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Its here! Its now! Its the league!

As Arsenal get ready to face Liverpool in their opening match of their league campaign, things do not look bright for the Gunners o the injury front. It threatens to be an all too familiar story once again at the Emirates.


Written by Basil James.

We are almost there. Just a couple of days more and we would be immersing ourselves in the rough, tough, slam-bang, every team for itself action of the Barclay’s Premier League. As the fittest get ready to survive and the weak contemplate relegation, a former heavyweight is quite literally pondering its fitness woes. Its back to square one for Arsenal.

Arsenal will start the 2010-11 season without a full strength squad as quite a few of the key players are still on the surgeon’s table or in their beds waiting for old and new scars to heal. The key duo of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie are in grave doubt of starting the opening game at Anfield as the two World Cup finalists are still to prove their fitness. The importance of the two players at Arsenal cannot be stressed enough, the last season being a more than good example to prove the point.

Johann Djourou, who is nursing a hamstring injury and Nicklas Bendtner, who has a groin problem are definitely out of the match. Djourou is expected to take up to four weeks to be fully fit, a particularly delicate proposition for Arsenal. Arsenal have only three center backs at present in the team. Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny are expected to start against Liverpool, but with the sort of injury record the Gunners have, three center backs would never be enough. Add to that Koscielny’s inexperience and the situation is particularly dicey for Mr. Wenger and the club. Wenger’s attempts to lure a quality defender to Arsenal have failed so far, as has his search for a goalkeeper.

Even if van Persie is unable to start, Arsenal can take heart from the fact that in Marouane Chamakh they have an experienced and quality forward who has already played and scored for the club. Chamakh is slowly but surely proving his mettle at the club and is tipped to be one of the stand out performers for the club this season. On the other hand, if Captain Fab is to miss the clash against Liverpool, Wenger may have no choice but to unleash the young Jack Wilshere on to the pitch. Wilshere earned his first England cap against Hungary on Thursday and should be upbeat and confident if he is expected to start at Anfield.

What should be most disheartening for Wenger and Arsenal fans should be the club’s failure to sign a good goalkeeper before the season kicks off. That wish appears to have gone down the drain and we can only hope that Wenger gets someone before the window is shut tightly in our faces. Almunia is expected to start between the posts in what would be a familiar and all together not a comfortable sight for the Arsenal faithful.

Meanwhile Alex Song and Abou Diaby too are uncertain for the first match as Arsenal does appear to be rather short of options, especially in the midfield. Speculation is rife as to whether Wenger would throw in Emmanuel Frimpong to the mix to compensate for the absence of Song or whether he would stick with the more experienced Denilson. The Brazilian has not been exactly the favourite with Arsenal fans and this could be his season to shine and win a few hearts at stands.

Arsenal certainly does not appear to be fully equipped to mount a convincing title challenge this year, especially at the back. If injuries fade away soon, our attack force could be back to its best soon, especially if Fabregas and RVP can replicate their forms from last season. Arsenal would be well aware that a resurgent Liverpool would pose a stiff challenge, strengthened by a slew of signings they have made this transfer window. Arsenal will have to be at the top of their game if we are to get off to a winning start this season.

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