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Ugh… preseason games against clubs that are our rivals can be really irritating.

If we beat Chelsea this evening, I’ll be knee sliding onto Twitter to confirm that, yes, we are going to win the league.

If we lose, I will build a trench, hunker down, and fire ‘IT WAS TOO HOT’ commentary at the weirdos that’ll get off on the loss.

It’s a no-win situation.

Preseason is good for confidence, but let’s be honest, beating Liverpool in the Community Shield a few years ago didn’t do much for our title aspirations, did it?

The game won’t impact our season, but it’ll make us feel good if we put on a show.

There are two more games left of the preseason. My suspicion is that the club probably know, loosely, who is going to be ready for the first game of the season. I suspect a large chunk of the game this evening will be the starting 11 for the Crystal Palace game that lands in 2 weeks!

Here are some suppositions:

The fullback situation is probably going to look like it did at the end of last season. If KT and Tomi aren’t available, then I’d guess they aren’t going to have enough time to get match fit for the Palace game. What we have to hope is the problems they have aren’t recurring and they aren’t BIG issues. If Tomi has done his calf again, I’m gonna lose it.

Right back is going to be the position to watch. There are three options, Cedric, Ben White, and William Saliba. My guess is you will see Ben White occupying the role. He’s better on the ball than Cedric, he’s a stronger defender, and he has previous doing the role. I also think asking Saliba to fill in there could be problematic. Put the smaller more nimble player there. White also looked really sharp when he inverted the other night.

Not sure if I mentioned this yesterday, but William Saliba is apparently close to signing a new deal with the club. Quite something. Just remember all the folk that spent all last season squealing about how badly he’d been treated, about how upset the player would be, about how Arteta wouldn’t take him back, that if he came back he’d not sign a new deal. Remember those people today. What makes this Saliba story even more delicious is there are stories that Barcelona has been trying to get him to move to them for the past 4 months. The kid was so unphased by a world-class loan period, he pushed away the advances of Barcelona. Wow. Don’t infantilize grown men that are elite alpha athletes. They aren’t bitches. They are the top 0.00001% of humans that can play a global game at the highest level. They like competition.

No doubt in my mind we’re going to start the season with Zinchenko at left-back. Nuno Tavares has taken a loan move to Atalanta (NO BUY CLAUSE), which from a coaching perspective, feels like a really, really good move. KT hasn’t been seen. So hopefully the fact that Zinchenko speaks the language of JcP as well as any player in the world, he’ll click right away. Let’s hope his fitness is where it needs to be!

Our starting midfield partnership this season is going to be Granit and Thomas Partey and I think that’s right, I suspect they’ll roll out today. If they can control the game at home against City, I gotta tell you, I think they can control anyone. Xhaka comes with flaws, but he also comes with a lot of benefits, and he brings out the best in Partey. The evolution for Granit this season is that he will be pushed higher up the pitch as a #8, and that will allow our system to transition to Thomas P and a more advanced #8 like… Tielemans.

It’s also interesting that Arsenal have given up on Lokonga as a #6, they apparently now see him as a #8 LCM, I think that came from Gunnerblog? I agree though. I think Sambi offers more further up the pitch. He’s too young and inexperienced to be our #8 this season, I think that’ll be Tielemans, but he’s a great rotation option and I think people are sleeping on him and he’ll show that this year.

I’m not sure where the front 3 is going to go. Emile Smith Rowe has been absent, I think Gabi Martinelli might occupy the left, Gabriel Jesus through the middle, with Bukayo on the right. We also can’t rule out Eddie occupying the left more this season, potentially playing in a two with Jesus.

The thing I’m most excited about is the tactical flexibility Arteta is baking into the squad. He’s trying to make us unpredictable. He has players intelligent enough now to switch up systems after 15 minutes. It’s a very NFL play-by-play type approach, but being able to switch to something new can backfoot teams and cause all sorts of headaches if you can do it well. It also should help us in the big games. If Arteta can make a formation decision 2 minutes before kick-off, you can be very damaging.

Finally, James from The Athletic said that a data presentation convinced Gabi Jesus to move to Arsenal. Arsenal use all sorts of fancy tools, some proprietary I believe, to show players what their role in our system is, the sort of chances they’ll get, when they’ll bring to the side, and I reckon they probably ran a model that said ‘last season, you’d have scored 20 goals in our system and Arsenal would have finished 3rd.’

Reality here: Gabi Jesus and Zinchenko didn’t move to Arsenal to play for 4th. They’ve been told we’re going to challenge for the league in 2 seasons’ time. Guffaw at that, soil your panties that it’s aggressive but damn… doesn’t it feel good that someone at the club is finally dreaming big?

Right, that’s me done. Get the podcast into your system. Matt and Pedro are going to go On The Whistle so UK fans have something to watch right after the game tomorrow morning. It’ll be Patreon tho. So you’re gonna have to pony up some cash/money to see it.

Become a Patron!

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