So, here we are finally. 5 hours is all that separates us from another tantalizing, nail-biting, exciting and hopefully one that ends in joy; year of football. The year begins now, for us football fans.
First things first. And yes, you guessed right. Robin van Persie. He has sealed his long drawn transfer to Manchester United finally for a fee of £24 million. Of course this will be thoroughly analysed and dissected and all those words you use in the biology lab in the coming weeks, and months and probably even years to come.
Was it the right move for Arsenal? Was it the right move for van Persie? Was it the right move for Manchester United? Only time will tell. The bottom line is, he is gone, and we have a fresh outlook to the season now. No more of the silly banter that Arsenal is Robin van Persie. We have a good enough squad to win us something this season, with the right mix of experience and youth. Of course, he will be a miss, and despite how many of you have come to hate him, fact is he did his best, even if it was a year and a half, out of 8.
Secondly, Alex Song. According to some tweets, he had a furious bust-up with Arsene Wenger, when he asked for a payrise upto £100,000 a week, which was rejected at the outright. I am a huge admirer of Alex Song and his abilities in midfield, and would have loved to see him stay. It is quite shocking that this is happening all so fast. Alex Song has let the team down in this crucial juncture of the upcoming season, by this dispute.
Supposedly, he bid his farewells and left the training ground. While the pictures paint a happy picture, among the players, we really do not know what is going on behind the scenes. If Arsene Wenger feels this is the right time to move on Song, then so be it. Hopefully, when he is warming benches all over Spain, he will realize the magnitude of his mistake, all over a few extra quid. Arsenal are getting rid of the dirt, and that is always positive. Also, he was the last Arsenal player represented by Darren Dein. So, good riddance.
This means that we will be short in defensive midfield, and Abou Diaby is not one we can rely on over the course of an entire season. Rumors are that we could now reignite our interest in Yaan M’Vila, thereby hijacking Sp*rs deal, while also offering Nuri Sahin a year on loan. While the Turkish midfielder looked close to joining Liverpool, recent reports suggest there has been a u-tun and he prefers playing for a club in the Champions League.
As most of the papers speak about the van Persie deal, there is very little on the transfers front. Arsenal have been linked with Senegalese left-back Cheikh M’Buengue. However, I do not see this going through, as we have two left-backs, and Thomas Vermaelen can fill in there as well.
Speaking of which, the Belgian has been named as the Arsenal captain for the season, with vice-captain being Mikel Arteta. This, I feel is the right move. Vermaelen is a vocal and passionate leader, who leads by example. He has the right spirit, and he will be well complimented by the polished, and respected Arteta.
Finally shirt numbers were released for the new season, and Jack Wilshere has secured the number 10 jersey, vacated by You Know Who. Lukas Podolski, who was hoping he would land the 10 jersey, would have to contend with 9, while fellow new signing Santi Cazorla will take Wilshere’s old number 19.
And, as Arseblog pointed out, note the subtle differences in the last lines of the announcements of the departures of Carlos Vela and Robin van Persie. The club has wished Vela well for his future career, while the Dutchman has just been thanked for his contribution. Cracked me up.
Team news then. Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna are around a month away from full fitness. Mikel Arteta has recovered from a knock and is fit to start. Laurent Koscielny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are out due to minor knocks, and should be fit for the second game. Theo Walcott should be able to start.
Of course, thanks to the meaningless round of friendlies, we have a very exhausted Spaniard, in Santi Cazorla, and I would love to see him start. It will be interesting to watch the team selection tomorrow. I would also love to see Arshavin being given a chance just behind the striker, though chances of that happening are pretty bleak.
So, first of all, how will Arsenal play up front. We have bought in two strikers, in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, and I do expect both of them to start, Giroud playing more centrally, and Podolski on the left. Gervinho has been lovely to watch in pre-season, and he will surely play the first few games of the season, while the new duo adapt. If Gervinho can continue putting in performances, then Podolski will have his work cut out. And, that is always a good sign.
Sunderland will not be easy to beat, and I expect them to come with a defensive looking formation, and probably try to nick one on the counter. They have failed in successive attempts to sign Wolves striker Steven Fletcher, but have managed to sign former Newcastle, Fulham, Manchester United, Everton and Sp*rs striker Louis Saha, who has a decent record against Arsenal. He is expected to start up front. Also expected to start is new signing from Aston Villa, Carlos Cuellar, and former Arsenal midfielder Sebastien Larsson.
Here is how I think the teams will line up.
I am expecting Gervinho to continue in his rich vein of form, and hopefully we will win today. It is always hard t predict the first games of the season, as both teams will have new faces, and also injuries to contend with after the Euro’s and Olympics.
A new era starts today, a new captain, new outlook, new signings, new season and a whole new approach. Hoping for the best.