Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


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A Harsh Reminder That the Grass Is Still Not Green At The Emirates

The sun was shining. The grass was pristine. And Arsenal were back. Within a quarter of an hour, Alexis Sanchez had the Gunners ahead. The first day back from international break could have been going any better. But soon, in typical Arsenal fashion, they allowed Hull to level with their first sniff of goal. And not a minute after halftime, Hull scored again to take the lead. The Gunners grabbed a late equalizer and pushed on for the winner in stoppage-time, but this match came as a harsh reminder that Arsenal are a squad filled with issues right now.

The start of the game saw Arsenal dominate in the final third. Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were taking turns dropping deep to receive the ball. They’d look up, and somebody would be making the run. Sanchez’s opening goal came from a brilliant solo effort down the right. But on the whole, Arsenal created a lot of chances in the early going with intricate moves through the midfield. But then it all changed.

The issues start at the back. Yes, Mathieu Flamini was pulled back on Mohammed Diame’s goal after getting goalside. It was 100% a foul. But what was Nacho Monreal doing? He ran up the Diame and whiffed on both the ball and the man. He didn’t even come close to stopping a man that was running directly at him. Some would say he even got out of the way. And this wasn’t the only time Monreal failed miserably at center back. The message is clear. Nacho Monreal is not a center back. Do not play him there. The fact that there aren’t any other senior options does not make Monreal starting there permissible.

Then at the start of the second half, Per Mertesacker, the experienced defender, fell asleep on Abel Hernandez’s run in front of him. Monreal probably should have read the first ball and not allowed the cross to be played in. But it was horrible defending from Mertesacker.

Once Hull went ahead, they were always going to be hard to break down. Their defense was organized, and Arsenal decided the best way through was to dribble straight through them. It didn’t work. Finally, after a full half of doing this, Alexis Sanchez played in Danny Welbeck in the first minute of stoppage time for the equalizer. Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal had chances to get all three points in the closing minutes, but the game ended 2-2.

When Arsenal were down, Wilshere was the one demanding the ball. But as has happened far too often this often, he went down with what looked to be a fairly serious knee injury. We can only hope it’s a three-week injury and not three months.

I guess it continues to be a positive that Arsenal continue to save points at home with late goals, but at some point, they need to stop going behind. It is one thing to give up 2 goals to Manchester City at the Emirates. It is entirely different against Hull. Right now, Arsenal are not playing well at home. That is a problem that must be fixed.

I thought Joel Campbell made a strong case for more playing time today. He was confident on the ball and was always in the right place. On another day, he might have done better with Cazorla’s rebounded shot, but on the whole, I thought Campbell made a much bigger impact on the game than Aaron Ramsey did off the bench. Ramsey still doesn’t look quite fit. And generally, I was pleased with Hector Bellerin. He looks to a be a real talent.

Things are not going to be easy for the next couple months. Arsenal are woefully short in certain areas of the field. They will have to grind out results week after week. They will need wins, not draws, from this point forward. It will test character and commitment. Is this Arsenal side good enough to compete with anyone? Absolutely. But are they willing to battle in the trenches while the injuries mount and with all the pressure in the world squarely upon them? I wish I knew.

Unfortunately, because I lost my feed for an extended stretch in the second half, I can’t provide player ratings for today’s game. Who did you think did well? Please comment below.

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A Mental Roller Coaster – Player Ratings & Analysis from Arsenal vs. Tottenham

Derby Day. Arsenal-Spurs. Pure Hatred. Games like this are so much fun in the buildup. But during the game itself, they are absolutely agonizing to watch. Every little thing matters so much more. Because this is not just any other match. This is personal.

I am a mental wreck after that 1-1 draw. After Spurs went ahead in the second half through a horrible error from Mathieu Flamini, I went through stages of anger, embarrassment and sadness. It felt like the sky was falling, and falling quickly at that. I thought about Arsene Wenger getting fired, I thought about missing the Champions League spots, I thought about all the worst things for the club. Losing at home to Spurs would not be good.

