Filed: Friday, 7th August 2015
By: Preview Percy
It's not every week that Preview Percy submits a preview that is insightful and full of useful information. And this week is, sadly, no exception to that rule....
Ah. Right. The proper season starts here then. The fixture computer has delivered us a local derby as we go to get our library cards stamped for a visit to Arsenal. We’ll be on tv from space meaning that kick-off will be 1:30pm on Sunday.
Travel-wise, should the tube be your preferred mode of transport, the Victoria line may be one to keep an eye on. It’s closed between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow for pretty much the rest of the month while they upgrade the signalling. The knock on effect means that there will be a reduced service on the rest of the line so give yourself enough time to get there.
The home side started off last week winning what one is legally obliged to call “the traditional curtain raiser to the season” by beating Chelsea 1-0. Despite all the hype over the “first trophy of the season” one did rather get the distinct impression that Chelsea were treating the whole thing as an unwelcome interruption to their beach holiday.
Now here’s a funny thing. Jose Mourinho, manager of a club whose number of League/Premier League championships between 1955 and 2004 was nil, went into print last week accusing Arsenal of trying to buy the Premier League. “Ooh” I thought. “The transfer research bit will be interesting for this preview”. With last year’s work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips having moved on to run ICI or something I now have a new assistant – a geeky sort with Harry Potter spectacles. So I sent him along to come back with details of all the transfers that they have, somewhat uncharacteristically, been spending their money on “Back in a tic” he said. And, amazingly, he was. This is because, at the time of writing Arsenal have been listed as having brought in just the one player, the ex-Chelsea custodian Petr “Biggles” Cech.
It seems that the money launderers at Chelsea weren’t totally happy to see Cech go to another Premier league club, to which Cech’s response was probably “play me then”. Although the fee was undisclosed, the geeky work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles hacked into some sort of database and came up with a figure of somewhere in the region of £10-11m which, in this day and age, hardly qualifies as “title buying” levels of expenditure. Actually, there must be a level of expenditure above which one can be said to be trying to buy the title. Perhaps I should ask Abrahamovic what it is. After all if anyone would know it’s him.
That £10-11m has, so far been the limit of their expenditure in close season. It’s long been a source of irritation to some Arsenal fans that the board seem to go into hiding whenever the transfer window opens. Wenger isn’t much help – he only responds with his standard “I didn’t see it” when asked if he knows where the cheque book is. Having said that, their form post-Christmas last year was such that they feel that they have decent depth in the squad in all positions and that a top class ‘keeper was the missing piece of the jigsaw required for them to make a title bid.
The improvement in form of German international Mesut Ozil has helped in this respect. Ozil arrived from Real Madrid for a whopping £42m in 2013 (didn’t hear much carping about the cheque book after that one!) but struggled to reproduce the form that saw Christiano Ronaldo go into mourning over his departure. “He knows best the moves I make” claimed Ronaldo, though to be fair most of us know that he will go to ground as soon as someone looks at him.
As his name suggests, Ozil is of Turkish stock, though his third generation German status meant that there was only ever going to be one country benefiting from his services when it came to international duty. Indeed in 2010 Ozil received something called the “Bambi award”, some sort of accolade to recognise cultural integration within Germany. This is not to be confused with any other award of that name, such as the one that Liverpool are awarded annually for the most free-kicks gained by diving players.
There’s an interesting selection conundrum up front. Theo “No Relation To Jersey Joe” Walcott started last weekend’s Charity Shield (I for one refuse to recognise any pointless “rebrand”) up front. Walcott did a knee ligament in early 2014 which saw him sidelined until November. However, even when fit he was used very sparingly last term, not making a start until the third round of the Cup. Ten of his 14 league appearances last season came from the bench, though the season got better for him as he finished off the season with a hat-trick against West Brom and the opening goal in the Cup Final against Villa (who, of course, ought to have been awarded the Cup direct for saving the nation a major BBC grief-fest at the departure of an overrated scouser. At least for a few months anyway).
With Walcott playing up the middle last weekend Olivier Giroud was left on the bench. He came on as a second half sub whereupon he had chances with his first two touches of the game. In amongst all the bizarre tattoos that players insist on disfiguring their bodies with these days, Giroud has one of the more unusual, consisting as it does of the opening two lines of the 23rd Psalm, which I understand appears in a book called “The Bible”. All of which means that the player is either a bit religious or he’s angling for a move to West Brom.
They’ll be without Jack Wilshire. He is of course a Hammer of long standing. So uch so that he’s taken to impersonating Andy Carroll by spending long spells injured. His latest knock is a hairline ankle fracture that will keep him sidelined for a few weeks.
Another who is likely to be missing is Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez is tired, bless him, after his efforts in the Copa America, something that led Wenger to have a moan. Yeah I know he’s always moaning about something - this week’s rant was that the season was starting too early for his players. Got news for you Arsene. We’ve been going for over a month already.
As for us – well it’s been a fragmented pre-season so far borne of the conflicting needs of trying to build a coherent squad, get everyone fit and trying to make progress I the Thursday Night league. Our new boss has made little secret of the fact that, had he been in place earlier he would have resisted the move to enter the competition, a decision which rather smacks of something of a vanity project for the new owners. As a result of our participation in the competition the build-up had been somewhat fragmented with us appearing to have four different squads, team selection being done on a mix and match basis. Overall, as pleasant as the trip I had to the Dom Mintoff Home For The Frankly Quiet Bonkers in Malta was, I can’t say that I’m over fussed about the fact that I’ll no longer have to rearrange my Thursday and Sunday diaries (those being my corn-shaving days).
