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October 2016
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Football is starting to kick off again: the pre-preview of the opening friendly in France.

By Walter Broeckx

It looked as if it never would come to an end but the long wait without football is slowly coming to an end.

This Friday Arsenal will step up the preparation for the new season and will play a real match.

And if the post companies are willing to do their job as they should do I will be there with my wife and a handful of other Gooners from Arsenal Belgium, the one and only official supporters club in Belgium.

Each time when the season ends I stare in to a long black hole of non-football.  Forget about the Euros, world cups, copa america’s, whatever cuppa’s the crooks can invent. I don’t care and I’m not bothered apart from hoping to see the players return safe and sound for their preseason.

Because of the crooks organising their tournament in such a ridiculous way we will not have some major players completely fit at the start of the season. But for this match next Friday I will try to forget this and will just be happy that we will see the boys running out on the field in the Arsenal shirts.

We will be playing Racing Club de Lens. A team that has been in the French second division for a few seasons now going up and down a bit.  A club that has been mostly in the top division in France but every now and then they slip to the second division and stay there for a few season and then go up again to the top division.

In their history they only won one title and that was in 1998. That was their most successful period as they also won the cup in that season and the league cup the next season.  But after some financial problems they slid down and are now back in the second division.

Their stadium was used in the European championship this summer and also in 1984 and in the world cup in 1998. So lots of tearing down and building up again in the last 30 years or so.

I cannot say a lot about the team we will face as I don’t really follow French football as it is probably the most boring league in the world, what with PSG being the only team fighting for the title since the oil money came in. But there might be some good players in their team as French football is rather good in producing lots of talented players.

As for Arsenal we will not see the likes of Özil, Giroud, Koscielny, Ramsey and Alexis for sure. The latter is mostly concerning as no news has filtered through about the severity of the injury he sustained in the final of the Copa America. But his ankle and leg surely didn’t look good.

Campbell and Wilshere will probably be in the squad but I don’t think they will be in the starting line up as they only will be training one week when this match will be played.

Another player I don’t know that will play is Santi Cazorla. He is missing in the pictures of the training as far as I can see but he has posted a picture of him in the gym. So is he also having an injury? Come on Santi we need you fit as can be.

Will we see our new player Xhaka and the Japanese kid Takuma Asano? I haven’t seen the former in training yet so he will probably also not be 100% fit to play. Asano has been playing up to last week in Japan so he could be fit but if he is going to be called up to play in Rio for the Japanese team we will surely not see him in Arsenal colours for the moment.

So this match will be a big opportunity for some youngsters to show if they are already worthy of claiming a spot in the team. In the absence of Giroud and Alexis we will surely see Akpom and/or Sanogo up front somewhere.

Walcott will look to show that he can be counted upon after a bad season.

For our midfield it will be interesting to see how they fare without their number one playmaker Özil. And with Santi a bit out of the picture we will also miss our number two playmaker. Will Iwobi be there to step up and show what he can do?

At the back we will also see a few changes compared to last season. Bellerin is not in town yet as far as I could see. So will Debuchy be given a final chance after his injury hit season at Arsenal? Or will Chambers be called upon as right back. Or will he play in the heart of the defence next to Per or Gabriel?

I think the only position where we have no problem is left back with both Nacho and Kieran in full training from the start of the first training.

What the result will be is not that important in preseason. What is important is that the players who in the absence of some of the big names can show that they can be counted upon. A good strong performance is needed from those who have a point to prove.

After this match the team will fly to the USA to play a few matches over there. Who knows by then we will have a few more players in the team training with the rest.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to next Friday to drive to Lens to see our Gunners kick off the season at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis. Let’s hope they kick off the season in style.

A match report will be published once I get home from France of course.

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13 comments to Football is starting to kick off again: the pre-preview of the opening friendly in France.

  • nicky

    1. Will the game be shown on TV?
    2. Will you give us a catering report?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I would say that RB will feature either Debuchy or Chiori Johnson. Chambers will likely feature at CB. Xhaka unlikely to feature as I think he is still on post Euro holiday. Coquelin likely to start as DM. Jeff quite likely to get a start (ex Lens playerI think). Akpom, Theo and the Ox also likely to start I would think.