Thankfully, much to my relief, Arsenal did get their equalizer through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but Arsenal didn’t really deserve a pretty goal with the way they’d been playing. All of a sudden, I, along with millions of other Arsenal fans around the world, was on the edge of my seat, begging for a winner.

What followed was a lengthy spell of attacking football from Arsenal that never really looked all that threatening. For all the work Danny Welbeck puts in and the runs he can make in behind, when there are 11 men behind the ball, Welbeck never looks like scoring. Alexis Sanchez had changed the game when he came on, opening up the left channel, but Younnes Kaboul and the Tottenham defense were having an excellent game.

Of course, the winning goal never came. And Arsenal and Tottenham will leave the stadium with a point each. For Arsenal, it feels like two points dropped, not because they were necessarily the more likely to score all day, but because of where the game was played and because of how Tottenham’s goal was scored.

Arsenal began the game brightly enough, controlling much of the possession in the early going. Had Jack Wilshere picked his other option on an early break, Arsenal might have been ahead. But other than that, Arsenal never looked likely to score. Tottenham slowly got into the game, and by the end of the half, they were dominating play.

I found myself yelling at the TV for the first time this year. I hate Tottenham with a passion, and I could not stand the way Arsenal were playing towards the end of the half. For the first time this season, I was downright angry at Arsene Wenger for his tactics. Going back to the 4-1-4-1 was never going to work.

After all that, the ninety minutes are over. And although that match feels like it matters so much more than the rest, it doesn’t really. A point is a point. Now we just need to start winning games rather than tying them.

Arsenal will need to regroup quickly after today’s exhausting affair. Galatasaray comes to The Emirates for an important Champions League match on Wednesday, one Arsenal desperately need to win. And then on the weekend, Arsenal make the trip across London to play Chelsea. I wouldn’t want to go into that match coming off of any result other than a win.

 

Player Ratings (1-10)

Danny Welbeck – 6.5/10 – Welbeck started the match brightly, making a lot of intriguing runs in behind the defense. In the first half, he was dangerous. But when Tottenham put more and more men behind the ball, Welbeck faded from the match. It was telling that he and Özil weren’t on the same page in the final minutes. It wasn’t a bad first North London Derby for Welbeck, but he will be wanting more goals.

Mesut Özil – 7.5/10 – Pushed back to the left at the start of the game, it looked like it was going to be another opaque perfermance from Özil. But he grew as the match went on, and when moved into the middle, he picked up his play to another level. His movement on and off the ball as sensational today, and he was always looking for the telling pass. All in all, it was a good day for Özil.

Aaron Ramsey – 4.5/10 – I never like to see an injury of any sort,  but today, Ramsey was awful, and would have needed to be withdrawn at halftime anyway in my opinion. His goalscoring from last year has gone to his head. If I see him try one more flick or backheel in his defensive half, I will throw something at my TV. He needs to spend his time on the sideline watching film of his tackling and positional excellence from a year ago to remind him that he didn’t just score goals.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 8.5/10 – The Ox had a super game today in somewhat of a surprise start on the right. He looked threatening going forward all day, although Danny Rose dealt with his pace well. However, what stood out to me in the first half was Oxlade-Chamberlain’s work rate. He was everywhere. And when presented a chance to tie the game late on, he calmly blasted it into the roof of the net. It was a deserved goal.

Jack Wilshere – 6.5/10 – Wilshere had somewhat of an interesting game. After picking up a silly yellow card in the early going, he got a nasty kick to the ankle, but stayed on the pitch and surprisingly became more influential after it. Although he was substituted shortly after the hour mark, he will be pleased with how he recovered from the knock. And offensively, he’s turning the corner this year. It’s exciting to watch.

