With the new season now only less than 2 weeks away, the importance of the pre-season campaign has ramped up.
After games on home soil and the recent matches in Singapore against Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint Germain in the International Champions Cup, Unai Emery’s Arsenal now travel to Dublin where they will face up against the more familiar opponents of Chelsea in the Aviva Stadium.
Both Arsenal and Chelsea are teams in a large transition, but in different circumstances.
Arsenal, obviously, are preparing to adjust to life under a new manager for the first time in 22 years. Chelsea, on the other hand, while also having a new manager, are becoming used to life under a new manager in Maurizio Sarri, they’re also working under more constraints than previous seasons due to issues with their chairman.
For the first time since the Blues became a financial juggernaut, they may be losing some of their biggest players in the shape of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, and haven’t had much to get excited about thus far in terms of incoming transfers thus far, with the exception of Jorginho.
Sarri has stated that he wants to make use of the considerable talent he already has it his disposal, which if it works out, could be very successful, but if it doesn’t then people will
As was naturally the case with other pre-season friendlies, the Arsenal team seen a lot of chopping and changing, with wholesale line-up changes happening both between and during games. Even with this being the case, with the season now so close, Emery will be looking to solidify his line-up, which means supporters in Dublin will be in for a treat, as the strongest available team will likely be fielded at the same time.
So, what is the strongest team? Well, new signings Bernd Leno and Sokratis Papastathopoulos will be immediate additions to the first team for the season opener, one would believe, following their impressive pre-season displays.
The attack will consist of the front four that finished last season in fine form: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Matteo Guendouzi, Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith-Rowe and Reiss Nelson will likely contribute in some way during the game after all standing out as quality performers during the pre-season games thus far.
Still unavailable following the World Cup due to an extended break is defender Nacho Monreal and new midfield signing Lucas Torreira.
Chelsea are also missing a host of players who were playing at the World Cup in Russia including Willian, Hazard and competition winners Ngolo Kante and former Gunner Olivier Giroud. New signing Jorginho – who was brought in from Napoli earlier this Summer – will likely get a run out for his new team.
In the past two days, one interesting transfer rumour has emerged that involves both sides – namely, Chelsea are linked with making a move for Aaron Ramsey, whose future remains uncertain with just one year left on his contract.
It’s difficult to know whether to read much into this news. On one hand, it could be just silly transfer gossip – tis the season, and all – but on the other, it could have some substance.
Ramsey not already settling a new contract this Summer means there is of course the possibility that the midfielder could leave the club, but at this moment it doesn’t feel particularly likely. That could all change very quickly if a firm, realistic offer comes in for the player, however.
The other element that adds substance to the rumour is that Chelsea have not had an aversion to signing from within the league and closer to home in recent seasons. There midfield alone includes Kante, bought from Leicester City, and English duo Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater, bought from Everton and Leicester City respectively.
With signings like Tiemoue Bakayoko not working out for the Blues, and Cesc Fabregas getting on in age, the signing of aa trustworthy midfielder of Ramsey’s ilk from within the Premier League actually seems pretty realistic.
Whether it’s a move that could materialize or not, Emery will likely be playing Ramsey if he is putting out his strongest line-up, possibly partnering a less experienced player like Guendouzi in the middle.
After the 5-1 hammering of PSG, Emery and Arsenal are on a high and a win against Sarri’s Chelsea – who themselves have been enjoying a productive pre-season including a win over Inter Milan two days ago.
The Arsenal game in Dublin is a precursor to the Community Shield 4 days later, where Sarri will take the reigns against City after Antonio Conte guide the Blues to FA Cup glory against Manchester United in May.
After the game at the Aviva, only one more exhibition awaits Arsenal before the season opener on August 12th against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. That comes 3 days after the Chelsea game, not against the club where Emery made his name as a manger, Sevilla, but instead against Lazio, who have filled in for the Spanish side. That tie will be played in Stockholm, and after it, the attention turns to the end of the traditional transfer window on the 9th of August and of course the City match.
And with Arsenal facing up against Sarri’s side in the league later this month, this match will prove a taster of what’s to come.
Arsenal play Chelsea at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on August 1st in the penultimate pre-season friendly with kick-off scheduled for 8.05pm. The game, as has been the case with plenty of pre-season fixtures, is being shown on Premier Sports.