New season fixtures, Walcott fit for England – AFC

Well the fixture list was revealed for the 2012/13 season, the wheels are in motion and we have our first reason to get excited about a new campaign. We really have been blessed this summer in terms of the European championships filling a massive void AND the added distraction of the London Olympics to come to further quell the football cravings.

The release of the football league fixtures is the first sign of closure from the last season and an indicator that we have it all to come again. We now have something to discuss other than the countless transfer rumours that drag on and on.

The rumours that flooded twitter and other social media networks were confirmed correct as Arsenal were scheduled to kick off the new season at the emirates against Sunderland. Shout out to RedAction for the scoop.

http://www.arsenal.com/fixtures/fixtures-reports

It’s always nice to start off the season with a home game, a chance to put three points on the board and start the season as you mean to go on. The only problem is that from the next four following games we have away fixtures against Stoke, Liverpool and Manchester city. As hard a run as you could imagine and a real test of the mettle and resolve of the Arsenal. If we can come through that test with minimum damage it can bode well for the rest of the season. Each of those three away fixtures are potential banana skins in any season so to have them out of the way early can potentially be a good thing.

We have the added bonus this season of no qualifiers for the champion’s league. That is something that really affected our start to the last season as transfers were dependant on qualification and the futures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas weren’t concluded. It was quite a mess and an embarrassment to the Arsenal that preparation to a season was so up in the air. This time around transfer business should be concluded nice and early, morale should be a lot better and no qualifiers will be in place to upset our momentum.

So what of the other fixtures? The first north London derby takes place at the Emirates on the 17th November; our chance for redemption at Old Trafford takes place on the 3rd November. I’ve always been scared of November when it comes to Arsenal; in seasons past it is usually the month when things start to wobble a bit. Last season we managed to come through unscathed but maybe it was the football gods balancing things out after our wretched start.

The Christmas holiday schedule doesn’t seem too bad with two home games leading up to the New Year. West Ham visits on Boxing Day while Newcastle visit 3 days later. The holidays conclude with a New Year’s Day trip to Southampton.

The final run in seems to contain winnable games with the exception of a home game with Manchester united set for the end of April. Of course we can beat Manchester united at home but it won’t be one of the easier games. The final fixture of the season scares me, an away trip to Newcastle. If we find ourselves in the chase for any silverware or placing needing a result at the St James Park it will be very tough. There is no guarantee Newcastle will match the heights of last season but one thing that is certain is Alan Pardew will not let his team roll over for us. Ever since his touchline spat with Arsene Wenger when at West Ham a few years back a bad feeling still exists between the managers and Pardew always ensures he gives Arsenal as much trouble as possible.

Theo Walcott was passed fit for England which is great news; I do however feel that Roy Hodgson will not start the Arsenal man against the Ukraine. Hodgson will go for the cautious approach but I will expect to see Walcott or Oxlade-chamberlain to make an appearance at some point in the game. If you are going to be neutral fans watching the game today drink some coffee and/or Red bull, it’s not going to be a pretty match.

As witnessed in the past couple nights these final group fixtures have been tense affairs, everything is at stake and so the football will be nervy and downright energy sapping. I hope for all our sakes I am wrong and the game will be an open entertaining end to end spectacle, I’m clutching at straws now.

Enjoy your day people

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Walcott scare, M’vila close, Van Persie to sort out future soon – AFC

Theo Walcott has caused concern in the England camp after limping off from training citing a tightness of the hamstring as the cause. For Theo to miss out in the next game would be a big blow after the impact he made in the last game against the Swedes. The biggest message you can send out to the manager when you are aggrieved at not starting games is to show him what you can do when you come on the pitch. Walcott’s goal and assist was the perfect response and a chance in the starting line up for the next game was not an impossible outcome.

We all now know Roy Hodgson has carefully selected the best teams in his opinion that was best suited to play to his specific tactics. James Milner has left many scratching their heads at his worth to the team given his unspectacular performances. In his defence he has played to Roy’s expectation and is more unsung in the role he is asked to play. He has been a helpful assistance to Glen Johnson on the defensive side and can whip in a decent cross on the offensive side of England’s game. There are times when Milner’s robotic attention to detail is required and times when the more gifted, talented attacking players are needed.

I think that maybe Milner would have been selected ahead of Theo for the Ukraine game anyway due to the fact England won’t be going into the game desperate for a win. They wont need to get at the Ukrainians from the start so I feel Hodgson will opt for a more cautious approach from the off. Rooney will probably start but in midfield personnel will probably be the same as was used for the Sweden game.

It would still be a shame if Hodgson didn’t even have that dilemma to contemplate a switch but any impending injury will save him from criticism if England failed to qualify and he did not start the Arsenal forward. Theo did give us a scare during the Sweden game when he went down clutching his leg but that injury at the time was from his calf so today’s is unrelated. Theo has seemed to aggravate the hamstring which kept him out of the team during the tail end of the season; hopefully this has been spotted early enough to not keep him out any longer than Tuesday’s game.

The news has filtered around that Arsenal’s first game of the season will be a home game against Sunderland. Source of this is from RedAction who may well be correct but since the fixtures will be released today 9am UK time I see no need to read into this too much. I’ll prefer to wait and see when they are out which will probably be by the time you read this post. I will be more interested in the games that occur around our jinx month November, The Christmas and New Year’s fixtures and the run in towards the end of the season.

It was nice to hear quotes from M’Vila that he is aware of Arsenals interest and that he would be interested in a move to the emirates.

He said:

 “I like Arsenal and I like the premier league”.

He then followed up with:

“I don’t know what is happening with the clubs, but yes I would be interested in the premier league and Arsenal.”

That’s the most positive quotes from all the players that have been linked to Arsenal since the season end so far. I now believe that transfer will happen once the Euros are over, not before though.

Robin Van Persie’s Holland team bowed out of the Euros with a whimper last night. I think many Arsenal fans secretly wanted the dutch to leave the competition early so that the future of our skipper could be sorted out as soon as possible. After Robin’s amazing season for Arsenal a lot was expected of the dutch master at Euro 2012. Even he must admit he hasn’t covered himself in glory at the tournament and his stock and ego has suffered a bit of a hit. Lets hope he can now decide whether he wants to stay at Arsenal quickly and look forward to atone for his disappointment as soon as possible.

Enjoy your day people.

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Update: RedAction were right. It has now been confirmed Sunderland home is the first game followed by two away trips to Stoke and Liverpool. Final game will be away to Newcastle. I will need time to digest to run the rule over the fixtures and will comment in a future post.