Finally, the weekend we’ve all been waiting for is here. The opening weekend of the EPL is upon us, and thus another Arsenal season is set to kick off. Arsenal and Crystal Palace square off at the Emirates on Saturday, and the Gunners are almost certainly everyone’s favorite to begin the year with three points. While Theo Walcott is still out, Arsene Wenger’s new toys will debut in a regular season match together for the first time, and fans will get a full dose of the Arsenal squad that is expected to carry the team to the promised land.
Goalkeeper – Wojciech Szczesny
Szczesny starting the season again at Goalkeeper should come as no surprise to Arsenal fans. David Ospina was brought in by Wenger to push Szczesny for the starting spot, but has yet been healthy enough to compete. Once fit though, the goalkeeping carousel at Arsenal could be a fun one to watch, as the season moves forward. Don’t be surprised to see number 13 between the posts before the season comes to an end.
Left Back – Kieran Gibbs
Gibbs is expected to be one of the premier left backs in the EPL this season, after a stellar last few seasons for Arsenal. The young Englishman was in a bit of hot water a year or so ago, and Arsene Wenger brought in veteran Nacho Monreal to push Gibbs for the spot. Ever since then, Gibbs has shown nothing but promise, and Monreal has been forced to accept the backup role. As another year is set to begin, Gibbs is still sitting pretty as the starting left full-back, and looks inclined to keep his title.
Centre Backs- Koscielny and Calum Chambers
One of a few surprises is youngster Calum Chambers getting the start here at centre back for Arsenal. No one was expecting Chambers to start the season, as Mertesacker was away from the team resting after winning the World Cup with Germany, and is most likely not yet fit for the beginning of the season. While this would be a major worry a few weeks ago, Chambers has really proven himself in the last few outings, and will leave Gunner fans feeling a little more unnerved not to see the big German in the lineup.
Wenger has been vocal about signing another centre back to the team, should the opportunity present itself though, after recently selling away Johan Djourou to Hamburg on a permanent deal. While Chambers has looked very much the part, he’s still young and will need time to grow and develop before becoming a starter for a team like Arsenal. Mertesacker will be back soon though, and this will surely provide relief to Wenger and company. Mertesacker and Koscielny are the centre backs of the future for Arsenal, but were a questionable pairing prior to last season. The duo though really grew together to become one of the best defensive combinations of centre backs in England last year, and will need to stay that way.
Right Back – Mathieu Debuchy
Debuchy was one of Arsene Wenger’s big signings this summer, and it needed to be. With the departure of perennial all-star Bacary Sagna, there was a gaping hole at the left back position, and apparently Wenger did not think Carl Jenkinson was prepared to fill it. This left the French boss to sign a foreign name to come in and start, and inked fellow countryman Debuchy to a deal. Debuchy is more of a wing back, getting far forward on the attacks, and being sometimes liable on the counter attack. As good as he is, he will need to learn to better position himself, as he can’t get caught forward more often than not if Arsenal wants any chance at the title this year.
Center Midfield – Arteta, Ramsey, Oezil
Mikel Arteta is once again going to be the anchor of the midfield for Arsenal, by default. With lack of a better option, Arteta will be burdened with the defensive responsibilities of a very attack minded midfield. Wenger again failed to sign a defensive midfielder during this summer transfer window and may pay the price for it. While Arteta deserves a lot of credit for his work last year, his defensive ability just isn’t where it needs to be to win a title in England. He shows great cover for his midfield in attack, as his completed pass percentage is well over 90 percent, but just isn’t fast or strong enough to defend well enough against formidable opponents. With his experience and determination though, Arteta will have to have an incredible year for Arsenal to hoist the big trophies.
Aaron Ramsey is the shining star of North London. He has already shown in the preseason how creative and lethal he is in the final third, which is something Arsenal have been lacking for quite some time. With his impressive goal against Manchester City in the Community Shield, Ramsey is well in form for the opening of the season, and is looking to have a career best year for the Gunners.
Mesut Oezil, having recently returned from his World Cup absence, will be the surprise inclusion to the Arsenal opening lineup. I believe that Wenger will want to display his star cast, and Oezil, being known for his fitness, will squeeze himself into the starting lineup. Having just returned from his fore mentioned absence though, Jack Wilshere could find himself getting the nod to start against Crystal Palace. I believe this will be a last minute decision for Wenger, and an exciting one at that.
Wingers – Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez
Santi Cazorla, like last week against Manchester City, will get the start over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left flank. Cazorla is a tricky little Spaniard, who will also finish an opportunity with the best of them, shown last week against Manchester City. Chamberlain though has been in good form and will push Cazorla for playing time this year on the left side.
Alexis Sanchez. That is all I need to say. Sanchez, like Oezil, was a huge signing for Arsene Wenger, and will get his first chance to start a game in the EPL this weekend. The Arsenal fans have been waiting all year for another attacking option, and Alexis is going to fill that role. While he will probably mostly play on the flank, he will surely get his chance to show what he can do through the middle, and that will be exciting.
Against Crystal Palace though, Sanchez will definitely start on the right wing, taking over for injured Theo Walcott. Alexis is looking to be the spark that will be the catalyst to push Arsenal to becoming a dynamic attacking team this season, starting this Saturday.
Forward – Olivier Giroud
Despite some preseason criticism from Arsene Wenger and a benching in favor of Yaya Sanogo, Giroud has shown his great ability with an absolute smash against Manchester City last week from about 25 yards out. That finish has surely cemented Giroud as the week one starter, even though there was little doubt he wouldn’t.
Sanogo has shown great promise during the preseason, and will be an adequate backup for the big fellow Frenchman this year. Giroud is the complete package though, as he has the physical tools to be classified as the prototypical number 9, while also possessing the touch of a midfielder. If he can put together a strong season and work to use all his abilities to full potential, you will see Oliver Giroud as one of the top strikers in the EPL at years end.