At long last, the phoney war is over. Let’s get on with the real business.
The new Premier League season gets underway on Saturday and those expected to challenge for the title have completed their pre-season preparations, if not quite all of their transfer dealings.
Ahead of the big kick-off, here is a look at what Arsenal have done this preseason.
What’s gone right?
It’s hard to argue with Arsenal’s pre-season fortunes on the field – they’ve won four matches and drawn the other, scoring plenty of goals in the process. Sunday’s 3-2 win over Manchester City was the most encouraging performance, especially the way they came back from behind. Arsenal fans will just have to hope this good pre-season form translates to a positive start to the Premier League campaign, otherwise we might soon be seeing another mutiny against Arsene Wenger.
What needs work?
Well, Arsenal fans might be excused for feeling a sense of deja-vu. Just the one summer signing and while Granit Xhaka – a cool £35m purchase from Borussia Monchengladbach – is undoubtedly a fine acquisition, where are the jaw-dropping signings that everyone else is enjoying? Arsenal have the cash but remain frugal compared to their rivals. Sure, they finished second in the table last season, but they could soon be playing catch up again. There are serious injury worries, too, after Gabriel was injured on Sunday – with Per Mertesacker already out and Laurent Koscielny yet to resume training, the Gunners are really exposed at the back.
They drew 1-1 with Lens early on, then recorded victories over the MLS All-Star and Chivas on a rather underwhelming United States tour. An 8-0 rout of Norwegian outfit Viking showed their attacking potential, but it’s the win over Man City that will provide greatest encouragement ahead of their season-opener with Liverpool on Sunday.
Just the one arrival, as mentioned. Xhaka looks ready to roll in the Premier League following a good performance against City, but he’s the only first-teamer brought in so far. Man United will have splurged nearly £160m when Pogba comes in, City have spent over £100m. But Arsenal, once again, have shirked away from big-money buys and were rejected by Leicester’s Jamie Vardy. But Wenger’s hand has now been forced – he needs defensive cover and that surely will mean the transfer kitty being prised open. The favourite is Valencia’s centre-half Shkodran Mustafi, valued at £40m.
Encouragement at last for Theo Walcott against Manchester City. He changed the game, having told Wenger he wants to play out wide again rather than up front. The youngster Alex Iwobi has showed a good scoring touch too – will he finally get his chance?
July 22 – 1-1 v RC Lens
July 29 – 2-1 v MLS All-Stars
August 1 – 3-1 v Chivas
August 5 – 8-0 v Viking
August 7 – 3-2 v Manchester City