We are now just a few weeks away from Arsenal’s opening game of the season and it will see Unai Emery thrown straight in at the deep end. Man City battered Arsenal twice inside a week earlier this year and that sounded the death knell for Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign at the club. It is therefore a fitting, if nightmarish, opponent for Emery to tangle with in his first ever Premier League match. It will also provide a perfect opportunity to gauge just how much Arsenal have improved over the summer.
So far preparation for the new campaign could not have gone much better. None of their stars featured in the latter stages of the World Cup – and no, Danny Welbeck sitting on the England bench in the third place playoff does not count – so they should all be fresh for the new season. They should also be able to enjoy a prolonged pre-season campaign together. By contrast, Man City captain Vincent Kompany and star player Kevin De Bruyne went right down to the wire.
Arsenal have also seemingly conducted their transfer business early, a rarity in Wenger’s tenure. They have signed a goalkeeper to challenge Petr Cech, a right-back to challenge Hector Bellerin, a centre-back to go straight into the team and a holding midfielder to provide much-needed bite and tactical nous in the engine room. Emery says the club’s transfer business is pretty much wrapped up, and they will only move if a special opportunity presents itself. That should give Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Lucas Torreira, plus youngster Matteo Guendouzi plenty of time to integrate into the group and gel as an effective unit.
Then it will simply be a matter of seeing how far Arsenal have gone towards closing the vast gulf in quality that Man City displayed over them last season. All their signings have been defensive, so that should make them more solid at the back. Emery favours an intense pressing game and he seems determined to make Arsenal more tenacious and harder to break down. You cannot face a sterner examination of those credentials than a game against Man City, even if De Bruyne misses out. Man City play possession football, their movement is incisive and the likes of David Silva can open you up at will.
But City themselves were humbled in a trio of defeats at the hands of Liverpool towards the end of the 2017/18 campaign. That was based on hard work and industry, closing them down like men possessed. It will be intriguing to see if Torreira can win the midfield battle, as he is full of energy and he seemed to relish tearing around the pitch for Uruguay at the World Cup.
Check out Betonline for attractive odds from a reputable bookmaker and you will see that Arsenal are huge underdogs, despite enjoying home advantage. That is understandable, as Man City humiliated them on numerous occasions last season, but this is a brave new dawn and Emery’s men can lay down a real statement of intent in this game. Even a draw would feel like a great result. That is a measure of how far Arsenal’s star has waned in recent years, but rebuilding will not take place overnight and they need to take small steps back towards the top. Curtailing a phenomenal Man City attack and taking a share of the spoils would represent a strong start to the season. The Gunners have the attacking talent to cause City plenty of problems, and it all rests on whether the defence and midfield have emerged tougher and more disciplined after pre-season.
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