Mikel Arteta – 5.5/10 – Arteta was unlucky to pick up an injury in the first half, and hopefully it is nothing too serious. He had been impressing me to that point with a couple of decent tackles. I wish him a speedy recovery

Kieran Gibbs – 8/10 – Gibbs had a stormer of a game offensively, making menacing runs down the left time after time in the second half. Although he misplayed one cross spectacularly, he played a lot of good balls and set up a lot on the edge of the box. Defensively, he did well for the most part. There wasn’t much he could have done to stop the goal, because he wouldn’t have expected Flamini to give the ball away so cheaply.

Laurent Koscielny – 8.5/10 – Koscielny read the game really well today, and saved Arsenal’s defense on more than a few occasions. He covered well on both sides of the pitch, and his tackling was well-timed. That he was the one leading the charge upfield in the final minutes was representative of his play on the day.

Per Mertesacker – 8/10 – Mertesacker too had a good game. He tackled well, and had a couple of timely headers in the box. He was unlucky not to score an equalizer for Arsenal, and will have wanted better service on set pieces overall, but he played well.

Calum Chambers – 8/10 – Chambers did a lot of things exceptionally well in his first North London Derby. He made a bunch of tackles and headers in his defensive box, and as the game wore on, he became a force offensively. He looked strong on the ball, and won Arsenal a couple of set pieces in good areas. But he still lacks a bit of understanding about his positioning down the right. Once or twice he was caught too far forward.

Wojciech Szczesny – 7/10 – Szczesny couldn’t have done a whole lot about the goal, but other than that, he played well. He made a couple of simple saves, but he was always there when he needed to be.

Substitutes

Mathieu Flamini (28th) – 4/10 – There is no excuse for giving away the ball like Flamini did today on multiple occasions, including one that led directly to Tottenham’s goal. As the sole defensive midfielder, he needs to be aware of where the opposing midfielders are, picking up runners and cutting things out. But Flamini was all over the place today, and in a bad way. He needs to be better if Arteta’s going to out with another injury. Otherwise, Francis Coquelin or Abou Diaby might get a chance.

Santi Cazorla (45th) – 7.5/10 – Coming on late in the first half, Cazorla staked his claim for a starting spot in the big games coming up. He was lively from the moment he came on the pitch, giving life to a previously stagnant midfield. Cazorla does all the little things well too.

Alexis Sanchez (63rd) – 7/10 – When Sanchez came on, Arsenal took control of the game. His presence on the left created spaces to either side of him. Immediately, Arsenal looked more dangerous. Why Sanchez didn’t start, I don’t know, but I imagine he won’t be left on the bench too many more times. Although his touches let him down at times today, he changed the game for the better, and he had as much to do with the equalizer as anyone else.


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A Frustrating Match – Player Ratings From Arsenal vs. Leicester City

When I saw the teams, I thought it was going to be a good day. This was going to be the day that Yaya Sanogo got his first Arsenal goal. But I was certainly wrong. The match ended in a frustrating 1-1 draw on the road at Leicester City, and the Gunners go into the final day of the transfer window needing reinforcements.

The beginning of the game went as expected for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s men established possession from the start, gradually taking control of the midfield. Arsenal were fluid in the final third, with everyone interchanging positions. Alexis Sanchez’s goal was well deserved. The ball over the top from Santi Cazorla to Yaya Sanogo was brilliant, and Sanogo’s shot was deflected into Sanchez’s path. From only a few yards out, he was always going to bury it.

But then Arsenal fell asleep, and Leicester got back into the game. Laurent Koscielny lost his man, and Leonardo Ulloa smashed a free header past Wojciech Szczesny for the tying goal. From there, Leicester gained some confidence, and began to look more confident on the ball. Suddenly, they weren’t letting Arsenal have possession at will. And they were attacking with vigor when they got in the final third. By the end of the half, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to say Leicester were outplaying Arsenal.

