After a last-gasp victory over the MLS All-Stars, Arsenal will aim to finish its United States tour on a high when taking on Mexican giants Chivas de Guadalajara in Los Angeles on Sunday night. A late goal from 20-year-old striker Chuba Akpom allowed Arsenal to get its first win of preseason in the showpiece All-Star game in San Jose on Thursday. And in the midst of far from ideal preparations for the new season, manager Arsene Wenger will hope to see more positive strides from his team exactly two weeks before its Premier League season starts at home to Liverpool.
The mood surrounding the club has been far from wholly optimistic in recent weeks, with injuries being compounded by an all-too familiar lack of activity in the transfer market. Wenger confirmed upon arrival in Los Angeles on Saturday that Per Mertesacker will miss the rest of 2016 a knee injury. With Laurent Koscielny still recuperating from Euro 2016 and Gabriel Paulista back in London with tonsillitis, Arsenal began against the MLS All-Stars with 21-year-old Calum Chambers and 20-year-old new signing Rob Holding in the center of defense.
“I don’t count that Per will be back before the end of the year and I will miss him deeply, we have lost a heavyweight in our dressing room,” Wenger said at a press conference ahead of Sunday's clash at StubHub Center, home of the LA Galaxy.
Wenger has stated his desire to sign an experienced center-back, but there has yet been no word on any arrival. Indeed, in a mirror image of last summer when Arsenal signed Petr Cech early on and then remained dormant for the rest of the transfer window, Wenger has so far only captured midfielder Granit Xhaka. But Wenger has again asked for patience from supporters, while decrying the high fees being paid in the current transfer market.
“We are still in the market for players, whether it is at the front or the back,” he added. “Unfortunately we are not alone. I can understand the expectation level and anxiety level of our fans because they see other clubs bringing players in.
“Despite all the money clubs have, not too much has happened until now. We know from experience the most active period is in the last week of August and at the moment it is still a big poker game everywhere. The best way to conclude transfers is not to talk about it, but we are in the market. Do I think we will sign an experienced central defender before the season starts? Yes, I do.”
Xhaka made his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt on Thursday. And Wenger later declared himself happy with the performance of the Swiss midfielder, who came on at halftime against the All-Stars but could well earn his first start on Sunday.
“He did adjust very well,” Wenger said after Thursday's encounter. “His passing was clean and technically he did well. Overall I believe his first game was encouraging.”
If Arsenal is currently going through a difficult time, then it is nothing compared to the past week for its opponents on Sunday. After a 4-1 home defeat to Jaguares de Chiapas on Monday, Chivas then went down 4-0 on the road to Tijuana in league action on Friday. After three games of the Liga MX Apertura season, Chivas has just one win. Having returned to the playoffs in the Clausura last season, it has been a hugely disappointing start for one of the pillars of the Mexican game.
Following the crushing defeat at the hands of Tijuana, Chivas coach Matias Almeyda put full responsibility on his shoulders. And, while the match with Arsenal won't matter nearly as much as a game back in Liga MX against Querataro next Saturday, he will surely be eager for a morale boost.
Almeyda, too, will have particular reason for wanting to get a positive result against the Gunners. The former Argentina midfielder was a part of the Inter Milan side that was famously humbled 5-1 by a Thierry Henry-inspired Arsenal in the Champions League 13 years ago.
Kickoff Time: 9 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: Fox, Univision Deportes
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer 2Go, Univision.com