I’ll give you the bad news first: Arsenal hasn’t won on opening day since 2009.
If that’s not bad enough for you, here’s something worse: the Gunners will be without several starters when they host Leicester City on Friday night. Alexis Sanchez has already been ruled out with an abdominal strain, and Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Shkodran Mustafi are also likely to miss the match with injuries. On top of all that, Laurent Koscielny is still suspended.
And the good news? None of this matters. Here’s why.
Arsenal is Deep
We learned this in the Community Shield. I know, I know. The Shield was “a friendly” and the result means nothing. Still, you can’t deny the fact that we outplayed a good Chelsea team without any of the aforementioned players.
If nothing else, the victory suggests that 1) our squad is deeper than it has been in recent years, because 2) marginal players appear ready to take on bigger roles. Mohamed Elneny, Danny Welbeck, and Alex Iwob all made cases for getting more playing time. Each of them could be on the verge of a massive breakout—transitioning from role players to leading players.
We have Sead
Sead Kolašinac has the potential, single handedly, to make Arsenal tougher.
In the last decade, the Gunners have been criticized for being too “soft.” Obviously, there’s some truth in this. Physical teams tend to bully Arsenal and—we know too well—it often works.
Not any more.
Sead, the Bosnian Hulk, has been described as a tree, a tank, and an animal. He’s a robust workhorse with the physicality of old-school center back and the technical skills of a midfielder. He exudes energy and ferocity. He seeks out physical contests. He’s unlike any other player we’ve had since the era of the Invincibles—so much so, that he appears as a non sequitur in our current squad of finesse players. His presence on the field signals the possibility of a more physically dominant team.
Leicester City isn’t exactly full-strength either
Danny Drinkwater and Vicentre Iborra have both been ruled out for the opener, and Robert Huth is also unlikely to play. New signing, Kelechi Iheanacho—though he will reportedly feature in Craig Shakespeare’s side —seems to be less than 100%.
Both Wenger and Shakespeare will have to make difficult decisions when replacing usual starters.
We’re out to make a statement
There’s a buzz around the Emirates. Fans, players, and coaches all seem in good spirits after what seems like a successful summer, both in the transfer market and on the pitch. The collective mood is buoyant. Some fans even believe the era of “Wenger Out” is over.
The boss will want to carry this momentum for as long as possible. A dominating performance in week one could go along way—not only in winning over fans, but also in assuaging the pain of last year’s 5th place finish.
Arsenal haven’t lost to the Foxes in the Premier League since 1994. Do I need to say anything else?
You tell us! Who do you think the starting XI should be?
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Leicester City
WHEN: Friday, August 11, 2017 | 7:45 PM BST/2:45 PM ET/11:45 AM PT
WHERE: Emirates Stadium, London
US TV: NBCSN / Sky Sports
Not-US: check livesoccer.tv for streaming information wherever you are.
Important note for new friends and reminder for old hands: We know they exist, we know you use them, but SBN and TSF rules prohibit linking to or discussing illegal match streams, so please, don’t do that.