Gunners Town are delighted to welcome back Ryan Barker @Ryarsenal our regular match previewer until studies too precedence last season. First preview of 2014/15………………..
I was writing about spirit crushing defeats to the City/Liverpool/Chelsea and then it happened – we won our first piece of silverware in far too long, something we can look forward to in the new season. We as a club seem to have had a personality change since then and are more cut throat, loaning Jenko out, clearing out some of the dead wood from the reserves and the first team and having more control over the incomings and outgoings of our club, notable in the deal to take Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona instead of Manchester United. Now, I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to football. I think every year, year after year in fact that this is going to be ‘our’ year, but this year it feels more apparent than ever. We have bought two genuine world-class players in Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez, Joel Campbell has finally arrived after putting in a string of sparkling displays at the World Cup and aside from Bacary Sagna, we haven’t lost anyone of note.
The squad harmony, something I spoke about quite a few times last season again seems to be high and Arsene has again committed to a new contract. We secured the futures of most of our British core, and reinforced that with the signing of England U19 captain Callum Chambers, who had a solid first couple of games for us in the Emirates Cup.
The first competitive match of the season sees us taking on Manchester City in the Charity Shield (old money for the revamped ‘Community Shield’). Our pre-season has been disjointed with the absences of key players due to the World Cup and understandably our friendlies weren’t always played with players who will make the first team. Having said that, I was blown away by the performance last Saturday in the Emirates Cup by the whole team, but a few players have impressed me throughout pre-season. Hector Bellerin, a player I have been keeping an eye on whenever possible had a brilliant game against Benfica and shone, earning rave reviews and rightly so. After spending some of last season on loan at Championship side Watford, he done his chances of playing some football for us this season no harm during the friendlies. Another player who impressed me was Isaac Hayden, who I watched closely in the NYRB game. Again, I think both he and Bellerin will play at least a handful of CoC games this year. Manchester City didn’t have the worst of pre-seasons, with some good performances against AC Milan and Liverpool whilst in America during the Guinness International Champions Cup.
The home and away fixture couldn’t have been different last season. Being at the away fixture, I noticed how narrow we played and how exposed Nacho Monreal was being on the left hand side in Gibb’s absence. The home leg however proved better, with a 1-1 draw, which was perhaps a fair result after both teams had opportunities to win the match but neither took them. Over the last 3 years in games against Manchester City, unless we’ve had a complete collapse like we did at The Etihad in December, I’ve always felt we can match them and on some occasions better them, which is why I am feeling optimistic about our chances. With both sides missing key players through either injury or fitness from the World Cup, both sets of supporters will be keen to lift the first piece of silverware on offer. A win for either team will be a good confidence boost for the upcoming season, getting one over on a title rival cannot be underestimated; even if it isn’t in the domestic competition.
Team News –
Arsenal – Özil, Podolski and Mertesacker featured in Germany’s World Cup winning squad and will take no part. Abou Diaby has injured a hip and will not take part. Arsene Wenger has new signings Mathieu Debuchy, Callum Chambers and Alexis Sánchez available although David Ospina has a slight thigh strain. Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo expected to start.
Manchester City – Frank Lampard and Bacary Sagna are short of match fitness and will not take any part. Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Fernandinho and skipper Vincent Kompany were involved in the knockout stages of the World Cup. Alvaro Negredo will also not feature due to his foot injury, but there could be debuts for two summer signings with goalkeeper Willy Caballero and midfielder Fernando in the frame of contention.