Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

Arsenal Excitement

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Despite being in England, this was the first men’s final at Wimbledon I have missed in many years. I looked everywhere around Cambridge and online, but no success. So I can’t offer much analysis of that one.

However, in the heart of soccer country, the excitement is building quickly for the upcoming Premier League season.I’ve been checking everyone’s websites on the regular for updates on ticket info for games on the opening weekend. At the moment, the hope is to see Norwich-Crystal Palace on the opening Saturday and Arsenal-West Ham the following day. But all of that could quickly change if the games sell out too quickly. Wish me luck.

I do have a ticket to the opening day of the Emirates Cup secured, which I am extremely excited for. Every time I’ve rode the train to King’s Cross, the Emirates comes into view and I can’t help but smile. Because in less than two weeks, I’ll be there seeing the boys take the field, even if only for a preseason competition.

I wrote about this pretty extensively last year, but I love watching preseason games much more than the average person. To me they are fascinating for many reasons – foremost the chance to watch the youngsters like Gedion Zelalem and Chuba Akpom. Rarely do we get a chance to see the young talent mixed with the current team, and it provides a glimpse of what could be. Even when players like Kris Olsson and Thomas Eisfeld get sold, summer tours made me fall in love like with any other Arsenal player, so I continue to check up on them as they play elsewhere.

This season, I’m particularly interested to see Dan Crowley and to get an opportunity to see if the hype is for real. I’m quite skeptical at this point I must say, but I hope to be wowed. Zelalem and Akpom too need to make some sort of mark if only to remind Arsene Wenger that they have promising futures that deserve reward. Last year, Hector Bellerin helped claw his way into the mind of the manager with some confident preseason displays. Sure he wouldn’t have gotten a chance without the injuries, but because he’d already played well with many of the first-teamers in preseason, the transition was easier.

I haven’t yet written about any of the summer goings-on with the club, but that does not mean I wasn’t ecstatic about the arrival of Petr Cech. Unlike Iker Casillas, Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina, Cech doesn’t leave Chelsea a formerly great goalkeeper. He wasn’t let go because he was getting worse with age like the other three, who have all left their famed clubs in recent times. Rather, Cech was a victim of Thibaut Courtois’s brilliance last year, and was dropped through no fault of his own. We have no reason to believe he isn’t the top-5 goalkeeper he has always been. Getting him for only 11 million pounds is a steal.

For me, he is the automatic starter when healthy. And if Wojciech Szczesny is willing to take a back seat to learn from the veteran, everybody will be all the better for it. Szczesny would make for a top of the line backup. I feel as if David Ospina has to leave though. Having all three of them around wouldn’t foster competition so much as jealousy and unhappiness. It’s an interesting debate as to who Arsenal should keep around, but for me, the choice is clear if Szczesny is willing to be mature about being second choice.

I haven’t gotten too caught up in the transfer rumors recently, but that’s largely because I believe there won’t be another signing made. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone else came in, but looking at the squad as a whole, there is depth across the board at every position. Especially in the midfield and wide-forward areas, this team is loaded. The only positions I think could use extra help are striker and defensive midfielder. However, I wouldn’t buy a striker unless they were guaranteed to start over Oliver Giroud. And I wouldn’t buy a defensive midfielder that is going to start ahead of Francis Coquelin. He deserves a chance to continue his dominance in the side.

There are a number of interesting choices Wenger will have to make from day one. But I wonder if he’ll finally feel comfortable enough with his depth to make better use of squad rotation from game to game, something he really hasn’t done in recent years. Especially with Alexis Sanchez being so overworked, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he started a game on the bench every now and then. Between Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and others, there are plenty of players who can fill in when needed.

The one I’ll be watching closely is the battle at right-back. If it were me, Bellerin would be first-choice until he falters. Again, I would rotate Mathieu Debuchy in every now and then, but I think Arsenal should mirror what Chelsea did with Cesar Azpilicueta and give the youngster a real chance to develop into a star at a young age. However, I think Debuchy will be preferred, if only because Wenger will want to redeem his buying the Frenchman. And don’t forget about old Carl Jenkinson. He wouldn’t be a bad option, though he’s likely off on loan again.

And lastly, this summer has seen the departure of some formerly beloved figures. It’s never easy to say goodbye, but for me, Lukas Poldoski was a favorite. I will always wonder what could have been had he really been given a chance to succeed. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a truly loyal athlete – one who loves their team and club as much as I do. And Podolski was that player. I’ll miss him dearly. And sadly, this was the end also for Abou Diaby. There is no story more tragic in football than his. I wish him only the best as he goes forward, and I hope Arsenal fans treat him as one of their one forever.

Until next time. Football season (of both kinds) is close.

 

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