Sunderland preview – Saturday round-up
Well, here we go again folks. After a summer of transfer speculation, internationals, some signings, some sales and more rain than I would have liked, the new season kicks off today.
We start against Sunderland and we might as well get straight on with the team news. Out of today’s game are Laurent Koscielny (calf) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle), while Arsene Wenger will assess Theo Walcott who has a bruised gooch and Santi Cazorla who flew to Puerto Rico and back with Spain during the week. Aside from that everyone who isn’t a long-termer (Sagna, Wilshere, Frimpong and Diab – oh, wait).
It’s hard to know what kind of a team the manager will go for. I think he might shy away from playing all three of his new signings but if he was of a mind to do it a team like Szczesny – Jenkinson – Mertesacker – Vermaelen – Gibbs – Diaby – Arteta – Cazorla – Podolski – Giroud – Walcott/Gervinho, looks pretty tasty to me. I suspect, however, he’ll be a bit more cautious although I’m sure all three will feature at some stage.
Although most of his press conference yesterday was taken up with other things (towards the end someone asked him a question that wasn’t about van Quisling, and he joked ‘Oh, we have a game tomorrow?!’), Arsene spoke about the need for ‘intelligence and patience’ when playing a team that provide a decent test at the best of times. When you add to that the fact that players have been away on international duty during the week, the pre-season wasn’t perhaps as intense as we would have liked it and there are new players coming in and gaps to fill then we are going to have to work hard to take three points tomorrow.
But the mood in the camp appears to be very good, the pictures of training show a happy, relaxed group and now that a couple of the major transfer issues have been taken care of we can start to concentrate on the players who do want to be here and do want to play for Arsenal this season. Last season’s start – which also kicked off against a team from the North East – wasn’t ideal, and that’s being kind. With a trip to Mordor next Sunday to take on Pulis’s orcs, it’s vital we go there confident and on the back of a good result at home today.
I think we’ve got the quality to win the game, I like the fact that we’ll have options from the bench, and I’d be disappointed if we didn’t take three points from this one. The fact that the pitch might actually allow a ball to roll in one direction and isn’t pockmarked with craters might help too. I fancy one of the new boys to make a real impact too, and if I had to have a cheeky bet it’d be on Cazorla. Anyway, fingers crossed and let’s get this season going.
The rest of the manager’s press conference centred around Robin van Persie who finalised his move to Manchester United yesterday. He was asked how he felt about van Persie’s statement and diplomatically refused to comment. He was asked about what van Persie said to him and refused to share that with journalists, but it was obvious he, like all of us, felt some measure of betrayal from a player who he’d nurtured and supported throughout his Arsenal career. And ultimately the player’s desire to leave was the overriding factor:
The reality is when the player doesn’t want to stay you have two ways: you either force him to stay or you accept the reality and you let him go. I have chosen the second solution.
And it is the only solution. It’s an emotional thing, losing a player to United, but let’s not be blind to the fact that van Persie has been trying to leave since the end of the season, if not before depending on who you read. The old reliables are trotted out when players act up: let him rot in the reserves or hold him to his contract, MAKE HIM STAY. In reality, as good as they sound, neither option benefits the the club in the slightest, but hopefully we can make some use of the £24m to add to the three signings already.
Anyway, he’s gone, and, you know, fuck him, but I can’t not mention the toe curling, cringeworthy shite he came out with at his presentation.
In these situations, when you have to make a hard decision in your life, I always listen to that little boy inside of me, what does he want you know, and that boy was screaming for Man United.
This is the little boy who sat on his bed in an Arsenal shirt? Pfff, I know footballers trot out all kinds of nonsense when they sign for clubs but this is right up there with the most outrageously ludicrous claptrap ever uttered. And no doubt that little boy will grow up to be a keen financial adviser one day.
The outs haven’t stopped either and it looks as if Alex Song is on his way to Barcelona. Arsene basically gave the green light at the press conference saying ‘it could happen’, and a €20m fee should see him move to the Camp Nou. Further comment can wait until the deal is done but it’s not one that troubles me in the slightest. In fact it’s fantastic money for a player who I think we can improve on and who, I believe, is overrated, especially in his own mind. Song will not play today against Sunderland and the deal should be done over the weekend.
Those in the know will tell you that Nuri Sahin, who was close to joining Liverpool on loan, has been persuaded to leave Real Madrid for us instead. How quickly that might happen I don’t know and he’s certainly not a like for like replacement, but he’d add quality to the midfield, allow the very promising Coquelin more time to develop as a player and midfield is not a place we’re short of options even if we lack the ‘destroyer’ many people crave. So, it looks like there’ll be plenty to get us through the weekend and beyond.
And that is just about that for this morning. I’m heading over for the game so see some of you in the usual place before and after and let’s hope that we get the season off to a winning start, with new skipper Thomas Vermaelen leading out a team he’s genuinely proud to be captain of. There’s so much talk these days, so much info, so much debate, but ultimately it’s these 90 minutes we all love. Come on you reds.