Arsenal were slow to take off in the second half, and the Foxes had the better of the chances. Sanogo might have scored one, and Ramsey had a decent header, but for the most part, the Gunners didn’t look threatening. Wenger’s insistence to wait out his players drives me insane sometimes. I wish he didn’t wait so long to introduce substitutes. A player like Tomas Rosicky could have changed this match instantly. But instead he waited until the 77th minute to bring on different options, and they hardly got a kick.

There was no life late on like there has been in recent games, and frankly, Arsenal never looked likely to score in the second half. It was incredibly frustrating to watch, because there was no real quality in the Leicester side. These were certainly two dropped points rather than a point earned. Going into a tough stretch of games soon, Arsenal needed all three points today.

We have the international break next, which always feels like it lasts forever after the season has only just started. It should give Arsenal’s injured players some time to recover, and by the time the Gunners take on Manchester City on the 13th, hopefully they should be raring to go. Theo Walcott’s return by the end of September will be a big boost.

But of course the most important thing right now is the transfer window, which closes tomorrow. Surely after watching Sanogo struggle today, Wenger will have to bring somebody in up top. And there seems to be an obvious need defensively too. But there’s no way of telling what is going to happen tomorrow.

Player Ratings (1-10)

Yaya Sanogo – 5.5/10 – The hold up aspect of Sanogo’s play was there for the most part, but his touch let him down on more than one occasion. And while he did play his part in the opening goal, he needed to be better. For example, there were too many times when he made his run too early and was offside unnecessarily. It wasn’t a performance that inspired confidence.

Santi Cazorla – 7/10 – Cazorla looked lively once again today, fluidly roaming around the midfield. His chips over the top of the Leicester line showed off his creative flair, and one of them led to Arsenal’s opening goal. His set pieces left a little to be desired though.

Mesut Özil – 6.5/10 – Özil’s movement was excellent, but he didn’t make many decisive passes in the end. He still is short on fitness, but he needs to do well. The timing of his late injury, when Wenger had just made his final substitutes, was certainly unlucky, but to his credit he got back on the field. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

Alexis Sanchez – 7/10 – Sanchez pounced when he got his opportunity in front of goal, grabbing his first Premier League goal. On the day, he looked quite good, making a lot of darting runs. But he tired significantly as the game wore on.

Aaron Ramsey – 6/10 – Ramsey was almost invisible for much of the match. His main job seemed to be chasing down stray passes from his teammates. He looked a little off today. He did pick up his play late on, taking the ball up the field, but overall, it wasn’t his best day.

Mathieu Flamini – 6/10 – Flamini lacked his normal bite today, and didn’t have a strong performance in midfield. Leicester got forward a little too easily at times.

Nacho Monreal – 6.5/10 – Monreal was quiet today except for one fantastic run down the left that set Sanogo up for a shot. The Spanish left back’s defending was solid, and he had a workmanlike approach.

Laurent Koscielny – 5/10 – Koscielny took a nasty blow to the head early on, received some stitches, and returned to the field bravely wearing a blue skull cap. But he promptly lost his man on Leicester’s goal and was soon after withdrawn. I don’t think he should have come back on the field.

Per Mertesacker – 6/10 – Mertesacker was in no-man’s land for Leicester’s opener, and looked disinterested in that moment. He won a few headers in the back though. The big German will be glad to have some extra rest in the international break.

Mathieu Debuchy – 6/10 – At the start of the game, it looked like Debuchy was going to be bombing forward all day down the right. But he didn’t end up having a huge impact on the game. He still hasn’t established a great connection with his teammates in the attacking half.

Wojciech Szczesny – 7/10 – There wasn’t much Szczesny could have done about the first goal, though he did look a little unsettled as he took two steps forward before realizing he couldn’t get to the cross. But he was quick off his line the rest of the day and he claimed crosses well. He also made an excellent save late on.

