The vultures appear to be circling the Grove once more. One match into the season the harbingers of doom are making the most noise, and in all honesty it is hard to believe that we have been so reticent to bolster a squad decimated by injuries and enforced holidays. We are the first visitors to Leicester this season on Saturday evening, and both sides are seeking their first points of the new campaign.
There have been seasons where an early season visit to the reigning champions would have been an altogether scarier experience, and yes, that 8-2 is never far from the memory. Leicester’s defeat at newly promoted Hull last week is an indication that they, like so many more experienced and successful clubs before them, will find retaining the title much more difficult than winning it.
They lost only three matches in securing the trophy last season only we beat them twice and that will surely be in their minds. Then of course the sub-plots of the failed bid for Vardy, and did we really seek to sign Mahrez? Whatever, the pair of them have their improved deals with the Foxes. Good luck to them, but not immediately!
The loss of Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi to the Shenley infirmary presents an opportunity for Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If there are any unforced changes to the side humbled on the opening day then probably Laurent Koscielny will be rushed back into the centre of the defence, and Granit Xhaka might make his first Premier League start? The former is the likelier of the two.
My idle speculation would have Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud’s return to the squad on the bench. The boss has already hinted that he cannot start all three returnees.
“I will consider them for selection this weekend. Of course they have not played any games for a while, so I have to be selective and I cannot go for the three because that would be too risky. But basically with Laurent Koscielny I have no choice. If I have to take a gamble on one, it’s certainly on him.”
The presence of Giroud should prompt some reaction from Alexis, who did not look his energetic and enthusiastic self last week. The Chilean’s 47 minute hat-trick in the corresponding fixture last September proved decisive in our 2-5 triumph. Another positive result would raise the spirits on and off the pitch for the Gunners.
The ‘holic pound
A week into the season, and so my glass remains half full, even if the ale it contains has a hint of cloudiness about it. Have we the spirit and resilience to follow last season’s impressive win with something similar. Probably not. Another tense affair more akin to our last minute triumph at the Grove is more appealing. I have plumped for a repeat of the 2-1 Gunners triumph that day. You will find the Paddy Power odds for this, and the other Saturday fixtures, here.
Win A 2016/17 Arsenal Shirt of Your Choice
Talking of Paddy Power, they are giving one UK based ‘holic reader the chance to win a new Arsenal home or away shirt for the coming season. You have seen my idea of the Arsenal team above, but do you know better? To win, just summit your starting eleven for both teams in the comments section, and make sure you have a valid email address in the appropriate box.
The rules are as follows:
Submit your predicted starting XIs for both teams in the Leicester City vs Arsenal Premier League match on Saturday 20 August in the comments section.
The winner will be the first entrant who correctly names all 22 players. If no one gets all 22 players, the winner is the entrant who correctly names the most players in the starting XIs combined.
In the event of a tie, the person who commented the earliest wins.
Terms and Conditions:
1. All entries must be received by 09:00 on Saturday 20 August 2016.
2. One entry per UK household.
3. The winner will receive the following prize: A 2016-17 Arsenal shirt – the winner can select whether they want Home/Away and the size
4. In order to facilitate the prompt delivery of your shirt, your name and address details will be shared with Paddy Power.
5. Paddy Power will not be liable for any prize that does not reach the winners for reasons beyond Paddy Power’s reasonable control.
6. Entrants will be deemed to have accepted these terms and conditions and agreed to be bound by them when entering this competition.
Good luck ‘holics.