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Captain and Captain. Current and potentially future
Time for the captain to lead the team (R)

Amidst the confusion surrounding the supposedly confirmed sale of Cesc Fabregas, let’s not forget that there’s a Premier League match today. For the next 8 months or so, football will form the crux of many conversations with many of those surrounding what Arsenal does. As the excitement builds up, there’s 5 more hours before the game kicks off.

Newcastle are our first opponent of the season and of course St James Park is the scene of our worst collapse of last season. Some say it’s where our season turned. It is easy to understand why. No top side in the world should ever let a 4-0 lead evaporate, even with 10 men and especially not against a side in the lower half of the division like Newcastle.

The home side has been busy in the transfer window. Letting go of Jose Enrique and Kevin Nolan while signing Gabriel Obertan, Mehdi Abeid, Sylvain Marveaux, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye. 3 out of the 5 players that they’ve signed have never played in the English league and hopefully it will take them some time to adjust to the change in pace. Losing Enrique is a much bigger blow for Newcastle as he was one of their stand-out player last season.

The whole debacle with Joey Barton would not have gone unnoticed. He’s arguably the best player in the squad when in full swing and creating a rift between the player and the club is not the best way to go about things. Understandably, the player has no right to go public with the criticism of the club and rightly deserved all the punishment. I for one, would be happy if he didn’t feature at all in this game.

As for Arsenal, there’s plenty of positives in that most of the players are deemed fit enough to play. Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Andrey Arshavin, Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie has been given a clean bill of health and travelled with the squad to Tyneside. With that, here’s who I’d expect we’ll start with;

Szczesny
Sagna—Koscielny—Vermaelen—Gibbs
Ramsey—Song—Rosicky
Walcott—RvP—Gervinho

That is probably the best defence we have at the moment. They will have to be careful of the opposition’s set pieces. Especially if Barton plays as he does tend to deliver very good crosses. It also doesn’t help that Newcastle have in Ba, a player whose physique beats all those within our defensive ranks.

With Jack Wilshere missing, Tomas Rosicky will be entrusted with the creative job in the middle. The Czech did very well in the beginning of last season and is looking to make the same impression, second season running. That being said, the role could be shared with the industrious Ramsey. Both of them will need to be more aware of their defensive duties and ensure that we are never caught with both of them in advanced position and leaving Alex Song to plough the lone defensive barrier.

I’m sure Walcott and Gervinho will relish going up against whoever Newcastle put on left back or right back. One thing which was obvious during those pre season games was how the two of them kept interchanging positions throughout the match. Not only will this make them harder to mark, it will also ensure that the defender doesn’t get too comfortable defending against them for long periods.

RvP will no doubt be the pivotal man tonight. He will have to do his job as the captain of the day and lead his team. He may not necessarily have to do all the shouting, he can talk with his boots. Goals are his duties and I fancy him to get off the mark in this game itself.

Despite what has transpired over the course of the summer, I still see us as favourite for this game. With crucial fixtures coming up, both in the Premier League and the Champions League, we have to start with all guns blazing. Time to wipe the memory of last season’s painful draw and get the first win of the season out of the way.

COME ON YOU ARSENAL!!!

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