By Bulldog Drummond
I know that in the past, previews have been written either on the day of the match, or at earliest the night before, but now it seems they have to be written weeks ahead of the game.
So as that is what the media are playing at, that’s what we will do too. Arsenal v Liverpool here we come.
Of course there is a BIG QUESTION other than that: which youngster who cost us nothing will suddenly prove to be a star this season in the mould of Coquelin, Iwobi, Bellerin et al.
Two names seem to be popping up: Akpom and Willock. It might not be one of those two, but this far into the pre-season they seem the most likely.
As for which player already established with the first team and is suddenly going to spring into life and become the star of the show – at the moment my money would be on Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.
In terms of press coverage here is the standard line being adopted thus far by the media: Injury concerns are mounting for Arsenal and Liverpool ahead of their opening clash at the start of the season.
And yes, we have our new friend, the “number of injuries”. What that number of injuries is we are not going to tell you, but you can be sure it is important because it is “a number”.
For Arsenal that number looks like the number four. Welbeck and Mert are both out for a long old while, Gabriel has tonsillitis, which could last any amount of time, and Carl Jenkinson is officially back with us, but with a return date which seems to vary wildly from reporter to reporter.
In terms of Liverpool the problem list is: Karius, Gruijic, Leiva, Matip, Gomez, and Sakho.
Loris Karius is the latest to be injured – out for ten weeks with a broken hand. Mamadou Sakho has a heel injury and Ragnar Klavan got a knock (I use the word lightly) playing against Chelsea in a “friendly” although he should be fine before the league programme starts.
For Arsenal the issue of Alexis Sanchez’ injury in the Copa America is being talked up in some quarters, but there is no clear evidence that he is anything other than slightly later than originally anticipated in returning to training.
Meanwhile we have lost Gnabry and new boy Asano to the Olympics drug fest.
Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil are missing because of their involvement with the Euros, while for Liverpool the losses look like Joe Allen, Danny Ward, and Emre Can.
So who will we have? Jack Wilshere got a knock and so didn’t play in the second American game, but there is nothing to suggest his injury is longer than just a matter of days. And Alexis could well be back and fit – at least fit enough for the beach, by the start of the season. But leaving Alexis out of it for the moment we have the choice of
In goal: Ospina, Cech, Martinez. (3)
At the back: Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Monreal, Coquelin, Bielik, Gibbs (7)
In the middle: Xhaka, Coquelin, Cazorla, Elneny, Zelalem, (5)
Attacking: Campbell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Iwobi, Walcott, Akpom, Adelaide, Willock (8)
A couple of players are of course in there twice, reflecting their availability in various positions. But overall that seems to me to give us 23 options, with 21 players.
Obviously some of these are youngsters for whom it would be one hell of a surprise if they started against Liverpool, but we should certainly be on the lookout for one of them to become established during the course of the season.
So leaving aside any further transfers between now and then I’d go with…
Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Monreal
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Iwobi,
Not a bad lineup considering we have Cech returning for the second game, Gabriel returning after illness also for the second game and the option of players like Campbell, Elnene, Coquelin… If Holding is considered not ready, then I guess Coquelin could go in the middle, or indeed Monreal, with Gibbs at full back.
Given that Liverpool have the same issues, that shouldn’t be too bad. Mind you the whole picture might have changed by the day of the match.