15 August 2014

Friday Throwdown: 2014/15 Arsenal EPL Preview, Pt. 3

Andy and I found it very hard to stop once we'd started discussing Arsenal's upcoming season, so here is the final piece of the preview. If you missed any of yesterday's posts, Part 1 is here, in which we discuss transfer, 'keepers and defenders, and Part 2, which covers midfield and attack, is here. In the third and final part, we look at the fixture list and Arsenal's final league position.

Gooners will be hoping to see a full season
from the Welsh Jesus
(Credit: Wikipedia)
Andy: We may have our quibbles, Sam, but it appears that we are both positive about Arsenal's chances this season. Looking at the fixtures, are there any tough stretches you see that could trip us up, or vitally timed blocks of games that will be important to potential title aspirations?

Sam: A cursory glance over the fixture list doesn't show too many clumps of big fixtures together, which is a nice change from last year. Last season, the Gunners faced runs like Liverpool-Man U-Liverpool-Bayern in the space of 11 days in February, then Everton-Bayern-Spurs-Chelsea-Swansea-City-Everton in the space of a calendar month. That is a hellacious stretch of fixtures, even if you have a full-strength squad, which Arsenal certainly did not have at the time. For title considerations this time round, though, the run-in looks harder than in recent seasons; Arsenal are due to face Chelsea at home and Man Utd away in the last 5 games of the season. Liverpool also visit the Emirates in early April, and those fixtures could have a large part to play in the final destination of the league trophy. Depending on what happens in the Champions League, and fixture changes, we could end up with a few more Saturday midday kick-offs after European travel. But we won't know what will happen there for a few weeks. Is there anything that stands out for you on the fixture list?

14 August 2014

Thursday Throwdown: 2014/15 Arsenal EPL Preview, Pt. 2

Mesut has already stated his intent to improve
on his first season in England
(Credit: Wikipedia)
To make this extra-long Thursday Throwdown easier for you to read, we've decided to split in to several parts. In part 1, Andy and I got as far as discussing the transfers, goalkeepers and defense. Here, we move further up the pitch, and take a look at midfield and attack...

Sam: Stepping up the pitch to midfield, I think it's safe to assume that the deeper roles will be occupied by Arteta and Ramsey during the season's opener on Saturday. Ramsey looks like he hasn't missed a step this summer, with a great goal against City last weekend; his first touch to lift it over his defender's foot was perfect and showed great speed of thought, while his finish was exactly what we Gooners have come to expect when we see him in those positions. I assume you agree with me on those selections Andy? I'll also go on a limb and assume you agree with me that further forward, Arsenal's best options are Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, and Alexis Sanchez...

Thursday Throwdown: 2014/15 Arsenal EPL Preview

Following on from this week's club-by-club previews (in case you missed them, part 1 is here, part 2 here and part 3 can be found here), regular Thursday Throwdown columnists Andy and Sam took some time this week to discuss Arsenal's prospects for the upcoming season. Unsurprisingly, this was a very long conversation. The first part follows here, the second part will come later today. There may well be a part 3, which will go up tomorrow.

Giroud and the boys celebrate his stunner against City
in the Community Shield.
(Credit: The Score)
Sam: All this week, One Club on Boylston have been looking forward to the new season with club-by-club previews. Today, we focus on the club that gets us all up at ungodly hours to watch; Arsenal. There's a lot of optimism around the Club and its fans after finally ending the trophy drought last season with the FA Cup, beating Manchester City in the Community Shield and the transfer dealings done by Arsène Wenger. Let's focus on that last point first, Andy. For once, Arsenal have done most of their business early in the window, rather than leaving it to deadline day, and there are still two weeks left to bring in some new players, should Wenger feel the need to (now we have only two centre backs, let's hope he does). We discussed the signing of Sanchez a few weeks ago, but let's talk about the other new signings. What are your thoughts on Wenger's transfer business?

Andy: I think it's hard to be upset with the way Arsenal have attacked the transfer market so far this summer, so long as those operative words "so far" are included. The Sanchez signing was important, both from a strategic view and as a statement of intent; Calum Chambers is looking better and better, though the phrase "it's only preseason" should appear in all CAPS after any gushing treatment of him; bringing in Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina was smart as they were necessary moves to shore up weaknesses left by players transferring out. All very well done and boosts to the squad going forward.

13 August 2014

2014-15 Barclays Premier League Preview, Part 3

Bojan is one of more intriguing
signings of the summer
(Credit: Wikipedia)
With the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League kicking off this Saturday, One Club on Boylston will be previewing each team's chances this season, looking at their performances last season and the business conducted during the transfer window so far. Part 1 went up on Monday, Part 2 was yesterday, and Part 3, featuring Stoke City through West Ham United. Come back tomorrow for the Arsenal season preview - the one we actually care about - when Andy will join me for our regular Thursday Throwdown column.

Incidentally, this is One Club on Boylston's 100th post. Thanks for sticking with us and giving our writers an audience to share their thoughts with, and for making them feel important because they have an audience. Here's to the next 100 posts. Thank you, Boston Gooners!

