It wasn’t long ago that we were signing off last season with a welcome FA Cup win – and now this season has begun!
We travel the short distance to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham, who have returned to the Premier League after a short spell in the Championship. Boss Scott Parker has one target in mind for his side and that is to survive, at all costs.
The Cottagers are known to play decent football but will they have the substance to go the distance? Who knows, but the first match of a season is one that always has plenty of motivation – they will be pumped for this.
They also have made some shrewd signings too. Loan goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is a coup for them from PSG, and Mario Lemina could give them the creativity that may help star striker Alexander Mitrovic thrive.
They have plenty about them. They signed Tete from an impressive Lyon side, and with Tom Cairney in midfield to give them balance, we will have a fight on our hands.
The good thing is, we should be a bit sharper than our hosts. We played in the Community Shield only two weeks ago and defeated the Champions in the process. The only thing that can stop us making a winning start to our campaign will be a lack of fight.
Mikel Arteta has impressed everyone since joining the club and has recently been promoted – but his first responsibility is the team – who does he pick for this clash?
Centre-back David Luiz has sustained a neck injury that could put him out of the team for at least six weeks. It has led to a proposed loan move to Newcastle for Rob Holding cancelled. Will any of our new signings play? It seems apparent that both Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba are in the reckoning for this game – and with Luiz injured we could see a whole new look to our backline.
Bernd Leno will be fit and ready to reclaim his number one jersey, but Emi Martinez will have something to say about that. The Argentinean has been faultless since picking up the gloves and our German may well have a spot on the sidelines to deal with.
Another new signing, Willian, could come into the side but it seems as though Arteta will go with who can hit the ground running. That could mean a spot on the right for Reiss Nelson – active for the Under-21’s – with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang starting too. Mesut Ozil has finally had some action in some of our pre-season friendlies, but the German would be a surprise inclusion.
In terms of striker, who will take the spot? Alexandre Lacazette had a strong finish to the season but Eddie Nketiah would be the sharper of the two right now.
Arteta has plenty to ponder.
Player to watch
The Serbian has plenty of Premier League experience and will get you goals should you give him the service. Very strong in the air and difficult to get the ball from, Mitrovic will give our fresh-faced defenders a torrid time if allowed. Stay close, don’t dive in and stay wary from set-plays.
How The Game Could Go
Fulham will want to hit the ground running, but with home advantage not really coming into force with zero fans in the stands, Fulham need to be wary.
If they play the open football we have seen from them under Parker, then we can hit them hard. Parker can also pack the midfield too, and that is the way I think he will go.
If he does so, it is up to us to create and work around it. The likes of Nelson, Willian, Ceballos and Xhaka will be looking to spring runs from Aubameyang to harness the pace in our side. If we can get that link-up play in and around the box, we should be in business.
We’ve missed you Arsenal!
Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Bellerin, Holding, Magalhaes, Tierney, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka, Aubameyang, Nelson, Nketiah
Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal
Pick the team here!