The season opener lands today at Wembley Stadium. Arsenal take on title winners Chelsea in a game that doesn’t really stand for much, but it might set the tone for what the season is going to look like. Decapitating Chelsea a second time in 3 months would be pretty exciting, it might settle some of the jangly nerves many have heading into the season, it’s a great platform to show off new signings, and it’ll certainly make me feel better about Leicester on the opening day.
Injury news is pretty standard, Aaron Ramsey is out with his niggly injury, and Mesut Ozil has an ankle problem. We also won’t see Coquelin, which won’t disappoint many.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Wenger starts. He’s had to use Giroud save the day over preseason, the Frenchman is in better form than the stuttering Lacazette. That said, I’d be surprised if Wenger didn’t see a friendly as the perfect opportunity for his record signing to inject a bit of confidence into his game. He could also go for Danny W through the middle, after he performed so powerfully in the FA Cup final.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Wenger does at the back. Does he want to continue his experiment with a ball playing midfielder in the centre of defence, or will he revert to the FA Cup final success trio? Or will he revert back to Kos in the middle, flanked by Kolasinac, and Bellerin? The defence really is up in the air.
Midfield is going to be what, Chambo, Xhaka and Ozil? Could Jack Wilshere be considered now he looks to be staying?
Look, I don’t have any of the answers here. I think this is one of the vaguest starting 11 moments I’ve had in a while. It’s very difficult to pick out what our best team is going to be and it’s very difficult to predict how we’re going to play. Our new system, that we copied from Chelsea has been tested under a bit of a false guise. This season, when everyone is focused, it’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out.
Wenger didn’t really give too much away in the press conference. He was keen to point out that Chelsea kept most of their squad, clearly trying to draw praise for his stubborn methods with his contract rebels. He also seemed to have a bit of a pop at the Bakayoko / Morata signings, which was amusing.
“For us it is just a good opportunity to repeat the performance from the FA Cup final,” Wenger said.
“I would say that Chelsea look like they have kept the basis of 95 per cent of their squad.
“They have added Bakayoko who is a very strong player, strong ball-winner, similar to Matic, maybe less distant runner but more of an impact player – but certainly they will fight for the championship again.
“They have replaced [Diego] Costa with [Alvaro] Morata. Morata is maybe less of a goalscorer than Costa, but he can score and provide as well.”
Quite incredible the blues haven’t shifted on Diego Costa. One of the most dogged strikers in the world and a proven winner. Shocked his agent has priced him out of a move in the Premier League. That, or his attitude is a worry for potential suiters.
It was also odd reading Wenger talking about Conte as a manager.
“Chelsea came out of a very average season and he got them to win the title, to be champions even after having a bad start,”
“That shows he is not only mentally strong but is intelligent enough to address the problems when he has some. He looks to me to be a real competitor as well.
“I expect them to fight again for the championship but they have more competition this year and last season they didn’t play in Europe. They will certainly be dangerous again but they will have more distractions.”
I agree that Chelsea will struggle with the addition of CL, but doesn’t it read strange for Wenger to be calling out the bits in Conte that he totally lacks in his own game?
Wenger capped off his prezzer by saying he was prioritizing the Premier League over the Europa League, and also giving it a bit of a slagging for being a shit cup in the process because it picks up the dregs of the weak CL teams. He also created a new boogeyman around players running down their deals.
“I believe Sánchez will be motivated to play for Arsenal because of his character. He loves so much the game and what he does. Football passes quickly in your life so enjoy every single moment,”
“But he is not the only one in this position; we have Özil as well, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Wilshere … there are many. I warn you that we will see that situation more and more.”
Think Wenger is micro dosing too many hallucinogenics when he tries to normalize a mess he created through mismanagement… Arsenal used their propaganda tools last season to do a hit job on what a shit Sanchez was because he didn’t give a rats arse, now Wenger is telling us he has great character and he’ll play hard going into the summer of his last World Cup. Absurd commentary.
A couple of interesting rule changes go into effect. The first on penalties. This from The Telegraph.
This time, however, the order of penalties would see the the team going first in the shootout taking one spot-kick before their opponents take two in succession.
Each side would then continues to take two in a row until a winner is found.
Similar to the switch of serve during tennis tie-breaks, the format is being experimented worldwide in an attempt to address the fact teams which take the first kick in a shootout currently have a 60 per cent chance of winning.
The league is also going to retrospectively suspend players who dive, Wenger was pleased about this.
“You want to get the cheating out of the game as much as you can – out of respect for the fans who want to watch football and not people dive.
“They pay a lot of money. We want to make it clean and as fluent as possible. You cannot be against it if you want to get this out of football.”
An argument for another day, but wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could identify players diving during play, rather than after a terrible decision has been made that ruins the game and changes the direction of a teams season.
Have a great day if you’re going, see you in the comments tomorrow.
BIG LOVE x
VOICEMAIL: +44 020 3868 6265
Call in after the game and give us your quick 20 second opinion on the game. We’ll bang the best in the post match podcast.