For one reason or another it’s been a while since I last spoke to you. Back then we had just beaten Boreham Wood in our first pre-season friendly of the summer and had just announced the signing of Debuchy.
Fast forward in time and so much seems to have happened. First we had a thoroughly entertaining trip to New York city that ended with a thoroughly dull 1-0 defeat to New York Red Bulls, with interest levels saved by a certain Thierry Henry and the irony of his strike partner being Ian Wright’s son (Bradley Wright-Phillips).
We then flew to Austria for the briefest of training camps where we got our first glimpse of Calum Chambers, who signed from Southampton. I have to say I’m rather excited by this signing. He looks big and strong, and most importantly of all provides us with some much-needed versatility at the back. David Ospina was also officially announced, but has yet to appear as he continues his recovering from a thigh muscle injury sustained during the World Cup.
Having been put through their paces in Austria the squad then returned home for the Emirates Cup. Day one was quite excellent, with a resounding 5-1 victory over Benfica. Yaya Sanogo was the star of the show with four (yes FOUR!) of the goals, while Joel Campbell made his mark by also getting on the score sheet, with what was arguably goal of the game.
Day two saw a number of changes to the starting line-up, as you’d expect, with the most noticeable introductions being those of our returning Frenchmen – Koscielny, Debuchy, and a very much off the pace Giroud. In the end the match, and ultimately the Emirates Cup’s destination, was settled by a single goal from the head of Falcao with Monaco being the match victors and Valencia being the tournament victors.
And lastly, but by no means least, in the pre-season schedule was Sunday’s Community Shield where we played some lovely football and quite comprehensively beat Man City by three goals to nil. Cazorla and Ramsey were on the Wembley score sheet once more, while Giroud provided the cherry on top in the second half with a fabulous strike. The kind of effort he seems to try every game, but this time the result was a bulging opposition net as opposed to a rearranged fans face in row Z.
Other significant news, away from the pitch, in recent weeks has also been the draw for the Champions League qualifiers which sees us pit our wits against Beskitas. As I say every time we face a Champions League qualifier, if we have serious ambitions about going far in this tournament then we really should be winning this tie quite comfortably over the two legs. I know people get nervous about the qualifying round, but I honestly believe this is more to do with the desire to avoid the ridicule that would accompany defeat because if we were to meet a side like Besiktas in the “Round of 16” (us having won our group, them having finished second in theirs) then I believe everyone would be feeling pretty confident. Here’s hoping for safe passage to the Group Stage; don’t panic, Mr Mannering!
That said, one thing that does make me nervous is our lack of numbers in defence. Whilst I fully understand the sale of Vermaelen to Barcelona, wish Thomas well, and even more so fully applaud the club in ensuring he moved abroad, we can’t hide the fact that we are now very light in that area of the field.
Mertesacker (and his fellow Germans) only returned to training on Monday, Koscielny is reportedly struggling with an Achilles injury, and whilst Chambers has performed very well in a central role so far I think it’s fair to say Wenger would probably prefer to bed him in on the right hand side for his inaugural season and not at the heart of our defence. Personally I think we’re still two players short; an out-and-out central defender and another player like Chambers, who can provide both youth and versatility.
What Wenger has up his sleeve is anyone’s guess, but the Premier League kicks off on Saturday and Palace won’t be looking to do us any favours. So we need to be ready and I’m not convinced a centre back pairing of Chambers and Monreal would demonstrate that we are. For all the great work and positivity we’ve seen this summer I fear the ramifications if points are dropped come the final whistle this weekend due to an error by Monreal being played out of position.
I have every faith, however, that we will see at least another signing (if not two) before the transfer window closes, but there’s a lot of football to be played between now and then. Until then it’s up to new club captain Mikel Arteta (and vice-captain, the BFG) to steer our ship in the right direction, starting with a win this Saturday. Over to you, Mikel. Up The Arsenal.