Stoke City: Stoke are coming off their highest ever finish in the Premier League era, after ending the season ninth in Mark Hughes’ first season as manager. The Potters have had a relatively successful summer, signing Mame Biram Diouf, Steve Sidwell and Phil Bardsley on frees, while agreeing undisclosed deals for Dionatan Teixeira (Google tells me he’s a Brazilian-born Slovak U21 defender from a club called Dukla Banská Bystrica - OK!) and former Barcelona striker Bojan Krkić. The Bojan signing is interesting: for Stoke, it something of a coup to sign a player who has played for Barca, Roma, AC Milan and Ajax; for the player himself, though, it says a lot about the direction his career has taken after exploding on to the scene not long after his 17th birthday. If Bojan can revitalize his career just a bit, then Stoke have a good chance of improving on their ninth-placed finish of last season. One of our regulars has them finishing as high as 6th; OCoB can’t see them qualifying for Europe, so has Stoke a more realistic 8th.

12 August 2014

2014-15 Barclays Premier League Preview, Part 2

City fans will be hoping for a repeat of scenes like these
(Credit: Wikipedia)
With the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League kicking off this Saturday, One Club on Boylston will be previewing each team's chances this season, looking at their performances last season and the business conducted during the transfer window so far. Part 1 was posted yesterday, Part 2 features Liverpool through the team that Liverpool have mercilessly decimated this summer (Southampton), and Part 3 is coming tomorrow. Come back on Thursday for an in-depth discussion between Andy and I, regarding Arsenal's prospects for the season.

Liverpool: AKA Liverhampton. The Anfield club have made a determined effort to build on their second-placed finish of last season by selling their best player and top-scorer by snatching up most of the core of the squad that impressed many by finishing 8th. It was the right time for the Reds to sell Suarez, and they did well to get £75m for a player who won’t even be able to train with his new club until late October. However, his 31 league goals will be incredibly difficult to replace, so while £4m for Rickie Lambert represents decent business, there is still a gaping hole upfront. Brendan Rodgers will hope that new signings Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Emre Can will create and add goals from midfield, Dejan Lovren will add stability to a back line that conceded a lot of goals last season, while the exciting Belgian talent Divock Origi has been signed from and immediately loaned back to Lille. The full-back position has also been strengthened, with Spaniards Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo moving to Merseyside, and Rodgers is rumored to be interested in Barcelona’s Dani Alves. Liverpool are also being linked with most of the top strikers in Europe to replace Suarez, but nothing has transpired so far. While Liverpool fans will surely enjoy the business that has been done and be glad to see the back of the controversial Suarez, it is hard to see them replicating their success of last season due to the clubs around them doing better business and not losing their best players; a Champions League qualifying finish may even be out of their reach.

11 August 2014

2014-15 Barclays Premier League Preview, Part 1

A new season begins, and this
is what everyone is playing for
(Credit: Neil Turner)
With the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League kicking off this Saturday, One Club on Boylston (OCoB) will be previewing each team's chances this season, looking at their performances last season and the business conducted during the transfer window so far. Part 1 features Aston Villa through Leicester, Part 2 comes tomorrow and Part 3 will go up Wednesday. Andy and I will discuss Arsenal in a more in-depth preview as part of our regular Thursday Throwdown column.
Aston Villa: The Villains enter the new season under some uncertainty; owner Randy Lerner put the club up for sale in May, though there have been no bids so far. Lerner claims that he and the management team - including new assistant manager Roy Keane - are fully focused on the upcoming, and not the sale. Villa have added former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos and Joe Cole on free transfers, as well as Kieran Richardson from Fulham, and will hope that last summer’s signing Jores Okore can make a contribution after rupturing knee ligaments in just his 4th match for the club and missing the whole season. Christian Benteke’s services have been retained, and manager Paul Lambert will hope that the Belgian can return to the form of a few seasons ago, rather than last season’s lackluster performances. If he can rediscover his goal-scoring form, the Villains will be confident of improving on last season’s 15th-place finish.

07 August 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Sano-Goals Galore

There are no free-to-use pictures of Yaya or Joel,
so have some Gunnersaurus to lighten up your Thursday
(Credit: Wonker)
Sam: Arsenal fans got their first glimpse of several senior players at the Emirates Cup, against relatively high-strength and high-reputation European clubs. While the first game was a fun 5-1 win against Europa League finalists Benfica, featuring 4 goals from the somewhat-maligned Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell finally making his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt, Sunday's game was a disappointing defeat to a Monaco side, who, it should be noted, start their season next weekend so are a few weeks ahead of the Gunners in terms of preparation and fitness. So, Andy, let's start with our goal scorers. How impressed were you with our young strikers in the match they played?

Andy: I've always felt a little bit bad for Yaya and it's never had anything to do with his ability. Once he worked his way into the first team last year, he was a useful player that could control the ball up top and work off of Olivier Giroud when put in that situation. He looked like what he was: a young, raw player that needed matches and additional training in order to progress to the point where we could truly judge his talent. The pity comes from how harshly he has been judged by a segment of the Arsenal fans simply because he had the bad luck of being Arsène's only forward signing during a transfer window when pretty much everyone agreed that the Gunners needed another striker. He became the butt of jokes aimed at Wenger's youth policy and got a lot more stick than he deserved.