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A Look Ahead to the 2016/17 Season for Arsenal

When the new Premier League season kicks off on the weekend of 13/14th August, Arsenal can head into the weekend feeling quietly confident that they will have a strong season. The summer transfer window and its rumour mills have been dominated by other teams, notably the two Manchester clubs. United and City both have new managers in Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola respectively, but it could well be an opportunity for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger to win his first Premier League title since 2004.

His main summer acquisition arrived before Euro 2016 even kicked off – Granit Xhaka signed from Borussia Monchengladbach and he will provide some real bite and tenacity to a midfield that has too often been overrun in big game. Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta both left the club at the end of their contracts but the Swiss international will bring some leadership into the spine of the squad. If Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey can remain fit and in-form then this could mark the dawn of one of the best midfield trios in the league.

One missing part of the jigsaw for the Gunners seems to be in the striking department. Olivier Giroud had a highly impressive Euros for France but there are question marks over his ability as a top-level striker who can consistently make his mark in big games – particularly as United have signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer. Also, Danny Welbeck has once again succumbed to a long-term knee injury and will miss a large chunk of the early season.

This, coupled with the loss of form for Theo Walcott, means that a major attacking arrival is surely inevitable. Names such as Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Morata and Mauro Icardi have all been mentioned and if any of those were signed then Arsenal’s squad would be in its best shape for years.

For the new season, Betway are offering a range of football betting odds for fans. They include options such as in-play during matches, and outright bets such as the winners of the 2016/17 Premier League title – Arsenal are currently rated as third favourites at 6/1. They also offer odds on upcoming friendly games during pre-season, including the odds on both teams to score tonight.

Arsenal couldn’t face a much more difficult start to the new Premier League campaign. They host Liverpool first, who will have a point to prove under Jurgen Klopp after a disappointing end to last season saw them finish eighth place. Next up are Leicester City, the champions, away from home in what is sure to be an early season indicator of which club is most likely to win the title. Their cause is also not helped with the fact that Arsene Wenger has given extended breaks to the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil. Alexis Sanchez is still nursing the injuries he suffered playing for Chile in the Copa America.

Any success is likely to depend on whether key men can perform consistently. Mesut Ozil is on the back of his best season at the club, but the German needs to have other players performing around him. Alexis Sanchez had a relatively poor second season at the Gunners and will be looking to help the club to silverware.

With Per Mertesacker being named captain of the club, he is likely to need other senior players such as Petr Cech in order to keep unity as they battle on all fronts.

Sayonara.

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Per Mertesacker Set to be the Next Arsenal Captain

Since I started supporting Arsenal in 1998, I’ve seen the club successfully transition the captain’s armband from one player to another. Captains like Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira lived, ate and breathed Arsenal, and you could see how much playing for the club meant to them. The mere fact that Adams has a statue of him tells the true story of how much the club adored him.

After the Adams / Vieira dynasty came the reign of the King himself, Thierry Henry. There is no better player that donned the famous Red and White like King Henry, but his leadership was questioned when he made the decision to leave the club at the time he was needed the most. Wenger swiftly made the decision to hand the armband over to Henry’s deputy, Gilberto Silva. The Brazilian featured consistently as the captain but he lost his place in the squad to Mathieu Flamini and was shipped out to Panathinaikos afterwards.

Then Wenger made the most awkward decision ever – giving the armband to new signing, William Gallas, when a certain Kolo Toure would have been touted as the next best thing. For obvious reasons, Toure left to the petro-greens of the Etihad but Gallas reign as captain was a tumultuous one before eventually losing the band to the club’s prized asset, Cesc Fabregas.

Thanks to his Barcelona DNA, Fabregas left in 2011 and the captain with the Little Boy inside him also departed the club in rather acrimonious circumstances. The band was given to the Belgian Verminator that looked like a beast in it but his injury problems were too much and he eventually lost his place in the squad. With Vermaelen leaving to Barcelona (what’s with them and taking our captains?), it was time for Mikel Arteta to do the honors and he will be forever remembered for his influence in the dressing room and his selflessness on the pitch.

At the ripe age of 34, Arteta has hung his boots and has began a new adventure in his career with Manchester City, but the void of the captaincy is expected to be filled. According to NBC Sports, Per Mertesacker is set to be named as the new Arsenal captain, as he’s going to be promoted from his current role as vice-captain. His defensive partner, Laurent Koscielny, is set to be named as the new vice-captain.

He moved to the club on transfer deadline day five seasons ago and he has made 207 appearances for the club, including 149 in the Premier League and 36 in Europe. He has scored eight goals for the team, including that all important equalizer in the FA Cup semifinal against Wigan two seasons ago.

I wish the BFG well in his new role as Arsenal captain. Long may he reign.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal to Sign Holding and MLS All Star Squad Announced

The defender (left) was named Bolton's Player of the Season at the end of an impressive debut campaign

Holding was Bolton’s Player of the Season in the last campaign

Arsenal’s policy for investing in youth has remained unchanged, as Arsene Wenger seeks to create a squad that would probably win the quadruple in 2020 or something. Following the imminent arrival of Japanese wonderkid, Takuma Asano, that cried like a baby in his last game for Hiroshima Sanfreece, the Daily Mail has reported that a £2m fee has been agreed for Bolton youngster, Rob Holding.

If he joins the club, he would be the third acquisition of the transfer window, and while Granit Xhaka is a player that is expected to walk into the starting XI, the likes of Asano and Holding will take a while before they can make their marks at the Emirates. It’s always good to invest in youngsters, but there are times when it doesn’t just work out, like the case of a certain Wellington Silva, that has returned to his former club, Fluminense, after an unsuccessful spell with the Gunners.

Wellington signed for the Gunners six years ago but had some challenges with securing a work permit, so he had to be shipped out on loan to Levante, Alcoyano, Ponferradina, Murcia and Almeria and he featured consistently at those clubs before eventually securing a Spanish passport, which automatically qualified him to get a work permit in the UK. At the start of last season, Wellington was actually eligible to play for the Gunners, but he was loaned again to Bolton, which was more or less an indication that he wasn’t good enough to play for the Gunners.

Wellington Silva scoring against Wolves

I’d shared my thoughts on Rob Holding a while ago, so I don’t intend to delve into talking much about him today. However, I will be more interested to see what happens to Calum Chambers, that is clearly behind Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista in the pecking order. Holding has shown a lot of potential and it would be nice to see what he can offer wit the preseason games coming thick and fast.

Speaking of preseason, the Gunners are scheduled to travel to America to face off an All Star MLS side on July 29th, at the Avaya Stadium. The team has been selected by All Star coach, Dominic Kinnear.

Andrea Pirlo and David Villa (right) have been named in the MLS All-Star squad

Andrew Pirlo and David Villa are part of the squad

The team is a true reflection of the word ‘All Star’, as it boasts of the likes of Girovani dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, Clint Dempsey, Ignacio Piatti, David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco and the former scourge of Arsenal, Didier Drogba. A full list of the MLS All Star squad can be seen here.

That’s a wrap for today folks.

Sayonara.

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