The Premier League is eleven days away, and the 13th of August means Newcastle and St James' Park, ready or not. If one were to try to mix all of the thousands of Arsenal blogs, the hundreds of newspaper and television reports, and the millions of supporters into a kind of stew, it would probably taste faintly of vinegar, old carrots, and dread. But come the 13th, it's football, and the stew is momentarily set aside to cool off.
Let's take a brief look at the state of things as of today at Arsenal:
The starting XI
Arsenal's starting eleven at St James' probably will read as follows: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Song, Wilshere, Ramsey; Nasri, van Persie, Walcott.
Cesc Fabregas, of course, would normally be in Ramsey's place, but the leg problem that has kept him out of preseason matches so far means that he hasn't kicked a ball in anger since April. The likelihood of him being ready for matches before September is small.
Gervinho could start in either Samir Nasri or Theo Walcott's spot with ease. Walcott has been dealing with problems in his bad ankle for a bit during preseason and may not be fully ready, and Nasri's future remains overcast. Having Gervinho, though, gives Arsenal a direct, clinical option off the bench (as Michael Cox of Zonal Marking explains in detail), and it may not be long before he's starting anyhow. Andrei Arshavin, too, is an option lurking in the subs (mmmmmmmm...subs), and he has been looking lively and sounding hungry so far this summer.
Arsenal have been relatively lucky during the preseason with the health of the squad:
Abou Diaby is out until the end of August due to ankle surgery he had in the offseason;
Jack Wilshere is having a scan on his ankle today and will miss Benfica on Saturday, but he should be ready for the start of the season;
Walcott has his ankle problem as noted above;
Fabregas' hamstring means he is not ready;
Other than that, things are looking good.
Arsenal's summer has been typically slow on the transfer front. Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral came in from Barcelona; they're two for the youth team. Carl Jenkinson came from Charlton for a fee thought to be around £1m. Gervinho arrived for just around £10.5m. Cost: roughly £11.5m.
Mark Randall, Roarie Deacon, and Tom Cruise left on frees; Gael Clichy moved to Manchester City for £7m. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas left for Ipswich Town for roughly £1m. Income: about £8m.
Of course, there is still a month left in the transfer window, and names fly through the media on an hourly basis. but right now, Arsenal have upgraded the right back and wing positions, while losing a bit at left back, for only about 3.5 million pounds. Not very exciting, perhaps, but Arseblog has some thoughts about that kind of attitude.
So, there are eleven days until Newcastle. Benfica on Saturday, in Lisbon, will be a good final tuneup. Only time will tell if Arsenal have shored up set piece defending and found new ways to penetrate a parked bus (hopefully they have). The rest is out of everybody's control.