After a distinctly mixed start, Leicester City set off on their first travels of the season, visiting Arsenal, who kicked their season off with a comfortable win at Crystal Palace.
To get a view on the current feeling in the opponent’s camp, we asked some questions of Nathan Reynolds from The Short Fuse.
Fosse Posse: Arsenal have had a strong summer and seem like everyone’s favourite to outperform last year. What are expectations like with the fans?
The Short Fuse: The expectations are (a) to improve the performances over last season, (b) challenge for the Champions League positions, and (c) advance deep into the Europa League, if not winning the whole thing. While I do think Arsenal are better this season than last, the competition for the top four is very tough. Between injuries, the mid-season World Cup, and AFCON, it’s impossible to predict the hurdles some of the top teams will face. I think Mikel Arteta is one more summer away from fully transforming this team into what he wants, but at the same time, they should be challenging for as high as third this year.
FP: What’s it like to sign players? But also, which new signing are you expecting to have the biggest impact?
TSF: Once again it’s been another productive summer. The club has brought in players in their early or mid-20s, who can either make an impact now or are projects to develop over the next season or two. Gabriel Jesus comes with the biggest expectations due to his experience at Man City and Arsenal’s struggles up top last season. However, Oleksander Zinchenko improves the squad not only at left-back, which will be his primary position but in the midfield if needed. At the same time, Arsenal has continued to offload players from the previous cycle (Alexandre Lacazette, Bernd Leno, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, etc.)
FP: What areas, if any, still need some strengthening before the window closes?
TSF: The only position I expect Arsenal to add to this window is central midfield. With your own Youri Tielemens as one of the primary targets. Otherwise, the squad has at least two players in each position, which is needed now that they are back in the Europa League. So unless there are unexpected departures soon or significant injuries before the transfer window closes, I don’t see much incoming activity outside that position.
FP: You guys started very strongly Palace and then seemed to drop off a bit after going ahead. Do you think that was always the plan or did they figure out a way to slow you down?
TSF: I think that was probably a combination of getting into regular season form and still being a young squad. Last season Arsenal was the youngest team with the youngest manager. The majority of that starting XI, and the squad, are capable of playing the style Mikel Arteta wants, in theory. I would anticipate another strong start on Saturday and a bit less of a fade in momentum for the second matchday.
FP: How do you expect Arsenal to line up and what’s your score prediction?
TSF: A road win and a clean sheet get rewarded with another start. I don’t expect any changes to the starting XI unless there is a late injury. However, it’s believed that Takehiro Tomiyasu and Emile Smith Rowe may be returning to the bench for this match following their injuries. I’m going with another 2-0 for Arsenal, Jesus and Martinelli on the scoresheet.
Big thanks again to Nathan for answering our questions. You can see the away leg here.