Arsenal are back!
Wednesday. That’s when I can stop forcing myself to care about Cricket/Tennis/Golf and get back to normality.
The mighty Arsenal have traveled to Singapore to compete in the Barclays Asia Trophy and will take on a Singapore Select XI in a match that really is only about gauging fitness levels and making some money, but I don’t care. You won’t either. It’s live on Sky Sports 1 (from 1:30pm GMT). I’m excited.
I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about the team we’re due to play. I know their name and that’ll do for now. What I do know is who’s gone out to play them, (full list on the Arsenal website) and who I’m excited to see.
From Chuba to Cech
I’m excited to see how Chuba Akpom fares. He’s technically gifted and strong as an ox, which bodes well. These pre-season tours are very important for young players like him. The manager will be able to sit back, relax and just watch him. Wenger won’t have to worry about the usual things he worries about during games. The focus really can be on player performance. A good showing can make the difference between going out on loan or staying with the first team and getting some starts in the league and cups. Both are good, but without sounding patronising, Chuba will learn more from playing with Alexis and listening to advice from Wenger, even whilst actually playing fewer games than he would at (for example) Ipswich playing with Daryl Murphy and listening to Mick McCarthy.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley. From what I’ve seen so far of Zelalem he looks like a talented playmaker with a trick or two in him. A little bit like Ramsey, but smaller, (don’t worry he’ll grow). As for Crowley, I remember being pleased when we prised him from Aston Villa and he reminds me a bit of Jack Wilshere in the way he plays. Both players will have their work cut out though, because we’re not short of talent in midfield.
Then there’s the big one. Petr Cech. I don’t think Arsenal fans are alone in looking forward to seeing him play for us. There will be plenty of football fans who will tune in to see the big man in our colours. He’s a marquee signing and that’s what people want to see.
Aside from a smattering of youngsters the team flying out is very strong. Everyone who can go on the tour has gone, and it looks on the surface like Arsene wants to use this pre-season to lay down a marker. The Emirates Cup will be useful to gauge where we are, but I think we can expect a strong showing on Wednesday. It’s impossible to predict the line-up for a game like this, but I’m sure that most of the big guns will feature at some stage.
The big absentee will of course be Alexis Sanchez. Our Chilean goal machine will come back for his pre-season training on the 27th of this month, and even though he could be in the squad for the community shield, I’d be surprised if Wenger risked it. In his absence we can expect Walcott, Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain to deputise. As far as I’m concerned they aren’t bad replacements. With any luck Alexis will be back and fully fit in time for the Liverpool game on the 24th August, however he might force Arsene to include him earlier.
Things have been hotting up over at both Manchester clubs. City just paid an absurd amount for Sterling. When you consider that he is costing roughly the same as Alexis and Cazorla combined, (possibly more, as the exact fee for Santi isn’t known) it gives you an idea of how overpriced he is. 7 goals and 7 assists last season. £49 million. Let that sink in. Some people have mentioned his conduct with regards to his exit from Liverpool as evidence of his bad attitude. I would also point to his smoking and arrests for assault as further evidence that he isn’t a model professional, and he isn’t worth anywhere near that kind of money.
Over at United they’ve been doing their level best to make life difficult for the poor sods who print the shirts in their club shop. Schweinsteiger & Schneiderlin represent two very significant signings and they will no doubt make United stronger, but the Coquelin/Cazorla partnership is not one that I would like to see broken up just yet so I’m not upset about losing out. I think United will struggle to fit their new signings into the team alongside Blind, Carrick, Mata, Fellaini and Herrera. Ultimately you can only play so many midfielders.
I know a lot of Gooners have been upset at the prospect of Schneiderlin going to United but that is them addressing a major fault in their squad. Arsene has already done so for ours with Cech. I may be alone in thinking this but for games like Bournmouth at home, Arteta can come in and Coquelin can be rested, and if the worst should happen and he gets injured, Wilshere and Ramsey could fill in.
Lastly, let’s all take a moment to laugh at Robin Van Persie. Have fun in Turkey Robbo, I hope that’s the direction you were planning on heading in when you left a club on the verge of greatness. (He could have been a legend. Such a shame).