With the Gunner’s squad looking increasingly depleted with a number of injuries to first-teamers ahead of not only this weekends Benefica clash but also the start of the Premier League. We have probably the hardest August in years with a tough Champions League play-off either side of a clash with Liverpool, before facing the Red Devils at Old Trafford, could it get any more difficult?
13 Aug: Newcastle United (a) Premier League
So Arsenal kick off the season with a visit to St James’ Park where last season they let slip a 4-0 lead to drop valuable points in a 4-4 draw in what has already become one of the all-time Premier League classics, and it proved detrimental to Arsenal’s title hope. Arsenal were three up inside 10 minutes but Cheik Tiote’s equaliser three minutes from time completed one of the game’s biggest second-half turnarounds and saw Arsenal take their tendancy to self implode to new levels. It was the epitome of Arsenal’s season, Carling Cup final anyone? But the Gunners will be looking to make up for the abysmal display last season and start the season running, so let’s hope they will give it their all.
16 Aug: Udinese (h) Champions League play-off first leg
After loosing out on the illusive 3rd place which has the luxury of automatically qualifying for the competition, Arsenal’s task of reaching the group stages are made all the harder without the availability of Robin van Perise, Samir Nasri (if the midfielder hasn’t moved on) and manager Arsene Wenger. All three will be banished to the sidelines after their misdemeanours during last season’s second-round exit to Barcelona in the Nou Camp. Udinese are without some of their stars from last season after the italian outfit have sold on key men including Sanchez to Barcelona, however they still have the services of the prolific striker Antonio Di Natale who scored 28 goals last season as the club finished fourth in Serie A. They will pose a significant threat which will stretch Arsenal’s squad with a difficult match on the weekend to follow..
20 Aug: Liverpool (h) Premier League
Gooners alike envy Dalglish’s aggressiveness in the transfer market. He has spent close to £100m on English recruitments including the likes of Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and Henderson. While Liverpool are not in the greatest form of recent years, they will be looking to nudge their way back into the ‘top four’, and with Suarez still in sizzling form, it will be a difficult opening home game of the Premier League campaign.
24 Aug: Udinese (a) Champions League play-off second leg
The return leg in Italy luckily is a relatively short trip compared to the possible 4,000-round trip they would’ve faced had they drawn Russian side Rubin Kazan. But visiting Udinese will be a grueling trip, and one that Wenger wishes he had been able to avoid especially with a trip to Old Trafford ahead at the weekend. Ideally a solid win at the Emirates will allow the Gunners some breathing space and maybe rotate the squad slightly.
28 Aug: Manchester United (a) Premier League
Just to add to the hectic start already, a tough trip to Old Trafford comes just four days after their trip to Italy. The Gunners are likely to be quite drained and maybe suffering more injuries by this stage, so this will be a massive test of the North London outfit’s squad. Arsenal unfortunately have to go back five seasons to their last win in Manchester, a 1-0 success in Sept of the 06/07 season, lets hope luck can be on their side for this trip against a very bolstered, strong and fresh United team.
Maximum points from the Premier League matches are definitely desired in order to keep up with the fast pace, however a draw against United will be a welcomed result after essential wins against Udinese. If the Gunners fail to get a result from the Udinese fixtures, then Wenger’s reign will hit an all time low as it will mark Arsenal’s first failure to reach the Champions League tournament in over a decade. So August could potentially have a detrimental impact on the season, solid wins in the opening few games and qualification for the Champions League is what is expected and required, lets hope its realized.