Will Arsène choose this back four against Chelsea? Will we start the season with Monreal and Bellerin on the bench? It could be purely down to the balance of the team. Arsène prefers one conservative full back with a more attacking option on the other side. The Bellerin/Monreal option gives that same balance but maybe Arsène wants to go with the more experienced Debuchy over Bellerin so selecting Gibbs seems the natural selection. It would be very harsh on Nacho Monreal who was one of our most consistent performers last season. Maybe I am imagining things I don't know, but we will see what our first choice back four is on Sunday for sure
I wrote a long article after the Everton victory in Singapore, yes feels like ages ago now doesn't it? I was writing my conclusion after going into some depth about our squad and I thought it would be wise to save it as I'd hate to lose all that text and of course time and effort. Clever me for thinking ahead right? Wrong.
As I hit save my laptop froze, the mouse cursor wouldn't move so I had to turn the machine off. It's ok though because I saved it prior to my last save, I'll probably just have to rewrite the last few paragraphs. Wrong.
Everything was deleted. I got angry and shut my laptop away in a dark cupboard for a few days as punishment for messing with me. That will learn it.
So today I am giving this another go but instead of focusing on one match, I thought I'd give my views on all the pre season games so far and what state we are in as a team.
I am sure you will have read the line 'It's only pre season, you can't take anything from these games' or words to that effect.
Yes and no would be my response to that line of thought. Teams are in different stages of pre season, some further ahead than others. Some teams/managers try new strategies, combinations, systems that they would not do during the season and so on.
But I think it is false to suggest that you cannot take anything from these matches and here are a few examples.
Players often show when they are on the verge of jumping up a gear during pre season. A couple of examples off the top of my head were Samir Nasri after missing out on the world cup 2010, he looked focused and sharp in pre season and that form continued during the season until of course he smelt Manchester City's cash and decided to bottle the rest of the campaign.
Aaron Ramsey was another who ended the previous season in good form and then looked visibly far more expressive and confident. Like Nasri he took that into the season but unlike the Frenchman his form lasted throughout until the end.
I get the same sense about Mesut Özil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain this time around. Both players look sharp and confident after a full pre season tucked under their belts. Ox has stated that he wants more goals this season and he made one fantastic off the ball diagonal run against Everton which got him clear of the defence, his chip narrowly bounced wide of the far post. His goal against Lyon was taken with supreme confidence. That was a Theo finish if ever I've seen one. I am hoping this is the beginning of a season of improvement. His burst of pace and ability to dribble past players would be great for his team mates and if he can add goals to his game he will be one to watch out for.
We all know what Mesut can do for our team. This is his first pre season and it's even more promising that he is coming off the back of an impressive end of last campaign. He made one ridiculous assist for Ramsey and scored a very good goal against Lyon. Against Everton he ran the show also. It is very much time for him to kick on and remain consistent. Will we finally get a season of Theo and Özil together?
Positional changes and tweaks are also worth keeping an eye on during pre season. It was pre season 2003/2004 when Arsène Wenger moved Kolo Toure back to partner Sol Campbell at centre back and he liked what he saw. We also got to see the switch from 4-4-1-1 to 4-3-3 during the early Emirates era. The training ground and friendly matches are the best place to test out new ideas before the serious stuff happens.
This time round the only obvious switch has been the deployment of Santi Cazorla. We've seen him a number of times as the deepest midfielder in Coquelin's absence. Even against Wolfsburg when Cazorla partnered Arteta he was often the deepest of the Spanish duo. Given that Aaron Ramsey has not played a single minute out wide this pre season on top of his public desires to play centrally, I imagine we won't see Ramsey playing wide very much this season. At least to start with.
Arsène stated that he thought Santi Cazorla was our most consistent performer last season and Mesut Özil is looking sharp and ready in his number 10 position.
Arsenal fans have been asking who will be the back up for Coquelin, the answer could be in fact Francis Coquelin himself because I wouldn't be surprised if the tigerish Frenchman was rotated in and out of the team, especially against opposition who are likely to park the proverbial bus without much on the break.
The centre of the pitch is surely Arsène's biggest conundrum so it will be exciting to see how we line up in that area against Chelsea who have one of the best midfields in the country (after us naturally)
Something else that has piqued my interest is that of our back four. It's the one area of the pitch where Arsène wants continuity and I do not envisage much tinkering in that area. Against Lyon Arsène selected Debuchy and Gibbs either side of Koscielny and Mertesacker. At members day we saw an attack against defence drill. The attack consisted of the young squad players such as Akpom, Gnabry, Iwobi and others whilst we had the same defenders against Lyon with Coquelin also added into the mix as the defensive midfielder.
Will Arsène choose this back four against Chelsea? Will we start the season with Monreal and Bellerin on the bench? It could be purely down to the balance of the team. Arsène prefers one conservative full back with a more attacking option on the other side. The Bellerin/Monreal option gives that same balance but maybe Arsène wants to go with the more experienced Debuchy over Bellerin so selecting Gibbs seems the natural selection. It would be very harsh on Nacho Monreal who was one of our most consistent performers last season. Maybe I am imagining things I don't know, but we will see what our first choice back four is on Sunday for sure.
As usual, the pre season is a chance for the youngsters to show what they can do. It is not always about which player is the most gifted, it is also about which players grab their chance in training and impress the boss. Alex Iwobi was not one that I would have expected to feature in the Emirates cup at the end of last season but he has obviously impressed on the Colny training pitches. He looked lively in Singapore and produced an outstanding first half performance against Lyon, bagging himself a goal in the process.
Emi Martinez has also had a good pre season looking very assured and composed. Getting games on loan to Rotherham last season would have done him some good. He seems to have all the tools needed to be a good keeper. I like how calm he is at coming for crosses, he has a big frame and has yet to smoke in the showers. All plus points I feel.
But the one player who caught the eye the most was the new boy Jeff Reine-Adelaide. It didn't take long to see how gifted he is. He was deployed on the flank but his stature and drive surely means he has a future in the centre of the pitch. Patience will be in order, we have many top players both centrally and on the wings so it will be development for him over the next season and probably beyond but from the little we've seen of him so far, he looks to have a bright future ahead of him should his attitude match his ability.
I am looking forward to the Chelsea game on Sunday, we should see our first team minus Alexis Sanchez. So we will know who our full backs will be and who will start in the centre of our midfield. I wait with baited breath.
For more pre season thoughts check out the new Arsenal Vision podcast
'till the next time.