Of course it won’t mean too much because he could come on as a left back today and then start in central midfield next weekend, but getting our first glimpse of the player in Arsenal colours will still be good to start assessing how he’ll fit in.
Just before I wrap up, a shout out to Maria Petri, who was a die-hard Gooner and went to just about every type of Arsenal game you could see. I never met her, but saw her around the ground plenty of times and she always had a smile on her face for people. It is sad to see that we’ve lost another one, but her memory will live on. RIP.