It’s been a while since our last game.
Not exactly a bad thing either, seeing as our final game of the past season was the thumping at the hands of Chelsea in the Europa League final. It takes some time to get over something like that, and now we start our preparations for the new season.
Our work begins with a friendly versus Colorado Rapids.
This match against fellow Kroenke-stabled Rapids is the perfect opportunity to gauge where our fitness levels are, how much more work our players have to put in to be ready – and where each player stands in regard to how Unai Emery places them in rank.
A start in this game is a sign that Emery is keen to get a better look at the respective player. It could also mean the difference between a loan spell or a decent shout for the first team squad.
The Colorado Rapids are currently in the middle of their MLS season, so will be primed for this challenge. It will be a tough test for our boys, who are only starting to dip their toes into the pre-season routine.
So who will Emery go for?
With no more Petr Cech, it’ll be down to Emi Martinez or Bernd Leno for this one, with the South American perhaps in with a better shout as Emery will be looking to get a closer look at the stopper.
What about our defence? Captain Laurent Koscielny is still back in London after refusing to travel. Rob Holding still isn’t quite fit, so we could see some youngsters involved. Zech Medley could be allowed to use this as a platform to elevate his standing. Alternatively, we could see Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis leading the line at the back. Calum Chambers could also get a shot after returning on loan.
In midfield, it could again have a youthful flavour. Emile Smith-Rowe, Jo Willock, Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles may get the nod, but Granit Xhaka is also standing by to get involved.
Further forward, there’s plenty for Emery to choose from. Eddie Nketiah, new boy Gabriel Martinelli and Tyreece John-Jules are all viable options against the Rapids. We also have our more established attackers in Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil waiting, but they could be saved for our next fixture versus Bayern Munich.
Player to Watch
Kamara has been the sharpshooter for a number of MLS sides in the past and knows where the goal is. Powerful and good in the air, he’ll give any youngster named in the defence a good workout. Kamara will be a danger.
What to expect
This could see a merry-go-round of lineups, with different tactics and players involved. This happened on a few occasions during our last pre-season, and it also means that the youngsters will get their chance.
If we are to gain a positive result, then we’ll most likely do it in the first half. The Rapids will have a better level of fitness than us right now due to being in the midst of their season, so they could throw the hammer down in the second forty five. Perhaps if we heavily rotate, then we could negate that effect, but our rhythm may well be compromised with the switching of personnel.
Rapids like to play out wide and fizz crosses in. That means we need a proactive goalie claiming the crosses, and we need an aerially strong backline. Medley has the height and Chambers showed he is more than capable of holding the line – but who will play?
This could be a really entertaining game, but let’s face it – we are just happy to have The Arsenal back!
Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Maitland-Niles, Medley, Sokratis, Monreal, Xhaka, Willock, Saka, Ozil, Nelson, Nketiah
Predicted Scoreline – 3-2 to The Arsenal