Substitutes

Calum Chambers (26th) – 6.5/10 – Chambers didn’t have his best game after coming on in the first half. While he didn’t give up a goal when he was on the pitch, he flirted with disaster. He curiously, but cleverly, dribbled through a couple Leicester players in his own box at one point. And he let Leicester in on goal late. He showed some fire when things got testy though, which his teammates will appreciate.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (77th) – N/A – The substitution came too late for the Ox to make an impact.

Lukas Podolski (77th) – N/A – See above. Could this have been Podolski’s final appearance in an Arsenal shirt?


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Premier League Predictions – How the Table Will Look

After more than two months of posting at least once a day since this site’s inception, I am taking a week’s vacation with my family, and won’t have access to my computer. I’ll be back writing a week from Tuesday. Hopefully the brief break from the blog will keep me fresh heading into the fall. However, I will post my prediction for Saturday’s Arsenal-Crystal Palace game on Twitter (@MrMcGinnis94), so check for that.

Between now and next Tuesday, a pretty major event is happening. The Premier League opens play this weekend. We’ve all been patiently waiting for this since May. The World Cup helped shorten the summer, but it still feels like it has been ages since Arsenal finished up their season. And for that one brief moment as all the games kick off on Saturday, nearly every single fan across the globe will be smiling. Because Premier League football is back.

Once the games begin, anything and everything will happen between now and next May when the champion will be crowned. As Ian Darke says, there will be a few million talking points. It’s going to be fun.

Here are my predictions for how the table will look after all 38 games are played.

EPL Predictions

1. Chelsea – Chelsea are loaded this year. If Diego Costa is half of the player he was a year ago, the Blues should be scoring at a record pace. I think the pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill will be found out by Arsenal and City, but the absurd amount of talent Chelsea has in the midfield will see them dominate against everybody else. The title may come down to who drops the fewest points against the Stoke City’s of the world, and I think Jose Mourinho will have his team prepared week in and week out.

2. Arsenal – I am certainly optimistic this year, as I firmly believe that Arsenal has the talent and depth to lead a sustained charge for the title. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott will be lethal in the final third, and there will be goals scored at will. Defensive issues late on will keep Arsenal from winning the title, but they’ll be right there until the final day.

3. Manchester City – City will see their throne taken from them this season, as I feel they’ll have much of their attention focused on a run in the Champions League – I think they might reach a semifinal in that competition. They’ll appear disinterested at times in the league, and they’ll drop key points against lower level opposition. They have the talent to win the title handily, but I think they’ll disappoint.

4. Manchester United – After a terrific preseason, Louis van Gaal’s men will top the table at the end of September, led by a revitalized Wayne Rooney. But once United starts playing top sides – don’t be fooled by any early success against inferior opposition – they will struggle, with the defense left exposed. They will be much improved from a year ago, but their goal should be reaching the top four, not winning the title.

5. Liverpool – Luis Suarez will be sorely missed, as the Reds are a Daniel Sturridge injury away from having a crisis up front. Rickie Lambert is not at the stage of his career when he can be productive twice a week, and he’ll struggle to adapt to the rigors of a Champions League campaign. Their journey in Europe will end up doing more harm than good. I think they’ll end up in a fight with United for fourth.

6. Everton – The Toffees have strengthened through retention this summer, and expect to improve on a wonderful campaign a year ago. Romelu Lukaku should be near the top of the goalscoring charts, and I think Ross Barkley is ready to take the next step. They are one piece away from the top four in my eyes, but they are capable of beating anyone on their day.

7. Newcastle – Newcastle will be a much improved team from a year ago. If Alan Pardew has his head in the right place, he could lead this side to a place in the Europa League. I think Emmanuel Riviere will find immediate success scoring goals, and Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote will form a fierce pairing in defensive midfield. They should be a fun side.

8. Tottenham – Count me as one unimpressed with what Mauricio Pochettino has done this summer. I can’t wait to see Spurs dismantled by Liverpool at the end of the month. Pochettino will have the team playing better by December, but I think they’ll struggle at the beginning of the year in defense. They won’t be anywhere near the top 4 come May.

