Heading into the 2017/18 campaign, Arsenal will have some added motivation after claiming the Community Shield. Putting a damper to that feel good moment is the uncertainty surrounding Alexis Sanchez. Is El Niño Maravilla going to extend his stay? Will he move away from North London prior to the transfer deadline? Or, will he stick around but walk away on a free next Summer? The only certainty when it comes to the Chilean is the fact that he will not be involved in Arsenal’s opening match against Leicester City.
Opening the year at home means that the Gunners will have played six straight opening fixtures at the Emirates. You’d think that’s a good thing, but, unfortunately for Arsenal, they’ve only won one of their last five opening fixtures.
Last year, we all had to endure that goal fest against Liverpool. The year before that, the Hammers walked away victorious. In 2014, Aaron Ramsey’s 91st minute goal against Crystal Palace guaranteed all three points, but it sure as hell wasn’t easy. I’m certain everyone remembers the nightmare that was in 2013. Not sure which was worst, the defeat against Aston Villa, or Anthony Taylor’s officiating performance. And lastly, five years ago, the Gunners played to a scoreless draw against Sunderland.
What that means is Arsenal shouldn’t be overconfident. You want another reason to not be overconfident? Throw in the fact that Mike Dean is the match official. Talk about taking your prom date back to her place, on the verge of converting the spot kick, and then her dad walks in the room. Yeah, I’d say Mike Dean being in charge on Friday is pretty damn close to that. #BonerKiller
Just as a reminder, here’s a video of that tw*t celebrating a Spu*s goal against Arsenal. And don’t even try to argue that he didn’t enjoy that.
Predicting Arsenal’s Future
Being the first match of the year, and the only EPL fixture on Friday, all eyes will be on Arsenal. Whether you support the Gunners or not, everyone will be watching. All the neutrals will be hoping for the opportunity to talk about how much Arsenal sucks, and how Arsene Wenger needs to leave.
I know one guarantee is the fact that my group of friends will be watching closely, and boy would they want nothing more than to head into the weekend with Arsenal dropping points. The group chat will continue to be on DnD as I’ll try to watch without any distractions, and hopefully Arsenal’s performance on the pitch will keep the messages to a minimum.
In terms of expectations, even without Alexis in the squad, Arsenal has more than enough to come away with all three points, and that would mean first place. 🙂
Without Koscielny at the back, it’s very likely that we will see a back three of Mertesacker, Holding and Monreal. There’s a possibility that Mustafi could make the cut instead of maybe Holding or BFG, but the fact that he didn’t feature in pre-season, I’d imagine Arsene Wenger will play it safe. Holding has held his own when called on, and with the exception of a few questionable decisions in the Community Shield, he deserves Le Prof’s confidence. But, if BFG isn’t able to play due to the cut he suffered over his eye in the Community Shield, then I guess it’s likely his fellow German will make the start.
The right wingback is up for grabs, and it will depend if Wenger opts for flowy hair, teenage mustache and super speed of Hector Bellerin. Or, will he choose the tight shirt, muscular build, and equal pace of Oxlade Chamberlain? Either way, Arsenal should see most of the possession, so I think Ox could get the nod. Offensively he offers more than Bellerin, so why not unleash the Ox on Fuchs, who will likely start for Leicester?
On the left side, I think we all know who should, and who likely will get the start, right?!
None other than Sead Kolašinac.
Having arrived on a free transfer, the expectation was that it was a typical Arsenal and Arsene Wenger signing. Le Prof is a frugal guy, we know that, but, the Bosnian international was voted into the Bundesliga team of the year. He’s no Kieran Gibbs!
I expected him to start in the Community Shield, but when he came on, the energy level on that left side nearly tripled. This guy gives zero fu*ks. There was a play in the second half down the left side when the ball deflected up in the air, and he chased it, went up for the header and ended up winning the ball back for Welbeck. He may look like your typical Sunday League player, but I dare anyone to get into a 50/50 challenge with him. He brings that physical aspect to Arsenal’s game, which apart from Xhaka, has been missing for quite some time.
A matchup between him and Mahrez would be interesting to watch.
Mahrez is a guy with not much meat on his bones. Kolašinac on the other hand is like a freight train, so the Algerian will certainly want to avoid any bone crunching tackles.
In front of Sead the Hulk, Danny Welbeck should get the start again.
When fit, he’s a great asset to the squad. He’s strong on and off the ball, he’s quick, and can offer some creativity. My only complaint about him is that when it comes to sticking the ball in the back of the net, he’s not always the most efficient.
As for the other supporting player for Lacazette, seeing as Ozil is just coming back from an ankle injury, we may likely see Iwobi. He wasn’t all that bad against Chelsea, but he has the stamina of a 40-year old who just crushed four pies and six pints.
Last but not least, the center of the park. I’m not sure there’s much uncertainty there.
Elneny and Xhaka bossed the midfield against Chelsea, and I’d imagine Wenger won’t make any changes. Ramsey could be available, but again, these guys were outstanding last weekend, so why break the rhythm?!
I expect Arsenal to control the game, but as always, opening at home, the pressure of high expectations, and a Leicester side who will likely play on the counter-attack sets up a potentially frustrating match. But, I’m going to go against the expectation and say that Arsenal will be comfortable for most of the match, with Elneny and Xhaka turning in another gem.
Kolašinac will flatten Mahrez at least once. After seeing that, Simpson will fear for his life, likely fake an injury in order to come off, and the Bosnian will come away with an assist, for Lacazette’s first Premier League goal.
There will be no Vardy party. You think he regrets not moving to Arsenal?
Sorry haters, you’ll have to wait until next match. Arsenal isn’t dropping points against Leicester, even with Mike Dean making absolutely ridiculous and embarrassing calls throughout the match. How the hell does this man still get the opportunity to officiate a top-flight match?! Someone take his whistle!
Arsenal 2-0 Leicester
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