Arsenal kick off their Premier League season by welcoming Leicester City to The Emirates, and Arsene Wenger will be keen to arrest one startling stat.
The Gunners have won just once in the last eight opening day games – a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace two seasons previously – and maximum points in this game will be huge with so many rivals jostling for honours this year.
Our win over Chelsea in lifting the Community Shield will have filled our players with belief and confidence, but we will have to make do without some of our big names.
Alexis Sanchez is sidelined with an abdominal strain and could miss the next game against Stoke City also. Mesut Ozil is a doubt with an ankle complaint as well, but by beating Chelsea without our stars, we showed that we can cope without them if we need to. Aaron Ramsey is another who is a doubt, and Shkodran Mustafi’s lack of minutes in pre-season could put paid to his hopes of starting the game.
With Gabriel still missing and Laurent Koscielny suspended, it means Per Mertesacker will be given every chance to prove his fitness after his facial injury from last weekend. Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere are both making good progress in their respective injury returns, but both are not near to being considered for selection.
Arsene Wenger mentioned in his press conference that his focus will be fielding a side that has had as many minutes in pre-season as possible, with perhaps one or two inclusions that are a doubt. We may see Mesut Ozil after all….
Foxes boss Craig Shakespeare is sweating on the fitness of new signing Kelechi Iheanacho, but in Jamie Vardy he has an able body to fulfill striking duties. Fellow new boy Harry Maguire will line up in the centre of defence with Robert Huth out, and Alexandre Lacazette will be given a real test of his physicality with Maguire and Morgan facing him.
Arsenal in recent years have found the games against Leicester tight affairs, with a goalless draw and a 1-0 win the results against them last season. Then there was the fairtytale extra-time ending from two years ago when Danny Welbeck scored a 93rd minute winner. Make no mistake, this game will be a toughie.
A winning start is imperative, but then again, we could say the same before every game of the season. The bottom line though, is that winning is a habit. We know that when we are on a roll, we get better and better. It is the starting of the winning habit that is hard to pick up. Let us hope we grab the three points tonight and start a roll that is hard to arrest.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Elneny, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Iwobi, Lacazette.
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal.