So here we are, at the start of a shiny new Premier League season, I think we’re all going into the new season with the usual levels of apprehension. The squad’s looking thinner than I can ever remember it being. The midfield is a catastrophe. Looking at the flanks, Rosicky and Eboue don’t count, Theo isn’t a winger, leaving Nasri as (possibly) the one first team capable player, and he’s not set foot in the Premier League yet. In central midfield, Diaby doesn’t count, leaving Fabregas as the only player with any real first team experience, with Arsene yet to strengthen.
The defence is the same as the one that conceded over a third more goals than last season’s champions. The captain is the same one that threw a legendary hissy fit to kick-start our demise. The doomometer is registering fairly high. I’m all for Wenger’s youth policy, it has produced exciting football, but we need enough players to make a worthy squad, regardless of their age. One more injury in midfield and we’re looking at the same sixteen year old as back for pretty much each position. We don’t need to sign two experienced world class midfielders for £20m each to be successful if Wenger doesn’t want to, bring in two twenty year old players of high quality to supplement the squad. Giving youth a chance is great, but we don’t even have any youth to give the chance to at the moment due to the size of the squad. Certainly not any that are good enough to play in the Premier League.
However, I don’t want to lay on the doom too thick. Even though that’s what I just did. I had very similar doubts going into last season, and for two thirds of it we were the best team in the country by a distance. If our injury crises return to a moderate level (i.e. slightly less than nine first team players out at any one time), and Wenger signs a partner for Fabregas of the required quality, then we’re capable of doing well. If Nasri settles in quickly and he and Walcott add to our goal tally as our first choice wingers (moreso than Eboue and Hleb’s pitiful combined effort last season), then we’ll do very well. van Persie looks like he might be capable of staying fit this season (remember it was an unfortunate freak injury that initially sidelined him last season), and if he does that’s an attacking option for a whole season that we’ve not had before. Towards the end of last season, if Adebayor didn’t score, no one scored. Robin is capable of getting at least twenty goals in all competitions if he stays fit, and that might be the difference between drawing the sorts of games we were drawing last season, and winning games.
Unfortunately, I counted about nineteen ifs in that paragraph and that’s where the problem will lie. I feel it will hinge on the quality of player we sign to partner Fabregas.
In the last six seasons we’ve faced West Brom eight times, two of those times in the Carling Cup. We won six of those encounters, drew with them once in the league in 2004, and lost 2-1 at The Hawthorns when they were last in the Premier League. This should be an opening day win, but nothing can be taken for granted in this league, and with a weakened team we’ll need to be at our best. We lost to a newly promoted side in each of the two seasons before last.
Nasri and Toure should return for this game. Other than that we’ll stay the same. Senderos and Fabregas will miss out, Diaby’s out till early September, as is Rosicky. We have no present option other than to continue with Denilson and Ramsey in midfield.
Subs: Fabianski, Hoyte, Djourou, Wilshere, Eboue, Vela, Bendtner.