Preseason is always a great way for players to get back to a somewhat reasonable fitness level after spending the previous month or so eating pies and kicking back cocktails. If you think I’m exaggerating, have a look at the latest photo of Gonzalo Higuain. He looks like he’s been sitting on his couch eating cinnamon buns as he watched his transfer saga unfold. Let’s see how that big investment works out for La Vecchia Signora!Anyway, as veteran players work their way back into the squad, some of the younger guys are out to prove their worth. For those who perform poorly, should we take anything from that? How about those guys who come out guns blazing, should we expect it to carry into the season?
Take Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for example.
Ox has had some ups and downs during his time at the club, but his past few performances have shown a lot of promise. His pace doesn’t surprise anyone, but he looks to be more confident on the pitch. And while he’s never been one to shy away from torching defenders in a one on one situation, he seems to be enjoying himself, at least during preseason.
While Arsenal supporters like myself will know that he’s capable of disappointing when you most need him, one can only hope this will be the year he truly establishes himself. Big Sam will be out looking for a new cycle of English players to lead them into World Cup 2018, and Ox could play a key role in two years.
Another Englishman at the club who will be looking to turn his fortunes around is Theo Walcott.
This guy… I don’t even know what to think anymore if I’m being honest. As I sit here on my flight to Portugal watching this lady struggle to play candy crush, I’m trying to come up with the right words to describe Theo and her, and all I can think of is WTF!
He has the pace that would make speedy guys like Per Mertesacker have nightmares before a match. He’s like the god damn roadrunner, yet, it’s like he has two left feet and he runs around with his eyes shut.
How the hell is it possible to waste so much potential?! Underachiever should be printed on the back of his kit because that’s exactly what he’s been, but, I still have a glimmer of hope that he can break through this season. Will it be in a central role? Probably not, but we all know Arsene Wenger is stubborn. Although Theo says he wants to play out wide again, Le Prof doesn’t really care what Theo wants.
Whether he’s on the right or in the middle, Theo’s problem is consistency, and we can say he lacked some confidence. I’m sure if he goes on the internet, he will have seen plenty of supporters giving him a hard time, myself included at times, but quite frankly it’s because we know what he’s capable of. So when we see him tripping over the ball with 20-yards of open space to run into at home against Crystal Palace in a 1-1 match, you bet your a** we are going to be annoyed.
As the new campaign is set to kick off this coming weekend, Theo grabbed himself a nice goal against Manchester City on Sunday. A beautiful run coupled with a great pass resulted in a cheeky flick to beat Joe Hart. Theo you cheeky bastard! Now, how about you do that when it counts?!
This will likely be his last chance to prove that he’s worth the ridiculous £140k a week he’s currently collecting. Just imagine what guys like Iwobi, Akpom or even Joel Campbell must think about that. Let that sink in for a bit…
Iwobi has hit the ground running, Akpom has looked great while also being efficient in front of goal, and again, Joel Campbell showing that if Theo wants to play out wide, he will really need to work for it.Alexis is going to obviously start on one side of the attack, with the other option sort of up for grabs. Will Ramsey play wide, allowing Xhaka and Santi, or even Coquelin to play central with Ozil behind Giroud? Or will Ox get the starting role, setting up a Xhaka & Rambo partnership in the center of the park? That would mean Santi may be left out, and how the hell do you justify that? Sounds like Wenger has some tough decisions to make!
As you can see, the options are endless. Consistency will be the keyword floating around the dressing room, but while the offensive players face a tough battle, defensively, injuries have kicked Arsenal square in the sack.
Koscielny likely won’t be ready for the opening match, although plans may change given the fact that Gabriel is facing an extended time out due to injury. That leaves Arsenal with Holding, Chambers, newly adapted central defender Bielik, and possibly an unfit Koscielny in an emergency situation, which I think is where they are at right now.
We’ve seen Monreal play at the heart of defense, so maybe he slides over, allowing Gibbs to play on the left? Who knows what Wenger will do, but we can at least take some positives from the three youngsters who weren’t all that bad in preseason.
If Koscielny isn’t available, I’d think we would see the Holding / Chambers partnership. Chambers offers a bit more experience and he scares the shit out of me when he has the ball at his feet, while surprisingly Holding looks to be better at calming the storm. He looks very composed on the ball, always looking to play out from the back, and he can even score goals!
Can we expect these types of performances to carry into the match against Liverpool?
They don’t really have a choice. Holding could be looking at his first Premier League start, which may feel like Arsene Wenger threw him into shark infested waters.
While it all looked beautiful and free flowing when it wasn’t official, it’s now time to make that happen when it counts, starting against Liverpool.
Limited resources is not an acceptable excuse from the club because they have the funds to add to the squad. We don’t want to hear that the right player wasn’t available. Stop looking to find a goddamn sale, and spend the money. Everyone in the damn world knows Arsenal have deep pockets, yet very short arms.
It all gets very serious this weekend! Let’s hope the club, the manager, the players and the supporters are up for the challenge!