So here we are again. The Premier League is back. The fans are back. The Arsenal is back. For the second consecutive season Arsenal travel to a newly promoted West London club for the first fixture of a new season. Brentford are in the PL for the first time in their history, they have a new stadium to play in. I can only imagine their fans will be fired up and raring to go.
The club itself has made a name for itself as a smart operator in the transfer market, the so called “moneyball” approach. They seem to have a pattern of a small transfer net spend one year and a huge profit in the next. That they have managed to do this while staying competitive is to their huge credit. They just missed out on promotion a season before, but they are finally here.
Key to that has been striker Ivan Toney. The replacement for Ollie Watkins who himself was a replacement for Neal Maupay. Toney was the top scorer in League 1 the season before and the top scorer in the Championship last season. He probably won’t make a similar step up in the Premier League but clearly he is good at scoring goals. He also had 10 assists to go with his 33 goals. Apart from him, look out for winger Bryan Mbuemo and midfielder Shandon Baptiste. They’ve also brought in winger Yoane Wissa who scored 10 goals at Lorient last season.
From what I can tell they are a team that attack with conviction, getting lots of bodies in and around the box, and are not shy of shooting. We need to be careful of them on the break. They can be dangerous. They also seemed strong at set pieces, which is a worry for us because pre season hasn’t exactly been the most encouraging in that regard.
In fact Arsenal’s pre season has been very shaky, and not just on the field. The club decided to charge for pre-season matches, then had to cancel their US tour, and the Euros, Olympics and injury have caused some need for adjustments.
Arsenal transfers and how Arteta wants to play
The transfer window has been a mixed bag, and in my view, inefficient and confused, but the players we’ve brought in have the quality to help the team improve. In a big boost, or a big blow, depending on your point of view, Granit Xhaka is staying. Tavares adds much needed depth at LB, Albert Sambi Lokonga looks good, and Ben White…. well..he helps us not miss Saliba. Sorry, but I had to get that one in. He does have skills we need after the departure of David Luiz though, and the suggestion seems to be that he will help us not just in defense, but in attack.
Arteta, for now at least, seems to have decided that the way to get more shots for his Arsenal team is to catch the opposition out before they have the time to settle down. Which means pressing them higher up the field. The speed and recovery tackles of Ben White should help cover against a break, while his ability to pass and run with the ball could open up space for our attacker. In theory anyway. I’m not so sure it will work mainly because I think our manager’s primary instinct is to be conservative and we won’t fully commit to it.
However, this could work against Brentford especially if they get caught cold, or are overwhelmed by the occasion. The have the technical ability to play through us, but a few errors are not out of the question. If we can also move the ball from back to front at speed, they could struggle. Lacazette and Auba up front doesn’t convince everybody, but I don’t think it’s a problem as long as we don’t become so static and rigid. ESR with his new #10 shirt will be key, and Xhaka and Sambi (I’m presuming he starts) ability to find a through ball will need to be encouraged. But for me, Pepe would be the main man. He has the speed and can carry the ball long distances. By the end of last season he was a bonafide goal threat. He ended last season in good form, and I’m sure will be looking to start well. It’s a big season for him.
Only the League matters
It’s just as big a season for Arteta and Arsenal. For the first time in 25 years Arsenal are not in Europe. This led to the strange sight of us being in the draw for the 2nd round of the League Cup. Those cups may need to be sacrificed to an extent, in our pursuit of the top 6 (not a trophy). We might see a lot of youngsters play in those games even though that has not been Arteta’s wont so far.
But the league is where it’s at for us. Two 8th place finishes in a row, 56 and 61 points. Only 55 goals last season. That isn’t good enough. Not just for a club of our historical stature, but also for the amount of money we have thrown at it. If the Kroenkes aren’t asking these questions then they know nothing about either football or money. I think they know enough about the former and a lot about the latter. Which puts Arteta under pressure. He earned himself some time with the FA Cup. He got a promotion from Head Coach to First Team Manager. He blamed the past, he blamed the players, hell, he even blamed being in Europe. Now he’s got his wish. He’s in charge, this is his team, he’s had pre-season, he’s got a full week between games in which to train. Time to show results.
I wrote an article earlier about our records against the Top 7, Mid Table 7 and the bottom 5. I’ll be keeping a running table comparing us against the corresponding fixtures. Substituting Brentford for Fulham, we should be winning this one just to match last season’s Willian Masterclass.
By the end all I wanted from last season was for St Totts to make an appearance. This season I think top 6 and a 10 point improvement is what I’m going for. But most of all, even if I can’t have any of that, can I please have Arsenal play some entertaining football with one touch passing and lots and lots of shots. Shots enough to pass out in a state of bliss. Shots so I don’t have to take more pot shots at the ones running the show. That’s really not much to ask, is it? We’ll see. It’s Game 1 of a new season. Let’s play well and win.
Announcement:Tune in to the Uncensored YouTube/Twitter live at 6:00am AST/11:00am BST on Friday August 13th when Shotta, Blackburn George and Ehab launch their first ever live match preview and every Friday thereafter. Tomorrow’s topic: “Are The Gunners Ready For The Bees?” Link to YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvdeJPI7IWI