The Barclays Premier League starts off this weekend and Arsenal are all geared up to kick-off in style. After finishing last season on a high by winning the FA Cup, for the record 12th time for the club and 6th time for Arsene Wenger, Arsenal had the perfect pre-season preparation: winning the Barclays Asia Trophy (between Singapore XI ,Arsenal, Stoke and Everton) in Singapore and the Emirates Cup (Arsenal, Lyon, VFL Wolfs-burg and Villarreal).
Furthermore, the last game of pre-season, The Community Shield vs Chelsea at Wembley, resulted in a sweet victory with Wenger finally breaking Mourinho's hoodoo thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's majestic left-foot strike; but my favorite moment of the match will be Arsene Wenger snubbing Jose Mourinho's hand while the later was waiting and shook hands with all players.
Business – Ins and Outs
The transfer window is still open and as always all Arsenal fans have their own list of players they'd like. Like last season, Arsenal made early business with the astute signing of Petr Cech for a fee of £10.9m from Chelsea. This is being touted as the transfer of the season and compared to that of Van Der Saar's by Wenger as the former United keeper joined the club aged in his early 30's and went on to finish his career at 40.
According to Wenger, Petr Cech can replicate the same at Arsenal as he is only 33. So far he is the only player who has come in but we have quite a few player who have left on loan or permanently. Fan-favorite Lukas Podolski joined Turkish side Galatasaray permanently for about £3m after his previous loan move, to Inter Milan, didn't work out. Another striker, Yaya Sanogo, joined Ajax on loan and will hopefully learn under the tutelage of Marc Overmars, Dennis Bergkamp and Frank de Boer.
Chuba Akpom and Issac Hayden – two promising youngsters in the eyes of Wenger – have joined Hull City on loan until the end of the season. Arsene Wenger and Hull manager, Steve Bruce, are good friends and the latter has assured fans – and Wenger – that the two England U19 internationals will get considerable playing time and hopefully help Hull get back to the Premiership.
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny who had a roller coaster of a season last year has joined AS Roma on loan until the end of the season.
Our pre-season also saw the emergence of youth team players: Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi with Wenger confirming that the two of them will stay at Arsenal this season and will juggle between Arsenal U-21 and the first team.
Serge Gnabry, meanwhile, has joined West Brom on loan for the season.
As fans wait to see another possible marquee-player coming in, media outlets have been constantly stirring things up by linking us to Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema.
Wenger, in his West Ham pre-match press conference, denied to rule out any move suggesting its all being cooked up by the press. With very good squad depth, we only really need one or two players in key positions, mainly in central defensive midfield and striking.
With Mikel Arteta signing a new contract extension, its unlikely we'll sign a cover for Francis Coquelin.
Earlier this summer, Arsenal Director Lord Harris stated that the club had over £200m in the bank, and that has made all fans, including myself, hopeful of a big name signing in coming weeks.
With every other title contender splashing cash we must be ready to pound on any available target. Should it be Benzema or Lacazette ? Fingers crossed, its one of them!
Now, the most important thing is the Premiership. As Wenger, in his press conference that "Arsenal has a tricky start and a need to start strong", it has us feel nervous yet thrilled because of the incredibly good pre-season. Not to forget, we conceded only 1 goal in whole of pre-season and scored more than 10.
Lack of that tricky Champions league qualifier has us feel more comfortable in early part of the season. In our first six games we play two London derbies and an important away fixture at Stamford bridge.
With football pundits calling Arsenal the closest challenger to Chelsea's title defense, we have to stay in contention for the title strongly all the way till March – April. Last season, we were 11 points behind Chelsea by the 6th game of the season making it nearly impossible for us to challenge the Blues.
Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Carzorla, Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott are the most important players this season. These players must stand up and have an impact in big games. In my opinion, we should at least win/draw with the top four teams. Losing will take away important points which can decide the championship.
Arsene Wenger may not have changed his philosophy and style of play, but we denitely look more stable as a defensive unit. Our squad has always been hit by injuries - latest being Jack Wilshere with a Fibula fracture during a training session making that's going to sideline him for almost 5-6 weeks.
I feel with an injury free squad we have the capacity to go further in the Champions League and challenge for the Premiership. Also, it’s important for us to defend the FA cup and challenge strongly for the League Cup as well.
Let's be optimistic and go in to the new season with high hopes and back the team to the hilt, irrespective of what's happening on the pitch.