Arsenal host the Premier League’s curtain raiser on Friday night when they welcome the champions of 2016, Leicester City, to the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners concluded their pre-season formalities with a victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield and, on top of enjoying brief bragging rights over their London rivals, get the added bonus of taking home the season’s first official trophy.
Arsene Wenger has only made two additions to last season’s squad, bringing in French striker Alexandre Lacazette from Olympique Lyonnais on a club-record deal and Sead Kolasinac from Schalke on a much more low-profile free transfer.
However, both have at least shown glimpses of the obvious quality they’ll bring to the side; Lacazette returned two goals in pre-season and will placate those anxious Arsenal fans who were crying out for another striker last season, while Kolasinac looks a brute force to be reckoned with at the back.
Though it’s the time of the season when expectations are through the roof, Gunners fans are firmly grounded by an already-worrying injury list and, of course, the unusual feeling of entering the UEFA Europa League.
The biggest of those worries begins with Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez, who has been confirmed by Arsene Wenger as being unavailable for the Leicester clash with an abdominal strain.
The fitness of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Per Mertesacker is unclear, with the latter of the four forced off in the Community Shield, while Laurent Koscielny misses out with a suspension.
Arsenal’s long-term injury list includes Santi Cazorla (Achilles – three months out), who hasn’t turned out for The Gunners since October, and Joel Campbell (knee – six months out).
Predicted XI vs. Leicester City:
A difficult run of fixtures could potentially mould the expectations of Arsenal fans in the early goings; they play Liverpool and Chelsea away before the end of September, and follow up the Leicester clash with the always tricky tie of Stoke City away.
Considering that the Europa League fixtures are yet to be finalised, it could be a testing early two months for Arsenal. They need as close to a clean bill of health as possible to weather the early-season storm before a more comfortable run of fixtures that includes West Brom (H), Brighton & Hove Albion (H), Watford (A) and Swansea City (H).
Arsenal’s August and September EPL fixtures: