It’s so hard to predict the starting XI v Sunderland that it makes me think we’ve finally got strength in depth!
I keep looking for clues from the Cologne friendly, but there aren’t many to be found. Anyway, for what it’s worth, this is how I expect us to line up:
GK: Szczeny – ‘Sir Chesney’, as an increasing number of commentators are calling him, is our undisputed first-choice keeper. Mannone’s non-stick gloves put paid to any chance he had of ousting our number one Pole for the start of the season.
RB: Jenkinson – ‘The Corporal’, as Marc Ollington calls him, might be hard pressed to continue as Sagna’s understudy with Nico Yennaris breathing down his neck. I’d go for Yennaris, personally, but I’m sure Arsene Wenger will start with Carl Jenkinson.
CB: Koscielny – Despite ESPN pundit Steve Nicol’s reservations, Kos has put his ‘wet lettuce’ days behind him. He’s now a 21-karat (carrot?) defender! He faces a late fitness test on his calf and if he doesn’t make it then Mertesacker will step in with his size 12s.
CB: Vermaelen – The new skipper has mostly been an inspiration since his arrival. He’s ready to lead this new-look team to success.
LB: Gibbs – The Englishman is a bit more reliable defensively than our other option, Andre Santos. I’d consider playing the Brazilian though, as he’s too talented to leave out.
RM: Walcott – If he’s recovered from his thigh knock, he has to play. He has to sign a new contract too, or gawd knows who we will sell him to! The club has to stop letting this sort of thing happen!
RCM: Arteta – I predicted he’d be our new skipper, but it makes sense to give it to Vermaelen, I suppose. We rarely lose with Mikel in the team.
CM: Cazorla – This guy has got to play! He looked amazing against Cologne. He could be the signing of the season!
LCM: Oxlade-Chamberlain – If he’s recovered from his ankle injury, he may be selected. Then again, Wenger might opt for someone more defensive like Francis Coquelin. I can see the logic in keeping the Ox on the bench to use as an ‘impact’ sub.
LM: Gervinho – The Ivorian has had a good pre-season, so I can’t see Wenger leaving him out.
ST: Podolski – His performance against his old club justifies his selection. He simply has to play, but Wenger might stick him out on the left wing if he play Giroud.
Prediction: 2-1 to Arsenal: Goals from Arteta & Podolski!