With a new manager many things will be changing. Already in pre-season/Thursday Night League we’ve seen a greater emphasis on a passing game – which is to be welcomed. However, one unwelcome tradition that seems to have stuck around is the habit we have of losing at least one player to a serious injury in close season. This season’s unlucky winner is Enner Valencia whose awkward fall saw him damage both his knee and ankle.
In pre-season Randolph has done little to suggest that Adrian has much to worry about – possibly quite the reverse and the lack of depth in that area is a concern. In front of the ‘keeper we say hello to Angelo Ogbonna. With Angelo, this means that we have four central defenders to choose from - five if Kouyate is required to be pressed into service. I’d suspect that, all things being equal, Reid and Ogbonna might be the preferred first choice pick. However, Reid’s pre-season knock has limited the time that the two have had out in the middle together so James Charles Oliver Tomkins may step into the breach. As for Ginge, well I believe that this is the season where his starts may well be limited to the League Cup as long as all are fit.
In midfield those of us who use ancient typewriters to write stuff on will be pleased and dismayed in equal parts by the arrival of Dimitri Payet who, not content with nearly sharing a surname with Poyet also has the same initial. Payet has looked good in pre-season (for what it’s worth) and if he can replicate that form into the league season he seems set to become a pivotal part of the way we intend to play. This season. I’ve seen less of Lanzini – my viewing being limited to the glimpses shown on the telly the other night, the work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles having done some exceedingly clever-looking stuff on a laptop and a satellite box that sadly fell short of muting the inane ramblings of Michael Owen every time he opened his stupid gob. What is it about TV companies that makes them snap up retired Liverpool players to act as pundits. I mean Jamie Carragher for pete’s sake. Even fellow scousers call him thick.
Sorry where was I? Oh yes new players. Not content with causing us Poyet/Payet confusion we will also have the potential to mix up Ogbonna with Obiang. Obiang’s pre-season has been limited by an unspecified muscle injury though he is said to be near to playing a fuller part in proceedings. Another youngster who has impressed in pre-season is Samuelson, who combined well with Payet in the friendly at Charlton. Probably bench for him to start with but there’s enough to suggest that if called upon he won’t let anyone down.
It’s up front that we have problems. Carroll’s targeted for a return against either Liverpool or Newcastle and the aforementioned Valencia won’t be back for a bit either. Sakho’s dismissal against the Andorran mob meant that he was spared the worst excesses of the Thursday Night League and allowed to build up his fitness in a more traditional manner. It’s vital that we keep him fit as the alternatives are less than inspiring. Maiga badly needs a surgical confidence transplant as he looks badly out of touch. Possible signings have been QPR’s Austin and Hernandez at Moan U. Given the option I’d go for the latter. The stupid amount that QPR are asking for a player who doesn’t really impress me that much to be honest. At time of writing we appear to be close to sorting out a loan deal for Raul Jiminez of whom I know little, save for the fact that he has managed just the one goal in 21 matches for Atletico Madrid since his arrival there last year – albeit the fact that most of those appearances came from the bench. Even if they get their skates on we would not be able to field him on Sunday so let’s hope that Sakho can stay well.
Prediction? Well it’s hard to be optimistic against a team against whom we have such a poor record – even if they do traditionally stutter a bit at the start of the season. It’s also difficult to get a feeling for things when you have so many new players – not a problem for them of course. I did see a betting ad suggesting that Cech would be 66/1 to save a penalty against us in this match by the way. We only got given two last season – a laughable statistic when you saw some of the ludicrous decisions given against us - so I’d say there were pretty long odds on us finding an honest ref willing to give us a penalty in the first place. A chat with Winstone The Turf Accountant suggested that the odds were on a par with the chances of finding intelligent life on Jamie Carragher. So tempting though that was I reluctantly elected to stick the £2.50 that we at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewilldered were going to donate to Arsene Wenger to buy a new pair of glasses on a 2-1 home win.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at the library:: Lost 3-0 A slightly flattering scoreline that was altered by two very late goals. We were left wondering what might have been had we gone out to try to score rather than to not concede.
Danger Man: Theo Walcott. In the absence of the injured Welbeck and the probably benched Giroud, he’ll provide the main goal threat.
Referee: Martin Atkinson-Again to give him his full name. Every year I hope that at the start of the season someone will stop Mike Riley from favouring his chums over better referees for select group selection. Every year those hopes are dashed. This year the only exit from the list has been Chris Foy who has retired to become PGMOB’s senior coach. Which will at least be a relief to the permanently hard of thinking supporters at White Hart Lane who bombarded innocent Olympic cyclists with twitter abuse every time Foy took charge of one of their matches. Foy’s been replaced by Graham Scott, all of which means that, in 15 years of pro refs, still only FIVE have ever been adjudged to be substandard.
As for Atkinson, we had him SEVEN times last season – including up at Newcastle away on the last game of the season. So that’s twice in two matches we get him, suggesting that PGMOB have now just given up even pretending that they have a clue what they are doing.
Irritating Celebrity Fan Of The Week: Piers Morgan. Phone hacker and dubious dealer in shares. Knows sod-all about anything and isn’t afraid to prove it at great length every time he opens his gob. Once sent his reporters to try and find some dirt on Private Eye editor Ian Hislop after a particularly amusing humiliation on Have I got News For You. They failed to find anything. Even fellow Arsenal supporters admit to wanting to give him a “slap”.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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