9. Hull City – Hull is a team capable of making the leap this year. In keeping last year’s upstart team together, and bringing in a few new faces, Steve Bruce has had a very successful summer. They have an excellent midfield, and I expect Nikica Jelavic and Tom Ince to be scoring plenty of goals by the end of the year. They will be a team to watch.

10. Swansea City – I think it will take the Swans a little while to adapt to their new style under Garry Monk. But ultimately, they have the talent up front to comfortably finish mid-table. Between Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bafetimbi Gomis and Wilfried Bony, they have an awful lot of options in the final third.

11. Crystal Palace – A candidate for most to go down in their second season back with the big boys, I think Palace will continue to make strides under Tony Pulis. The defense should be solid once again, and Frazier Campbell has been added to bolster a static attack. It will be up to him and Marouane Chamakh to determine just how far up the table Palace can go, but they’ll be well above the drop zone.

12. Stoke City – Mark Hughes began to turn Stoke into a watchable side last year, and he finally was able to bring in players to fit his system this year. Ex-Barca man Bojan Krkic will represent a new era of Stoke football. They won’t be as near to the relegation zone as some expect.

13. West Ham – Sam Allardyce will have his side comfortably above the relegation zone, but improvement over last season will be hard to see at times. He has made moves to make the side a little more dynamic going forward, but don’t be surprised if Big Sam reverts to old ways come February.

14. Sunderland – The Black Cats were sensational towards the end of last season, but I don’t see that form carrying over to this campaign. The aging defense will be leaky. And while Jack Rodwell is an improvement in midfield, Steven Fletcher will struggle to produce goals as a lone striker this year. Connor Wickham’s involvement could be crucial to survival.

15. QPR – ‘Arry is back in the Premiership – I really dislike that man. But QPR has more talent than both of the other promoted clubs, and should stay up. The back three with Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker should be strong enough to get the necessary points for survival. However, Charlie Austin won’t cut it as an EPL frontman, and Redknapp will need to buy a striker in January.

16. Southampton – The Saints have lost an awful lot from a side that made the leap to the top half of the Premiership a year ago. They’ll struggle this year. But don’t be surprised when the next wave of youngsters start making a positive impact. They will be in the relegation zone on Boxing Day, but they’ll finish in safety.

17. Aston Villa – It is worrying how little Paul Lambert has done to improve the team. He brought in a few experienced squad players, but Villa will still be lacking in many areas. They are another Christian Benteke injury away from relegation.

18. Leicester City – Despite a strong preseason, the going won’t be easy for the newly promoted side. They might hang around until the final day, but they’ll be back in the Championship next year.

19. West Bromwich Albion – After flirting with disaster a year ago, West Brom will be right back in the thick of the survival fight from the start. They may have strengthened their defense, but I just don’t think they have the talent up front to score enough goals.

20. Burnley – When your strengths going into a season are fitness and teamwork, it could be a long year. Their high press style will be pleasing for neutrals, but the lack of talent will see the Clarets down by April. Danny Ings is a name to watch though.

Who do you think is going to win the title this year? Are you worried about your team getting relegated? Please comment below.

 


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FA Community Shield Preview and Prediction – Arsenal vs. Manchester City

It’s going to be a busy 24 hours for me so I thought I’d write my preview of tomorrow’s FA Community Shield match between Arsenal and Manchester City now. I’ve talked about why the match is and isn’t a big deal, but count me as one who’s incredibly excited for any kind of real games to start. The idea that Arsenal could soon be lifting another trophy makes me smile even thinking about it. Watching the Gunners take the field at Wembley again will be a delight.

This match is an interesting one tactically, as both Arsene Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini are still without many of their key players who were at the World Cup. They also will likely want to conceal some of their more innovative ideas going into their Premier League openers next weekend. As a result, the tactics might be more experimental than normal or they could be simplified. With a similar team to what they had a year ago, I expect Manchester City to play close to the style they operated a year ago. But I think Wenger might get creative with some of his tactics.

