In case people who don’t care for Arsenal ask you: “What is the World Cup?”, answer in a proper way: “It’s a tournament that happens between two Arsenal seasons once every four years.”
We Gooners know what it feels like to wait anxiously for the new season to kick-off. There is only fourteen more days left before Arsenal get out on the pitch to face Manchester City in the Community Shield. The traditional curtain raiser will feature Arsenal for the first time since 2005-2006.
That match hasn’t been an indicator of what kind of season participants will face. For instance, Arsenal have won the Community Shield four times with Arsene Wenger at the helm (1998-99, 1999-2000, 2002-03, 2004-05) but they didn’t win the league in those respective seasons. Manchester United turned a two-goal-deficit to defeat Manchester City in 2011-12 only to lose both league matches to their city rivals including a heavy 1:6 defeat at home. Nevertheless, beating Manchester City in the Community Shield and lifting another trophy would be a good sign.
The first league match is against Crystal Palace six days after the Community Shield. Tony Pulis pulled a miracle with Palace last season and his hard-to-break football might be a good test for our fresh blood Alexis, Debuchy and Campbell. Given that Mertesacker, Özil and Podolski are about to miss that game doesn’t make things easier for us. Memories of that shocking defeat against Aston Villa last season directed by Anthony Taylor are fresh in my memory.
Three or four days later, we’ll play a very important First Leg of the Champions League qualifiers that will be followed with the very first big domestic test – a trip to Goodison Park. We suffered a heavy defeat to Everton at the beginning of April and now it’s time to make things even. The Toffees haven’t signed replacements for Lukaku and Deulofeu, two players that were the main reason why we didn’t beat Everton in the league last season.
Hopefully, the Second Leg of the Champions’ League qualifiers won’t be too important due to our big victory in the first one. That will make our trip to the newly-promoted Leicester much easier. It would be great to have 9 points before an international break takes place.
After the break, we play the big one – Manchester City will come to town and it will be a test if we are finally good enough to beat City, Chelsea and United. Beating Aston Villa at Villa Park a week later would be a fine intro to the North London Derby where we’ll hopefully stretch our winning streak over the Spuds to four.
And, finally, the first league match in October is going to be against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. They are going to be favourites to win the league given the fact they have made a string of impressive signings. To get one over Mourinho at the Bridge would be huge both for Arsenal and Wenger to make amends for last season.
Basically, it means that we’ll have seven league matches between 16th August and 5th October out of which four are going to be against Top 6 teams from last season which gets even more difficult when you take Champions League matches into account. That’s why going through that period unscathed would make our title challenge very credible so let’s hope we’ll have a flying start from the very beginning of the new season!