THE first game of the Premier League season kicks off tonight – the only time an inaugural top flight game has been played on a Friday – when Arsenal host Leicester at the Emirates.
The Gunners are my tip for the title, but I think they will find it tough against Craig Shakespeare’s men, given their ever-growing injury list.
Alexis Sanchez, the subject of much summer transfer speculation, is out with an abdominal strain sustained in pre-season.
Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all struggling for fitness, whilst Laurent Koslcieny is banned.
But the good news for Arsenal fans is that they will probably get a first Emirates look at Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac who are expected to make their league debuts.
The arrival of Lacazette, in particular, has created quite a stir and supporters are interested to see if he lives up to his pre-match billing.
Danny Drinkwater, linked with a move to Chelsea, and Vicente Aborra are unavailable for Leicester because of muscle issues.
All part of the pre-season problems every manager faces as players push themselves a little too hard in the build-up to the new campaign. Happens every year.
One of the big talking points, from a Leicester perspective concerns Riyad Mahrez who seems to have made it clear he wants out. Roma are watching and waiting.
Mahrez is expected to play – has trained hard according to Shakespeare – whilst new record signing Kelechi Iheanacho should make his Foxes’ debut along with fellow new signing Harry Maguire.
In his pre-match press conference and as quoted on the BBC Sport website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40822513 – Arsene Wenger said he was unsure what targets to set his side.
He just wants his players to focus on their quality and have the desire to win every game. Surely not another ‘Invincibles’ season.
He said ahead of tonight’s opening game at the Emirates: “How strong the other teams are is very difficult to predict because some have been very active in the transfer market. How will that transform in quality? It’s very difficult to predict.”