Friday, August 17, 2012

All Things Arsenal & EPL Preview

Its been a very busy summer in London but for Arsenal Football Club it has had very little to do with the Summer Games.  There are several new faces among the ranks of the Gunners, another successful preseason term has finished, a revolutionary new kit style has been launched, and we are on the eve of the kickoff to the new season!

New Boys in North London

Kyle Bartley- Ok, so this young defender is not exactly "new", but the Arsenal youth has been promoted to the first team after gaining valuable experience during a successful loan season with the Glasgow Rangers.

Santi Cazorla- The Spanish international comes to London after eight years of terrorizing defenses in La Liga play.  The quick-footed midfielder has featured for Villarreal and the Spanish national team, but the 2007 Spanish Player of the Year has most recently spent time with Malaga, finishing his best season to date with nine goals en route to Malaga's Champions League Qualification, the first ever in club history.

Lukas Podolski- Undoubtedly Arsenal's biggest summer signing, the deadly left-footed forward is well known for his exploits with the German national team as well as his signature strikes in the Bundesliga. Coming of age in Cologne's youth system, the Polish-born footballer made a name for himself there.  After spending a season with Bayern Munich, Podolski returned to Cologne and has established a record of scoring nearly every other game.  His experience and eye for goal will prove instrumental in the Arsenal attack this year.

Olivier Giroud- The French striker joins the Gunners from Ligue 1 champions Montpellier.  It was a banner year for the title holders and for Giroud as well, leading the league with 25 goals in 43 appearances.  Already teammates with Laurent Koscielny for Les Blues, Giroud is sure to fit well into the Arsenal system and at 6'3, his height will lend itself to an already stacked Gunners offense.

Preseason Results

Pre-season FriendlyASouthampton11
(This was a 45 minute match)
Pre-season FriendlyAAnderlecht10
(This was a 45 minute match)
Pre-season FriendlyAMalaysia XI21
Pre-season FriendlyNManchester City02
Pre-season FriendlyNKitchee FC22
Pre-season FriendlyAFC Cologne4  0
Winning the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup, Arsenal began their preseason campaign on the right foot  with scrimmages against Anderlecht and Southampton.  Then embarking on another Asia tour, the Gunners revisited Malaysia XI, challenged Manchester City in a marquee match in Beijing, and finished the trip with a draw against Hong Kong's Kitchee FC.  Ever fielding a youthful starting XI, Chuks Aneke and Thomas Eisfeld were particularly impressive throughout the campaign.  Pleased with the tour, Wenger believes the physical challenge of the summer tour will give Arsenal an edge heading into Premier League play in August.  Rounding out the preseason with a friendly against FC Cologne, Lukas Podolski put two past his former club in an impressive debut with Arsenal.  

The Gunners will open the 2012/13 Season at home hosting Sunderland this Saturday at the Emirates.  Thomas Vermalen, the 'Verminator', will lead the squad with Mikel Arteta serving as vice-captain.  Sunday August 26 Arsenal will travel to face Stoke City, premiering their bold "Purple Reign" away kits.  While Robin Van Persie's defection to Manchester United is incredibly disappointing, this season promises to be as exciting as ever as the Gunners will take on four different competitions, looking to end a recent trophy drought.

EPL Preview

That being said, here's a rundown of the other sides you'll see in the English Premier League this year:  

Aston Villa-typically a mid-table team, Villa will search for consistency and perhaps a berth in the Europa League.

Chelsea-the Blues lifted the Champions League crown last year despite turmoil on and off the pitch.  Could Torres and Co. come up big with another trophy this year?

Everton-another mid-table contender, Everton have an interesting mix of international talent and are always fun to watch.

Fulham-with Clint Dempsey at a personal best after a scoring frenzy last season, Fulham have the potential for some major upsets if that form carries over the break.

Liverpool-still retooling from the financial fallout of recent years, the Reds have struggled to reestablish their identity on the pitch.  If money troubles are left behind, Liverpool are usually tough at home and away.  

Manchester City-defending title holders, City will look to build on last year's success.  But even with all the cash pumped into their lineup, I'd still hesitate to call it beautiful football.

Manchester United-smarting from an empty-handed campaign, United look to challenge opponents on all with the aid of Robin Van Persie.

Newcastle United-The 'Toon are on the ascendency.  Premier League beware, they may just be the team to beat.   

Norwich City-surprising most with an impressive season in top flight, the Canaries will aim even higher this year, perhaps challenging for a Europa spot.  

Queens Park Rangers-QPR surprised us last year by surviving the drop.  The right results could mean the Rangers are up to stay.

Reading-returning to top flight after several year's absence, Reading will be pleased to stay afloat.  

Southampton-these guys are the real danger coming up from the Championship.  Despite the odds, their lightning offense may well undue their EPL foes.

Stoke City-for better or worse, Stoke have lodged themselves firmly in the middle of the pack in recent years.  Look for another repeat performance.  

Sunderland-the Black Cats have a lot of talent, but it will take some effort to turn potential into the right results.  

Swansea-the Welsh side thrived in their Premier League debut, claiming several premium scalps.  Another season at the top will only strengthen this team.

Tottenham Hotsp*r-I've nothing good to say here, but that should be expected.  The perennially disappointing Spuds are set to underwhelm again this term.  

West Bromwich Albion-considering the strength of the opposition, the Baggies will do well to avoid the drop, but they seem to be no stranger to surprising results.  

West Ham United-the Hammers have broken out of the Championship yet again, lets hope they keep their heads above water.  

Wigan Athletic-oh Wigan...with one of the fieriest managers on the island, can Wigan put together a solid run?  Or will their play test the health of their faithful fans?

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