Let’s face it, unless you follow the logic of Jose Mourinho, the upcoming Community Shield against Chelsea is nothing but a glorified friendly. That being said, it will give us our first true taste of a viable squad as this is a valuable tune-up for the start of the Premier League season.
Recent years have seen Arsene take this fixture seriously. We won’t see Elneny and Maitland-Niles at CB, Joe Willock starting in the center of the pitch, or Cohen Bramall at LWB. Finally we say goodbye to the makeshift/experimental squads of the last 6 friendlies and will be given real substance. Below are the 4 main storylines I will be following during this Sunday’s match against Chelsea:
1. Who will the 3 CB’s be?
The options are plentiful and Wenger’s decision will shed light on who starts against Leicester the following week. Koscielny should get this game as he’s suspended for the match the following week. You would assume Mertesacker deputizes as the central CB seeing as how Mustafi has just returned to training and is most likely a few weeks away. This means any of Chambers, Holding, or Monreal could grab that last CB spot, assuming Kolasinac is nailed on at LWB.
Prediction: We see a backline of Koscielny – Mertesacker – Monreal. Monreal’s positional awareness, on ball defending, and distribution from deep make him my choice to lock down this position indefinitely. The cover he will provide for non-Premier League proven Kolasinac is invaluable.
2. Can Sead Kolasinac continue to impress?
Reiss-Nelson was incredible but the performances of Kolasinac in the Emirates Cup left my jaw rooted to the floor. The sample size is small, but the boy looks to be the total package. He is physically imposing, positionally aware, and strong in the challenge. Despite his build, can make repeat, dynamic runs down the left flank. Additionally, his quick feet and technicality on the ball make him a good fit at Arsenal.
Prediction: He continues to impress Arsenal fans at LWB. He will be more selective with his runs and finding creative pockets than he was against Benfica. He will continue to display strong llink play and control in tight areas much like his predecessor Nacho Monreal.
3. Who starts at CF?
Does Arsene go with his his dynamic big money signing or the physical veteran whom he has so much faith in? Given his price tag and scoring record in League A, it seems like a no brainer than Lacazette should start however Giroud’s preseason form has made him look almost unplayable. Lacazette has been good not great scoring some poacher’s goals but not necessarily linking well with teammates.
Prediction: Lacazette gets the nod at CF. Playing a target-man striker has not worked against Chelsea in past years and Arsene did not start Giroud against them in any of the three meetings last season. This is an incredible opportunity for Lacazette to announce himself in the Premier League.
4. Is there room for the Ox?
It’s hard to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting over Bellerin at RWB, Ramsey at CM, or in one of the two free roles behind the striker. The Ox has performed well in each preseason game and it will be interesting to see if Arsene forces him in. His Arsenal career is very much in the balance and the next few weeks could be pivotal in determining his fate.
Prediction: The Ox is brought on as an impact sub in the Community Shield. Game context will dictate his playing position. If we are tied or chasing the game I can see Arsene reverting to 4-2-3-1 where he will be deployed as a wide midfielder and extra attacking body. If we are protecting a lead I feel he will come in for Xhaka or Ramsey at CM.
I’ll leave you with my predicted starting XI. It may not be a massively important game or count for much, but at least we are given our first taste of true Arsenal football for the ‘17-’18 season.
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31 year old based in the U.S. I am an elementary school teacher by day whose passion for teaching is only rivaled by a love for the Arsenal. I release a weekly piece each Tuesday that is oftentimes analytical but sometimes eccentric. Founder of the U.S. supporters group Syracuse Gooners (www.cusegooners.com). I enjoy interacting with any and all Arsenal-based opinions on Twitter. Have a younger brother who chose to support Spurs. Fielding suggestions for ways to disown him.