The buzz amongst fans leading up to our first Premier League fixture is … as it is, but to factor in the loss of two key players and still be this excited is something special.
Arsenal kicks off its season in about seven hours with what should be a close, hard fought tussle with Sunderland at the Emirates. Our players would have only just returned from their meaningless international friendlies on Thursday and had one final training session before the big day. That coupled with the lean preseason means Arsenal goes into this match ever so slightly undercooked. But if the physical preparations of other sports is even remotely transposable to football, look no further than the South African cricket team touring England at the moment.
The Proteas’ preparations going into that tour were minimal to say the least. Yet they totally bossed England around in the first Test before holding on for a draw in the second. I’ve probably jinxed it for them in the final match, but the point stands: preparation goes a long way towards a result, but so does technical and physical superiority.
That’s what Arsenal is going to have to bank on in its first few matches this season. You can expect Lukas Podolski, fresh from his two goals against Cologne and rested by the German national team to feature as the lone poacher forward today. A jet lagged Santi Cazorla, flown in all the way from Puerto Rico, should also start due to our current lack of numbers in central midfield.
There were question marks over Mikel Arteta’s involvement earlier in the week as he sat out the Cologne friendly, but he should be fit enough to start alongside his compatriot, while Abou Diaby completes the midfield trio. It’s a big season for the injury-prone Frenchman, and we’ll need his physical presence as a deep-lying playmaker while Alex Song sits out with a ‘minor injury’.
That’s the alarm bell right there. The Cameroonian is as good as gone, with reports Arsenal are now simply haggling over the fee. Anywhere between 15 and 20 million will see him off to Barcelona (though what that statement means is anyone’s guess. If Barcelona were told ‘anywhere between 15 and 20’, you think they would offer more than the 15?). Anyways, I’m pretty sure Song is one of the last of agent Darren Dein’s clientele on Arsenal’s books. The sooner is gone, the last we have to put up with his stench, at least for a while.
Back to the squad, and the back line picks itself due to injury, but Kieran Gibbs will probably be favoured over Andre Santos at left back. Gibbs has had a few more minutes than the Brazilian, who was played further up field during the Asia tour. Koscielny and Sagna’s injuries means new captain Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson should make up the back line in front of Wojcech Szczesny.
If Arsenal plays to its merits, we should enjoy a confidence boosting home win over our opponents today. Last season’s equivalent fixture saw us squeeze past the Black Cats 2-1, with Robin van Voldemort exchanging free kick goals with ex-Gooner Seb Larsson.
The Hype Meter will make its debut tomorrow after the result. A win for Arsenal will see it kick off at 100%, fingers crossed. Share your predicted scores and scorers in the comments.
Oh, and enjoy the match. It’s a shitload better than RVP press conferences, at the very least. We’re all hyped up about transfer rumours throughout the off-season, but even if you’re supporting relegation-fodder, nothing compares to when the real thing rolls back into town.
Up the Arse.