English Premier League Season Preview: Arsenal

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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.

arsenal
Arsenal lifted their 15th Community Shield last Sunday, seven of which have come under Arsene Wenger. The Gunners have lifted 17 trophies under the tenure of the long-serving Frenchman, but haven’t captured the Premier League title since 2004, while the elusive Champions League trophy will remain just that for at least another year.

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:

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Per Mertesacker’s inclusion depends on his recovery from the nasty knock he took from Gary Cahill last weekend, while the availability of Shkodran Mustafi is up in the air – he featured in none of Arsenal’s pre-season games due to playing late into the 2016/17 season with Germany in the Confederations Cup. As for Sead Kolasinac, he impressed in a cameo appearance against Chelsea and seems a more natural option for the left wing-back slot than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

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:

arsenal Leicester City (H) – Friday August 11, 2017 

arsenalStoke City (A) – Saturday August 19, 2017

arsenal Liverpool (A) – Sunday August 27, 2017

arsenal Bournemouth (H) – Saturday September 9, 2017

arsenal Chelsea (A) – Sunday September 17, 2017

arsenalWest Brom (H) – Monday September 25, 2017

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