The first game of the season is never the proper time to judge a team, especially if the starting lineup is in so much flux like Arsenal's is. But that doesn't mean we can't make judgments about the performance against Sunderland. Here are five observations from today's game.
Where is Lady Luck? - The Gunners had plenty of chances, the most notable of which was Olivier Giroud missing in Fernando Torres-like fashion. Santi Cazorla had a couple shots deflected by Simon Mignolet and Gervinho practically lived inside the box. Arsenal just had the most difficult time being creative in the final third, but Sunderland parked the bus and defended admirably.
Finally, we can relax.
Everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief now that Arsenal has sold its top goal scorer from last season in Robin van Persie to Manchester United. Arsenal will get £24 million pounds and United has the marquee signing it has been looking for all summer. It will now be a serious threat to knock off Manchester City for the Premier League title. But Arsenal got the better deal, and here's why.
Van Persie is 29 and has been prone to injuries his whole career. His 37 total goals last season was his best output by far and it is doubtful he will be able to replicate that total in the future. Yes, United will have another world-class player but it remains to be seen whether he can work with Wayne Rooney without hiccups. However, it's possible Rooney could move to central midfield when van Persie is also on the pitch. He will be a good player, but the truth is that van Persie's prime is moving into his rear-view mirror.
While rumors float about of world-powerhouse Barcelona having interest in Arsenal midfielder Alex Song, head coach Arsene Wenger should have a plan in place in the event of his departure. With that in mind, here are three players who could potentially fill the defensive midfielder's shoes.
Yann M'Vila - The young Rennes midfielder is similar to Song in that his job is to win the ball back and begin the attack from the deep end of midfield. M'Vila is the bully on the pitch. But if Arsenal does sign him eventually, he won't have Song's bleached, sprouting dreads we've all come to know and love.
Nuri Sahin - