Morning fellow Gooners, we alright? If you’re UK based, you holding up ok in the heatwave, or are you excited to get out there this weekend in the sun? Do you know, I think this might be the hottest match I’ve witnessed at The Emirates? Can’t wait.
I really can’t wait. I’m super excited about this one. We have ourselves our first home game of the season, the weather is going to be scorching, The Management is coming to the game with me and that hopefully can be a good omen on our part. Afterwards we’re going to drop by a wine bar and have a little sipple of something nice and all-in-all I’m hoping for a lovely old time this weekend. That’s what I’ve been thinking in the last few days but, as we tick down to kick off tomorrow at 3pm UK time, the realisation sets in for me that we should in no way, shape or form, be underestimating Leicester when they rock up on our soil. They got a 2-2 draw against Brentford at home on opening day and it is true that they haven’t signed anybody, but they haven’t really sold anybody either, apart from Kasper Schmeichel, so they still have plenty of players who can do us damage tomorrow.
So it dawned on me that for all that tomorrow promises to be a lovely day in the sun, there is also the key part of the day tomorrow in which we could end up trudging our way home as Arsenal fans, wondering where it all went wrong.
As usual ahead of these types of matches, I did my usual thing of checking out where Leicester City’s fans’ heads are, as well as reading the thoughts of Brendan Rodgers to see if there are any notes of caution in his comments that could give me comfort. He talked about our new signings, said Saliba looks like quite a find and that’s always nice to hear, but it doesn’t really help me too much when an opposition manager goes all gooey-eyed on players. What I’m looking for when I read an oppo managers presser is whether I can smell any fear. I didn’t really smell any of that, or frustration and if we were all hoping that he won’t play players whose heads might have been potentially turned, I think we’re in for a disappointing dose of realism tomorrow. Apparently the Fofana bids are too low and Rodgers said the player has been training well, so I suspect he’ll get game time and with Tielemans still not even having a bid made, I reckon his name will be on the team sheet for sure. One that won’t make it is Hamza Choudhury and at least that reduces the risk of serious injury to any of our players tomorrow. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but every time I’ve seen him in midfield he’s a bit of a clobbermeister and so knowing he won’t even make the bench to take out Saka tomorrow is a bit of a relief.
They are missing Pereira at full back which will be a bit of a blow for them because I’ve always thought he was a good player, but Castagne scored last weekend so perhaps his confidence will be high enough that he’ll take on Martinelli without much worry. Bertrand is out but he’s a squad player and the big positive from an Arsenal perspective is that Harvey Barnes is still out. If you remember at the game at Leicester last season, I believe he came on at halftime last season and really added a lot more threat to Leicester’s attack so for him to be missing is one less forward option for our back line to be worried about.
I can’t really find much more about how he might set up tactically because unfortunately these press conferences tend to be dominated by transfer speculation at this time of the year, but I’m guessing that we’ll get a similar Leicester side to the one that drew with Brentford. Our hope has to be that we can step it up a level from Palace and get all the points. I am nervous but confident going into the game, which I’m sure will come back to bite me on the arse, but I can’t help how I’m feeling right now. It is a symptom of what we have seen; and Arsenal team that look sharp, on it and who just last week delivered an impressive – if not sparkling – performance away t o Palace.
Arteta will get his press conference today and we’ll get a team update. Hopefully Tomiyasu is at least fit for the bench and it’d be nice to know if ESR is back in training. The bench may or may not be too soon for him but I’ve got my fingers crossed. The more creative and attacking players we have at our disposal, the better chance we have of picking up three points and with the five sub rule in force, I think we’re going to need all the firepower we can get for as much of the season as possible.
One player who won’t be making the squad is Pablo Mari, who joins Monza on a loan deal with an obligation to buy if the newly promoted Italian side stay up, which is an interesting gamble taken by Arsenal because Monza have never been in the division and will surely be one of the teams favoured for the drop as a result. If they stay up then happy days, we get money for a player and everyone can move on with their lives. If they go down we’ll probably have another summer of trying to shift a player whilst the rest of Europe pleads poverty, all the while making transfers to other European clubs and not Premier League ones.
My hope for today is that we get some intel from Mikel on where the squad is at from a confidence point of view. As much as I look for signs of worry from an opponent manager, it is of course the opposite for our manager, so what I want to hear is that the mood in the camp is good, excited and raring to go for tomorrow. We need that from the players, big time, because slip ups now could feel like the season is given a massive blip on the objectives already. With the fixture list so seemingly kind for this opening set of games before the next international break, it feels like the margins for error are basically zero; maximum points each week put us in a great position but dropped points mean that you’re looking at games with a touch of the ‘if only’s when it comes to the end of the season. We had that last season with the “if only we’d have picked up something in those first three games” or “if only we’d have picked up one win out of Southampton, Brighton or Palace”, etc, etc. My hope for when the next round of meaningless internationals come around is that there are no touches of regret on these opening games when we get to September.
That’s it from me today, I’ll catch you tomorrow with a pre match set of thoughts, so you have a good one.
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