    Other youngsters who have been training with the first team this week are, Krystian Bielik (CB/DM), Chris Willock (wing), Stephy Mavididi (striker), Matt Macey (GK), Marcus McGuane (DM), Gedion Zelalem (AM), Reiss Nelson (MF).

    Some of these players may also feature. Gedion I would expect to be a definite for the USA trip.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Off topic but congratulations to the ladies who beat Chelsea 2-1 yesterday. The Chelsea goal coming from a horrible mix up between Alex Scott and keeper Sari van Veenendaal which saw a 40 yard back poss roll into the net. A header from a left side corner by Vicky Losada in the 45th minute and a good finish by Danielle van de Donk in the 84th minute ensured that we gained all three points. We are now just 2 behind Chelsea in third place.


  • Gord

    Lens is an industrial town (mining), and one report on local gastronomy is:

    > It’s not a gastro town but the food here is good and hearty, typical northern fare with dishes such as potjevleesch (chicken, rabbit, pork and veal in jelly) served cold with chips

    Which is apparently a Flemish dish. Another website seems to say the area is also known for Welsh Rarebit. Some kind of tart (pie) and a cheese (Maroilles). They seem to think they can make chocolate in the region.

    There are apparently good beers there.

    I found chocolate for Walter’s wife, and it seems they have sausage in the region for Walter. “”Andouillettes”” or “”andouilles””. The “lette” is in Arras and Cambrai. Aire-sur-La-Lys has the “ille”. In Lens itself, it would seem the biggest recommendations are for seafood.

    This second name, seems to be similar to a kind of sausage endemic to Louisiana in the southern USA.

    Apparently the Canadian Vimy Ridge memorial is close by.

  • Josif

    Nice pre-preview, Walter. 🙂

    Lens… Ah, I always remember how they knocked us out of Champions League 1998-99 Group Stage as we were out after that Wembley defeat in penultimate match of the group stage. In the reverse fixture that was the very first Champions League match for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, we had a 1:0 lead against Lens thanks to Overmars’ opener but the hosts equalized deep into injury time through Tony Vairelles. Here is a video from the game.

    According to various sources, Vairelles got convicted for attempted murder of a bouncer in a night club and spent five months in a prison between 2011 and 2012.

    Just one more bit about that Lens title in 1998 – the runners-up were Robert Pires-inspired FC Metz (they had also struggled in the lower tiers of French football after 1997-98).

    Speaking of struggling, I have to add something to Walter’s precise conclusion about Ligue 1 being the most boring league. I think that no other country in Europe has seen so many champions from the last two decades going down at some point. Nantes, Monaco, Auxerre, Lens… They all had won Ligue 1 since 1994-95 before tasting Ligue 2.

  • Josif

    I forgot to add important part (it happens to people who like digressions as much as I do):

    Wenger didn’t have to wait too long for his revenge on Lens as we faced the French side in the UEFA Cup semifinals 1999-2000. We won in both legs (1:0, 2:1) and progressed to the final.

  • Usama Zaka

    Takuma Asano is part of the Japanese Olympic squad and is sure to be busy in the Olympics until the end of August.

  • nicky

    Thanks for the gastro report on the Lens area. Sounds quite drooling. 😉

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think that Lens was partly part of Flanders once before the French added it to France. Lille (Rijsel was the original Flemish name) certainly was. So seeing a Flemish named dish is no real surprise for me. The region was called “Frans Vlaanderen” (French Flemish) before the French renamed it to Pas de Calais. For some reason the French didn’t like the name Flemish that much…. Les Flandres Françaises was the French name before that I think.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I will try to add a catering report of course 😉

  • Norman14

    Hoping to see quite a bit of Granit in the pre-season.

  • Leon

    There’s a good chance that Rob Holding will sign this week.

  • Menace

    Well Walter, we will be watching Arsenal through the lens while you watch Lens play Arsenal. Enjoy the game & remember to have an extra plate of Flemish ‘nosh’ for us.

    My best wishes to Arsenal Belgium & your family (specially your wife). Stay safe & well.