Morning all. Just a day to go before the new season kicks off and there’s all kinds of things going on. Not with us, really, but opponents Crystal Palace have parted company with manager Tony Pulis.
I don’t know exactly why. Apparently he and the Chairman have been at loggerheads (not sure if that’s naked in the shower loggerheads – what an image to start your Friday), but clearly it all came to a conclusion last evening. They say Pulis wanted more say over transfers and after winning Manager of the Year last season he’d never have had a stronger bargaining position.
Was he playing brinksmanship on the eve of a new campaign and they called his bluff? Who knows (apart from the people who know), but it’s hardly ideal preparation from a Palace point of view. Whatever you might think of Pulis – and regular readers will know I’m very, very far from being his biggest fan – he did a pretty amazing job there last season.
Does that make our life easier tomorrow? You’d like to think so. Some might talk about the effect of the new manager, but this isn’t a new manager. It’s the assistant, Keith Millen, who I suppose will continue in the same vein as Pulis. A day or two is no time to make your own stamp on a team’s style, so it’ll still be a Pulis-esque Palace we’ll see, but the fact that the manager has gone does create a measure of uncertainty ahead of their first game.
That said, it won’t change anything from Arsene Wenger’s point of view. He’ll have been preparing his team in his own way which, as we know, is more about ensuring they play the way he wants them to rather than worrying too much about what the opposition are going to do.
The good news from yesterday is that Laurent Koscielny is expected to be fit. Speaking to the official site, Arsene said:
Koscielny had a knock on his Achilles but he should be available for Saturday.
Clearly his removal at Wembley was precautionary and he’s come through the week without it being a serious issue. However, given that we follow up tomorrow’s game with a trip to Turkey for a Champions League qualifier and then prepare ourselves for an away trip to Everton, I’d still suggest a defensive recruit is something we ought to be working hard on.
Achilles injuries are not ones that should be messed with but hopefully Koscielny’s rather robust nature will be enough to see him through. He does pick up plenty of battle-ground whacks and aches and strains but never seems to be sidelined for too long. Fingers crossed that continues.
Also from yesterday came video (via his Instagram) of Theo Walcott back in training. On him the manager says:
Theo is, as I always said, end of August or start of September. That is back into training of course.
Which means another couple of weeks, at least, before he’s considered for first team action, but when you consider that a couple of seasons ago he was fit but benched for the opening weeks, it’s not as if it’s unusual for us to be without him. How his fitness affects the team will be interesting, of course. Alexis is likely to be played on the right hand side in the first few games, but that’s very much where Walcott operates.
Does that mean moving Alexis centrally? Or to the left? Will Theo end up spending more time on the bench than he’d like? It’s hard to know and it’s great that it’s hard to know. The fact that we seem to have plenty of options means there are ‘problems’ for the manager to solve but the kind of problem any manager would like to have. ‘Which of these good players will I play?’ is a much more enjoyable conundrum than ‘Which of these two dipshits do I have to pick?’
Meanwhile, with news of teams wanting to take Serge Gnabry on loan, there was a rather vague update from the boss about his fitness. He said:
He is not ready as well. I am not sure about the timeframe at the moment.
His last appearance came in Munich in March and he quietly disappeared from the squad after 1-1 draw with Man City at the end of that month. Whatever injury he has picked up is pretty serious (or weird), especially if the boss can’t provide any kind of schedule for his return. Best of luck to him.
Now though, it’s time for the very first Arsecast of the new season. Although James and I have been doing the Arsecast Extra all summer, the main one is a different beast, but we’ve got a hefty show for you to kick off the new campaign. To begin with, I chat to Philippe Auclair about the summer, the new signings, the overall mood and how it seems we’ve changed our ways in the transfer market. Then I’m joined by Goonerholic to look at the players we already have, how they might improve over the course of the season and more.
As well as that there’s a competition to win a signed limited edition hardback copy of Together: the story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season, and all the usual waffle you have come to expect of the Arsecast. So, get it into ya.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly click here – 42mb MP3.
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Right, that’s yer lot. The manager will meet the press this morning so we should have plenty of stuff for you over on Arseblog News throughout the day. I’ll also be posting the traditional pre-season preview here a bit later this afternoon, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Have a good one.