Welcome back everyone to a new season of the Arsenal and with it comes a new season of the Cannoneer. Sorry for the lack of blog posts on the back end of last year but things got a bit crazy for me and I had to put the blog on the back burner. No longer! I am eager to get back to writing for all you awesome Gooners here in the Queen City and beyond. I'll keep this post short and sweet for you as I know all of you are ready for a new season to start and see if we can improve on that league position to get that title into our trophy case, where it belongs.
To start, I would like to thank our two teams who played in the Street Soccer 945 Open Cup in June as both teams battled the heat and some tough opposition to exit the playoffs with their heads held high. We are disappointed to miss the final but if we get the invite next year we will come back ready to fight hard and bring glory to our group. The tournament is for a great cause and we are proud to support Street Soccer 945 and Urban Ministries here in Charlotte. For more information see http://www.streetsoccerusa.org/portfolio_page/charlotte/ and http://www.urbanministrycenter.org/
The summer tournaments are coming to a close and all the players are getting their last minute holidays plans finished as we wait for that opening game against Liverpool. Being at home you naturally have to give us a slight edge but it wouldn't be the Arsenal if we didn't give a few reasons to possibly question our opening match. Entering the last few seasons we walked in with our heads high as we looked to start off our season as title contenders, what we got was a loss to Villa, a win over Palace and a loss to West Ham. Not a glorious record. Those were all lesser competition, matches we should have won and lost two of three. Nothing sours a start to the season quite like a loss out of the gate. Immediately, the finger pointing begins and Gooners lose their minds blaming the manager, or player x, y, or z. I am not exactly innocent either as I have joined the fray after a bad opening loss but as we have seen, a win at the start doesn't guarantee the top spot at the end of season and loss isn't the end of the world.
This season we get the task of facing Liverpool, a team who isn't the title winning dynamo of the 80's nor is it the weakest team in the league. They are, however, a team rejuvenated by Jurgen Klopp who are looking for something to prove as they floundered last season under Brendan Rodgers and slightly less so under Klopp. They have made a few signings and can be dangerous but are completely beatable which means they will give us trouble and will make all of us uncomfortable when they attack. Both our matches ended in draws last season which means that we give them just as much trouble as they give us.
We enter this game without the fabled striker signing that we all expected to come before the start of the season and barring any major news in the next few days, we will remain with the same strike force as last season. With several players in national tournaments over the summer, we may not see Giroud or even Sanchez but the latter could feature as a sub. Akpom up top or even Walcott as striker are possibilities. Walcott had a decent game against City and even scored so Wenger may opt to give him one last hurrah as the lone striker. Ox also had a good preseason and will probably start as Ramsey will likely replace the rested Ozil leaving a space on the right for Ox to fill. Our newest signing Xhaka may start alongside Coquelin or even Elneny. Despite the negativity on the lack of striker signing, I still feel confident our midfield and attack can make a dent in light defenders of Liverpool.
Our weakness is in defense, which has been elevated from “we kinda need another backup center-back” to “DEFCON 2: RED ALERT: SIGN A DEFENDER ASAP”. Injuries to both Mertesacker and Gabriel have seriously put a hurting on our back four, which was already light to begin with. Koscielny may not start as he has only recently been back in training which means Wenger will have to decide between moving Monreal to CB and placing the experienced Gibbs at LB, using either Chambers or new boy Holding or both of the young defenders. I am glad I am not making this decision. I may sound hypocritical but if we were playing Bournemouth or Burnley, I'd say let the young defenders prove their worth. Since we are playing Liverpool, my selection would be Monreal and Chambers. Obviously I would prefer Koscielny to start and play Monreal with him but I am betting on a worst case scenario here. Luckily, Liverpool face a defensive crisis equal to ours so this match could be filled with goals or a dull affair. Only time will tell.
This season also brings us to our second season with Ri Ra's Irish Pub being our wonderful hosts. After the success of last season here in the Queen City at the Irish Pub, we can be glad to call it our supporters club's home. Opening day is sure to bring a crowd as we have a free breakfast buffet for all Arsenal America members, and $10 for non-members. Members also get 10% off their food purchases all season with your Arsenal America membership card. Being an Arsenal America member also helps the group, so sign up and get your Arsenal America Membership pack and enjoy the benefits they bring with our group and theirs. Tune into our Facebook Live Pre-Game show 30 minutes before kick-off as your hosts give you match info and score predictions. This is bound to be another great season here in our beloved Queen City and we will continue to be the best supporters club in the city! I look forward to seeing all of you at the pub this season!
Come on you Gunners!