Arsenal: Title Challengers? We Should Know By The End Of August!
To kick off the new 2011/12 season, get a Sky Sports HD package and enjoy the action in stunning HD TV.
With the 2011/12 season almost upon us I’m going to preview the games Arsenal face in a busy opening month and see what we can expect from the Gunners. With 4 out of our first 5 games being shown live on Sky Sports, Arsenal fans are certainly in for a live football treat.
Arsenal made a decent start to the 2010/11 season with 2 wins and a draw from their opening three fixtures. Can we expect similar this year? If you ask many Gooners, they probably wouldn’t be sure given the frustrating summer they have endured so far. After the capitulation towards the end of last season many were hoping for Arsene Wenger to make early additions to the squad, but so far most of the column inches have been taken up by the possible departures of captain Cesc Fabregas and key midfielder Samir Nasri. With only Gervinho and youngster Jenkinson through the door so far and fellow premier league challengers Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City all making moves in the transfer window (in some cases for Arsenal players!), how can Arsenal fans realistically believe they will be able to topple champions United this season? One things for sure, we’ll need a strong start if we’re to have a chance. Here’s the fixtures Arsenal face in August:
13th Aug – Newcastle vs Arsenal:
It all begins with a trip to Newcaslte United on the 13th August. Now we all remember what happened last year at St. James Park, and many feel this, along with the Carling Cup Final, was the major turning point in our season. 0-4 up with little over 30 minutes remaining and through a mixture of bad luck, poor refereeing and a lack of discipline Arsenal ended up throwing away 3 points by drawing 4-4. For a neutral it was fantastic, but for Gooners it was a disaster. Although if you were like me, you were not entirely surprised that Arsenal were the team that threw away a 4-goal lead.
However, this game gives us the opportunity to exercise some daemons and get the season off to a positive start. The key for me here is having the right attitude and that killer instinct that has been lacking in recent seasons. It’s doubtful any new additions will be thrown straight in, so expect a very familiar line-up. The main talking points will be whether Fabregas and Nasri are wearing the famous Arsenal colours on the opening day or not. Even if Cesc’s impending move to Barca isn’t sealed by this point, I don’t expect our captain to take part in this game. Wenger will be worried about his mental state and don’t be surprised if Fabregas has a mystery ‘hamstring strain’ for this one. Either way, I’m backing the boys to fly out the box and get the three points here. A familiar goal conceded, probably from a set piece, but I expect Arsenal to have too much in attack.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal
13/14 Aug – Champions League Qualifier:
*Most likely Live on Sky Sports2HD
Only ourselves to blame here. Following the inexplicable end to the season, Arsenal went from title-challengers to hanging on to fourth spot in a matter of weeks. City jumped ahead of us and even managed to finish the season on joint points with Chelsea, leaving Arsenal with a tricky qualifier to get into the lucrative champions league group stages. The opponents are not yet known, but there are some potential banana skins. As ever Sky Sports will be showing the games live, most likely on Sky Sports 2HD.
20th Aug – Arsenal vs Liverpool:
*Live on Sky Sports1HD
Another huge test for Arsenal as their first home game at the Emirates is against a rejuvenated Liverpool. No surprises that Sky chose to show this as a feature game, with an early 12.45 Saturday kick off. Again, this was one to forget from last year as the Gunners inexplicably threw away another 2 points after conceding a penalty in the 97th minute, only seconds after being gifted a win with a penalty of their own. Another chance to make up for last year’s disappointment and get a win over a rival, which will instill some much needed confidence in the squad.
The problem here is Liverpool have moved quickly in the transfer market to secure their targets early, and not only that they have been buying players with premiership experience who will be ready to jump straight in to the starting line-up when the season gets underway. Of course some players may need some time to get used to a new style of play, which may help Arsenal here, as well as the fact star striker Luis Suarez may be forced to miss out after competing in the Copa America this summer, as he will be needing an extended holiday. I’m backing the boys to get the win here, we owe Liverpool.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1
23/24th Aug – Champions League Qualifier:
*Most likely Live on Sky Sports2HD
This will be the second leg of Arsenal’s Champions League qualifier, and with any luck this will be a home tie with the Gunners already 3-0 up from the first leg. But don’t bet on that actually happening! Either way, this will not be one to miss as we aim to reach the group stages of the champions league.
28th Aug – Man Utd vs Arsenal:
*Live on Sky Sports1HD
If the games against Newcaslte and Liverpool were difficult, how about a trip to Old Trafford to test your title credentials?! The third game of the 2011/12 season see’s Arsenal travel North once more to face Man Utd on Sunday 28th at 16.00, not surprisingly this game is the key fixture of the weekend and shown live on Sky Sports 1HD. United were unbelievable at home last year, only dropping 2 points against West Brom of all teams, so we can be sure of a really difficult game here.
Once again United have done a lot of their transfer activity early and like Liverpool they have chosen to try and buy from within the premiership with the purchases of Young and Jones. They may have lost a lot of experience with the likes of Van der Sar and Scholes retired, but United will arguably be a stronger opposition this season after spending over £50m so far and they are still on the hunt for a replacement for the ‘Ginger Prince’ in midfield.
The last thing Arsenal need is a battering at the hands of the champions so early in the season as it will kill confidence and only instill the thoughts that they aren’t good enough to compete. But it also gives us the opportunity to do the opposite; beat the champions and confidence will be sky high! Unfortunately as things stand, I can’t see how we’re going to be in a position to have enough to beat United at Old Trafford. Much will depend on how the situations surrounding Nasri and Fabregas work out, as without those two Arsenal are half the team they could be. Even potential replacements won’t have had time to settle properly. I think this game will come too early for us and despite a dogged effort, it will probably end like last year with United grabbing a lucky winner!
Prediction: Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal
The fixture computer has certainly been harsh on Arsenal this year with a very difficult start. August has been made even more difficult with two extremely important Champions League qualifiers to navigate but we only have ourselves to blame for those games. Arsenal MUST start the season with focus and desire or confidence could be rock bottom by the time September comes about. However, 6 points from 9 wouldn’t be a bad start especially given the opposition we’d have faced. We have been given a real opportunity to put down a marker and let the league know we mean business this year, and what better way than by beating two league rivals in the opening three games? Let’s just hope Cesc and Samir are around to help out!
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