For instance, I don’t think Olivier Giroud will start the game. He didn’t look fit last weekend, and between Yaya Sanogo and Alexis Sanchez, Wenger has two wildcards at his disposal up front that Manchester City haven’t seen before. So right from the start, I think Arsenal will look much different than they did a year ago, as either option will provide pace and creativity up front rather than hold up play and power. And with Mesut Özil out, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey might get a shot at playing together in the midfield, which has been a rarity in recent years.

While I would like to see Sanogo start the game, I think Wenger will go with Sanchez up top, alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla on the wings. Afraid of what City’s sheer power can do in the midfield, I think Wenger will start Ramsey, Wilshere and Mikel Arteta in hopes that all three of them will be willing to put in serious defensive work all match. And in defense, I expect we’ll see Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy in front of Wojciech Szczesny. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nacho Monreal in there at either left back or center back.

The key to this game for Arsenal will be keeping David Silva and Samir Nasri at bay. The two creative forces have had lengthy summer breaks and will be well prepared for this match. With Arsenal’s defense still learning how to play with one another, this duo might have their way in the final third, picking out passes for those around them. And the problem with facing City is that Yaya Toure can be such a threat from his deep lying spot in the midfield. If too much attention is focused on Silva and Nasri, Toure will get on the ball and do serious damage. Arteta will have his hands full.

This is a particularly big match for Mikel Arteta, assuming he starts in his usual defensive midfield role. There has been increasingly loud clamoring for a new defensive midfielder at Arsenal, with many suggesting that this is the one area the club needs to improve should they want to challenge for the title. Arteta has seen all of the rumors, and he’ll be eager to prove all his doubters wrong. A strong performance against one of the most physically imposing midfields in the world might very well earn Arteta another year as the starter. But should he struggle, Wenger may be left with no choice but to buy a big name in that spot.

Many eyes will be planted firmly on big money arrival Sanchez, but this match will also likely be the competitive debuts at Arsenal for Chambers and Debuchy as well. The three of them will no doubt be looking to start off on the right foot, and there will be no better way to endear themselves to the fans than an impressive debut at Wembley. A goal for Sanchez, an assist from Debuchy, or a series of tackles from Chambers tomorrow could set them on the fast track towards becoming fan favorites. They’ve already brought so much optimism to the club without even playing a game, and now they have the chance to boost morale even more. I think Sanchez will put in a man of the match performance.

I’ve thought a lot about how I want to do predictions for the coming season. For the World Cup, I did elaborate predictions, giving a lot more than just a score. It was fun to write, and while I was semi-successful with some of my more random predictions about how and when goals would be scored, it wasn’t entirely conventional. I think for Arsenal games, I will switch to a more reserved prediction style, naming only a score. I might suggest a player or two who will have good games, but I won’t predict which players will score the goals.

I have a personal philosophy that I don’t want to root for any one player above another to score goals or points on my favorite teams. I want to root for the team as a whole, not individuals. Obviously, I have favorite players, and there are certain players I like to see score than others, but I don’t want to have any conflict of interest when watching my team play. It’s why I try to avoid selecting players from my teams on any of my Fantasy Sports teams (speaking of which, make sure to join the Fantasy Premier League league I’ve formed – see the paragraph at the bottom of this link here for details). So in short, I won’t overdo my prediction sections for Arsenal games.

I expect a high-scoring games given the absence of key names defensively for both sides. Per Mertesacker and Vincent Kompany are badly needed in the middle of their teams’ defenses and both Arsenal and Manchester City will miss their experienced defender. And both teams certainly are not lacking talent in the final third even with players still gone. My final prediction is Arsenal 3 Manchester City 2. It should be a good one.

Check back after tomorrow’s match for postgame coverage and player ratings. Enjoy the first taste of real soccer we’ve had in a while.