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Know your opponent: A Q&A with The Short Fuse

Who are Arsenal? How are Arsenal? And more

Arsenal v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The new Premier League season is just two days away. Excitement levels are about as high as they get right now, and I’m sure all Leicester City fans are champing at the bit to learn as much as they can about their first opponents Arsenal. After an extensive internet search, I’ve uncovered this:

An arsenal is an establishment for the construction, repair, receipt, storage and/or issue of arms and ammunition - Wikipedia

Interesting if true.

For those looking for something slightly more in depth, yesterday I quizzed an expert in all matters Arsenal, Alex Ellenthal from The Short Fuse (and I returned the favour here). Here’s what he had to say about the Gunners’ summer, our upcoming match and the season as a whole.

Fosse Posse: How are Ozil and Sanchez doing and who should we worry about in their absence?

The Short Fuse: We will find out tomorrow at Arsene Wenger’s press conference whether Ozil and Alexis will be able to play. Ozil has a minor ankle injury but there’s a chance he’ll be ready for Friday. Alexis only returned to training a week ago, so he’s not fully fit yet. We’ll see if he can talk his way into the lineup, as he’s done in the past. My guess is he’ll be on the bench against Leicester. Wenger would prefer to not take chances with either one of them. [UPDATE: Wenger has confirmed this morning that Sanchez will definitely miss out].

Arsenal fans will be eager for record signing Alexandre Lacazette to get off to a good start up front. He had some encouraging moments in the Community Shield on Sunday. He’s a great finisher and should be Arsenal’s biggest goal threat. Granit Xhaka has an excellent passing range and likes to shoot from outside the box. Leicester could really disrupt Arsenal’s rhythm if they shadow Xhaka effectively.

FP: What transfer business is left for Arsenal to do?

TSF: Progress towards a deal for Monaco’s Thomas Lemar has stalled, which is unfortunate. Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, and Alex Iwobi are all good players, but none of them are quite the dynamic attacking player Arsenal can rely on. Lemar would be a great signing, so hopefully we see the buzz around that reappear. The team’s midfield depth needs to be addressed. Other than Xhaka, Arsenal’s midfield is filled with question marks. Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are extremely talented but injury prone. Wilshere may even be on his way out of the club. Santi Cazorla has been hurt for almost a year now. Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are fine squad players, but should not be regular starters. OGC Nice midfielder Jean Seri has been a popular name this summer, but there’s no sign that a deal for him or anybody else is close.

FP: Do you have any advice on how to treat wantaway stars?

TSF: This is something that should be treated on a case-by-case basis. I don’t think there’s a general strategy that applies to every situation or player. Arsene Wenger, for example, has taken an extremely hard line on refusing to sell Alexis or Ozil this summer. Yet, he once sold Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Robin van Persie in a span of two years. It’s ominous that Mahrez has been so direct and public about his desire to leave. If this situation becomes more toxic, I bet Arsenal would graciously take Mahrez off your hands and remove this headache for Leicester.

FP: How will Arsenal approach the challenge of the Europa League this year?

TSF: By all indications, Arsene Wenger isn’t interested in the Europa League. I don’t think he’ll treat it as a total waste of time, but I expect to see a lot of squad rotation for these games. That may change if Arsenal make a run and have a real chance of winning it, especially if the league season is going poorly. I go back and forth on what the correct strategy for the Europa League is, but there is no doubt the league is the ultimate priority for Wenger.

FP: Will Arsenal be contending for the title this year?

TSF: They have the potential to, especially if they ignore the Europa League. Arsenal fans like to point out the last two Premier League winners didn’t have any European football to worry about. It will also be interesting to see how long Wenger sticks with the new formation he introduced late last season. Arsenal ripped off nine wins in ten games to end the season after switching to three at the back. They weren’t totally dominant, but the change seemed to create confidence and optimism for the team. Arsenal has been plagued so badly by injuries the past several years, but if everything breaks right and avoiding a grueling European campaign pays off, Arsenal have a shot.

Hopefully we’ve all learned something about our opposition today. Thanks again to Alex, and if you have any further questions, I strongly suggest you visit The Short Fuse for all of your Arsenal needs.