Arsenal start the new season by welcoming London rivals Crystal Palace to Emirates Stadium in Saturday evening, with Arsene Wenger’s side looking to build on their Community Shield win this past weekend.
Fans will have been pleased by the transfer business completed by the club this summer, with Alexis Sanchez being the pick of the bunch. But even so, there is still a keenness to see further areas of the pitch addressed, namely centre-back and defensive midfield.
But even with late World Cup arrivals and the injury to Theo Walcott, Wenger still has a strong squad from which to choose.
Here’s a look at what would be the dream starting XI for Arsenal on Saturday…
Though it’s always going to be near-impossible to eradicate the wackiness from a goalkeeper’s game, Wojciech Szczesny put forward a strong performance against Manchester City on Sunday.
David Ospina has also been signed as an alternative goalkeeper this summer, but the Colombian international is short of fitness, meaning Szczesny keeps his place in goal. The Pole, however, will be mindful of Ospina’s quality. The former Nice ‘keeper hasn’t come to north London to play backup.
Last season proved to be a turning point for Szczesny, and he’ll be keen to continue in the same form throughout this season, starting with the opener against Crystal Palace.
New signing Mathieu Debuchy will go straight into the team having replaced Bacary Sagna as Arsenal’s first-choice right-back this summer.
The French international has plenty of Premier League experience with Newcastle, and also formed a positive attacking understanding with Alexis Sanchez this past weekend.
Fans will no doubt have been happy with what they’ve seen from Debuchy, and there will be little concern for the right-back spot with him fully fit.
Per Mertesacker’s recent return to training and the sale of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona means Arsene Wenger has little other choice but to turn to Calum Chambers at centre-back once again.
Worryingly, however, there are doubts about Laurent Koscielny’s fitness ahead of the opening game, having picked up an Achilles injury against Manchester City. With little else to turn to, the club will be hoping the French international will be ready for the Crystal Palace game.
And considering how well Chambers has performed in pre-season, there should be little worry about the young right-back filling in at the heart of the defence.
Nacho Monreal saw plenty of game time during pre-season, even at centre-back, but Kieran Gibbs is still the team’s first-choice right-back.
Gibbs will be hoping to put to bed his injury worries of the past and build on the positives of last season. Having taken on the number 3 shirt from the departed Bacary Sagna, he’ll be looking to kick on and take his game to the next level.
With Arsene Wenger yet to sign a defensive midfielder, Mikel Arteta, as newly-appointed club captain, will continue to fill in at that role.
The Spaniard has been a regular in the Arsenal team since arriving from Everton, but has slowed down somewhat this past year. Even so, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a contributor during the upcoming season, especially in low-key games.
He’ll rely on the industry or others alongside him, but the veteran midfielder will still bring a calming presence to the team, and his experience will prove valuable.
Jack Wilshere had a positive game against Manchester City in the Community Shield on the weekend, doing enough to earn a starting place against Crystal Palace on Saturday. The England international has generated plenty of doubt, but Arsene Wenger has assured fans that Wilshere is in peak physical condition.
Wilshere undoubtedly has the talent, but he’ll need to step up his game and prove that he can be a regular in Arsenal’s starting XI. With a handful of players still unavailable, this is a good chance for him to stake a claim early on.
Aaron Ramsey completes a midfield three, which would make the most sense considering those who are unavailable to Arsene Wenger.
The midfielder has picked up where he left last season by scoring the second goal in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Manchester City on the weekend, and at this point, he’s arguably the team’s most important player. He’s one of the first names on the team sheet.
Ramsey will help out defensively too. There may not be a lot of strength in this midfield, but Arsenal should be able to dominate the middle of the pitch. There is more than enough quality to see off the threat of Crystal Palace.
Fans will be eager to see Alexis Sanchez make his Premier League debut this weekend. The Chilean, though not fully fit, excited many with his first-half performance against Manchester City.
Although he can be deployed as a centre-forward, Alexis may be better served on the right of the attack for his first league game. He’ll add the pace to the attack and has already shown how well he can link up with others.
The former Barcelona forward’s trickery and explosive attacking play will do a lot to worry Premier League defences this season.
Like Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla evidently loves playing at Wembley. The Spaniard grabbed the first of Arsenal’s three in the win over Manchester City, and should once again take up a place on the left of the attack this weekend.
Cazorla has been a topic of transfer debate this summer, with Atletico Madrid particularly interested. But thus far Wenger has shown little to no interest in selling the playmaker, and his performance last weekend should be another reminder of just how valuable Cazorla is to the team.
Olivier Giroud’s confidence should be at a high following his goal in the Community Shield. The Frenchman is clearly short of match fitness and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wenger opt for Yaya Sanogo instead. But Giroud is the senior of the two forwards and is still much better than Sanogo.
This will be an important season for Giroud, as despite recording impressive numbers in his two-year spell in the Premier League, he has plenty of detractors.
The first game of the season will be another opportunity to silence the doubters, adding further to his wonder strike last weekend.