By Bulldog Drummond
It seems like only two months ago that I was writing the preview of the Cup Final [it was only two months ago, stop mucking about – Tony] but here we are again, off on another jolly adventure and we haven’t even had the summer yet, just drizzle, drizzle, drizzle and a couple of days of sunshine. It’s a tough life in southern England.
Anyway, we are now the top FA Cup winning team of all time and Arsène Wenger is the top FA Cup manager of this and the last century. Plus we could cause a sensation this year by winning the FA Cup for the third time running for the first time since the Bronze Age. So we’re on a bit of a high.
As normal the boss says he will give Arsenal’s youngsters a chance to impress him on tour and a bunch of under 21 players whose names have been on the possibles list for a year or so are all out there, ready to do their thing.
That includes Chuba Akpom, Dan Crowley, Alex Iwobi, Chris Willock and Gedion Zelalem. Also in the squad is the recently signed Jeff Reine-Adelaide from France and Bielik who we signed part way through last season. He was given a first team squad number, but we never saw him.
As Arsène Wenger said, “It’s a good opportunity for me to give a chance to players who are on the fringe of the team and to see how close they are to contributing. That can influence my decisions before the transfer market is over.”
“Usually what you face in Asia is very mobile teams, very quick teams and teams that are very disciplined so expect that kind of team on Wednesday. We have had some difficult experiences in Asia and because we are in the preparation as well you expect to suffer a little bit tomorrow.”
And so we are off. Today we play Singapore XI and then the winner plays Everton or Stoke Rugby. Kick off is 8.30pm local time, 1.30BST in England, 2.30 in Belgium (I put that in for Walter, just to help him get back into the swing of things.)
As for TV coverage it seems to be on SkySports 1 , NBC Sports Live Extra and NBC Universo.
Here’s the complete squad…
Chuba Akpom, Mikel Arteta, HectorBellerin, Santi Cazorla, Petr Cech, Calum Chambers, Francis Coquelin, Dan Crowley, Mathieu Debuchy, Mathieu Flamini, Gabriel, KieranGibbs, Olivier Giroud, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny, Emiliano Martinez, Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, MesutOzil, Aaron Ramsey, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Wojciech Szczesny, TheoWalcott, Chris Willock, Jack Wilshere, Gedion Zelalem
Alexis and Ooooooooooooospina are on holiday, Welbeck and Rosicky are injured.
Predicting a team at this point is difficult to the point of impopssible, but here’s one option for players who might get part of a game, but be supplemented at other times by youngsters.
Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal
Ramsey, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain
I’ve gone for that with Giroud stepping in as a sub, because the boss wants to see more of Walcott playing up front, especially in terms of how he can function without Alexis to swap with – so it is an experimental position. But don’t blame me if I’ve got this 90% wrong.
I would also not be surprised if we might see Zelalem get a leading role in one of the two games, rather than a 20 minute cameo near the end, just to see if he really can step up onto the big stage.
The Singapore Select XI’s coach V Sundramoorthy has said his side will not park the bus against Arsenal.
He said in the press conference that his players use matches against Premier League opposition more as a learning experience that could help them personally and help develop football in Singapore rather than in a desperate attempt to stop Arsenal scoring.
Besides given the number of excited fans who turned up at the open training day, such a negative approach could prove very counter-productive in PR terms. So they will try and be positive. Goodness knows what they will do when they come up against Stoke, if that is how the results shake out.
“We’re going to go out there and play entertaining football, but to be clever, and not give them time and space on the ball,” the coach added.
“The boys, tactically, must be ready to counter whatever dangers Arsenal is going to pose to us. We have gone through the drills in practice training and they are aware of how we are going to approach the game.
“The morale in the camp is great, they’re looking forward to having a good tournament and playing against great players. They don’t need any more motivation.
“I hope the fans will come and support us. This means a lot, especially with a filled stadium, it will help Singapore football rise to the next level,” he said.
What’s more several players will be hoping that scouts from Japan, Korea and Australia might well spot them in this game.
So, undoubtedly not my best prediction of the season to come, but I’ve had bash. If you know who is going to play, let me know! As for the score, I wouldn’t dare guess.
The complete pre-season review
- 2010: Koscielny joins the crazy gang in Warsaw An index to the full series on all the pre-seasons for Arsene Wenger can be found here.
Anniversary of the day
- 15 July 2002: Arsène Wenger became a member of Legion d’Honneur. The Order was established by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 May 1802 and is the highest decoration in France.