It’s finally here! After a summer break that seemed to last for an absolute eternity, made infinitely longer by the never ending stream of Alexis Sanchez departure rumours, Arsenal will kick off the season tonight, at home against Leicester City. Playing under the lights tonight in the N5, both the Gunners and the Foxes will be looking to open their accounts on the new campaign with 3 points.
Last season, in two meetings between the sides, Arsenal were only able to muster 1 goal (a Robert Huth Own Goal at that), while Leicester City were unable to solve the the Gunner defense in either match. For Arsenal, solving the Foxes’ deep and compact defense proved to be a far more difficult task than expected, and Leicester themselves found Arsenal’s leaky defense a difficult hurdle.
Comparing Summer Business
For the second straight season, Leicester City have responded to their shocking title victory with some rather expensive summer business. Having the third highest net spend this summer in the Premier League behind the two Manchester clubs, Leicester have worked hard to layer their squad with depth for a top 10 push in the league, as well as a better showing in their cup competitions.
Leicester looked to Sevilla for midfielder Vicente Ibbora, Hull City for both Harry Maguire and Eldin Jakupovic, and, in what had the potential to be the best move of the summer were it not for one line inserted into the Transfer agreement by Manchester City, striker Kelechi Iheanacho.
Of all of the Leicester City signings, Iheanacho is by for their most exciting. For the relative steal in today’s market at £25 million, the young Nigerian star is expected to walk immediately into the Foxes’ starting XI, joining Jamie Vardy up top, likely in a traditional 4-4-2. In part due to his relative lack of playing time, in addition to his immense talent, Iheanacho was involved in a goal for the Citizens per 90 minutes, a truly immense figure if he can maintain that production as a starter this season. The only thing preventing this move from potentially being the biggest steal in the Premier League is the £50 million buyback clause that Manchester City were able to insert into the deal under the initial objections of Leicester themselves. If the young talent progresses as he should, that £50 million figure will end up a steal in its own right.
For Arsenal, what the have lacked so far in sheer quantity of new faces, they have made up for with quality. So far, both Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac have flashed glimpses of what made them such priorities for Arsene Wenger to sign up. Lacazette has already tantalised with his sneaky movement and uncanny knack for arriving at just the right moment in a scoring position, while Kolasinac has been every bit the rock solid defender and aerial presence that we were promised.
With new signings still to be made, and squad players still to be shipped out, the team that Arsenal trots out against Leicester could still see some additions before the end of the month. With Alexis Sanchez set to miss the clash, much of the focus will be on how Lacazette plays with Mesut Ozil up front, with the playmaker’s incredible vision seemingly the perfect match for the slippery striker. Whether or not Arsenal look good out there without Alexis on the pitch could play a factor in what is to become of the Chilean’s future with the club, especially if we can come to expect these alleged injuries and conveniently timed sicknesses from him throughout the rest of the season.
Earlier in the summer, when one of the most prevalent rumours out there was Hector Bellerin’s probable return to his boyhood club, Barcelona, Arsenal fans were worried that they had seen this story play out in the past, to devastating consequence for the Gunners’ aspirations (looking at you Cesc). So, when Arsene Wenger decided to put his foot down and flat refuse to even consider selling the Spanish fullback with huge term left on his contract. Barcelona, totally unused to not getting their way with players they decide to bring back, responded by signing Nelson Semedo out of Portugal and releasing a scathing and bitter quote stating that Bellerin lacked the physical and technical qualities to be a Barcelona player (something that hadn’t apparently deterred them for the preceding year) .
Though this sort of petty behavior came as a bit of a surprise, it seemed that a psyche-crushing statement was the worst to expect from the whole ordeal. However, now it looks as though Barcelona may still get even more revenge on their former frequent transfer partners in North London. With the loss of Neymar, Barcelona has gone into overdrive to try and replace their star, and as a result, any young, athletic winger with good technique has now been linked to the Catalan club. Naturally, alleged primary target for the Gunners, Thomas Lemar, has been linked to the Blaugrana.
Already the subject of multiple rejected bids from Arsenal, Lemar left training earlier this week after an apparent bust up between two of his teammates, including fellow Wunderkind, Kylian Mbappe. Already thought to have one foot out the door and pointed towards the Emirates Stadium, these reports will add yet more fuel to the fire that Lemar wants to leave Monaco. Though he has not yet been punished for his reticence this summer, Arsene Wenger can NOT afford to waffle on the transfer figure now. With Barcelona casting its lusty gaze across Europe’s big leagues with €220 million burning a hole in their pocket, there would be litter Arsene Wenger could do to prevent them from purchasing his primary target out from under his nose.
For a club whose fans spent large chunks of their charity friendly with the Brazilian club Chapecoenese, whom many fans might remember from their devestating plane crash in Columbia a year ago, killing 71 passengers and most of the club’s first team and staff, chanting “Die Neymar Die”, this sort of behaviour is increasingly expected. As one of world football’s entitled elite, Barcelona have an ever increasing sense of self, and some of the trends are alarming. Are we really looking at a future in which any player refusing to sign is verbally abused and any player on the way out forever vilified in the least sensitive of ways?
One of the most surprising things of all about the summer Arsenal are having is the total lack of outgoing business, even for players who seem to have no role whatsoever in the side. Typically there are two reasons why this might happen: the wages and/or role on offer are unacceptable to the player is not good enough in their view, or the player’s current club refuses to let the player go for a lower fee.
With Arsenal, it appears to be a combination of the two that have lead to the logjam of players who should be leaving but are not. Whether it is Carl Jenkinson, know a Swansea City target, refusing a move earlier in the year due to an unwillingness to take a pay cut, or whether it is Kieran Gibbs move to Watford never materializing first due to his valuation by Arsene Wenger, and then his wage demands, there does not seem to be the urgency to get out and continue their careers elsewhere for many of these players. Only Lucas Perez seems to be desperate to leave the club, and the poor guy has to wait while Arsenal try to recoup ever pound possible from Deportivo la Corunna for his return.
While Arsenal’s socialist wage structure is a huge boon when recruiting younger players to join, as both their wages and opportunities can be maximized with Arsenal, it clearly has an uglier side to it. Players that are either without a role or are merely bit-part players can end up on the bench for years on wages that most clubs don’t even pay their starters. What is not often discussed is how often a player that has washed out of a big club has to accept diminished wages for a chance at regular football elsewhere, but to those players that lack the drive to compete for a starting place, making solid middle-class yearly wage per week starts to look like quite a cushy gig indeed.
What do you think Gunners? Who wins today? How will Arsenal finish the year? Are they done on the market? Will Barcelona ever respect human dignity again? And finally, how would YOU get rid of the Jenkinsons and Debuchys of the world? Come On You Gunners!