So here we are again, ready to kick off a new Premier League season and Arsenal find themselves part of the first match on Friday evening, against newly promoted Brentford.
The Gunners have had a mixed pre-season with notable wins over Watford and Millwall but narrow defeats to Chelsea and North London rivals Spurs. Whilst the Bees have truly tested themselves ahead of the step up, drawing with Man United, narrowly losing to West Ham and most recently taking the notable scalp of Valencia on the 7th August.
Arteta’s Arsenal were in both recent prestigious friendlies in the Mind series but losing to team that will be rivals at the top end of the Premier League, may have left the manager with more questions than answers. Certainly, there are three obvious positions where I feel he will need to make decisions, and this may be influenced by the fact that Brentford will almost certainly start with a three at the back system, including their new summer signing from Celtic, Kris Ajer. The fact that this will see the wingbacks, probably Canos and Rico push on, might mean Arsenal’s coaching staff feel there will be space in the wide areas to be exploited. The first key selection decision will be who to deploy as the 2 wide players in the 4231.
If fully match fit, I think most Arsenal fans would like to see Pepe and Saka starting and interchangeable in these roles, but with only a few minutes since the Euros will the England star be deemed ready. If not, I imagine Aubameyang will be asked to play on the left with Lacazette leading the line, but is Saka is ready, I would like to see if the skipper can rise to the challenge of playing up top. If so, until Arsenal sign the creative 10 they are certainly looking for, rumoured to be James Maddison, Aubameyang will have to get involved in the hold up and link play, which is not his strength.
The other key selection decisions are at right back and in the centre of midfield. With Partey ruled out Arteta will undoubtedly call on the experience of Granit Xhaka, but will he be brave and partner the Swiss with new signing, Albert Sambi Lokonga or play cautious and pick Mohamed Elneny. The starting 11 for the Spurs match suggests Arteta will show faith in the young Belgian, and I hope he does. At right back it was Calum Chambers who finished 2020/21 strongly, holding off Cedric and Hector Bellerin. Bellerin is heavily linked with a move away and seems devoid of form and confidence, so I imagine it will be Chambers with Cedric on the bench.
Whatever Arteta decides, one would hope that even an Arsenal not quite at full strength and still seeking to add to the first team squad before Transfer Deadline day would be enough to overcome a newly promoted team, even away from home. Certainly, the bookies agree because even Sports Betting Dime have the Gunners as clear favourites to win (1/1). both the draw and a Brentford win are quoted at 11/4.
Whilst Gabriel has returned from the Olympics, it will be Pablo Mari to partner Arsenal’s expensive new central defender, Ben White and Kieran Tierney will of course complete the defence. The Arsenal faithful will be excited to see White and hopefully Lokonga lining up and that the odds suggesting a win for Arteta’s boys are correct, with tough matches against Chelsea and champions Man City to follow.
Come on you Gunners!
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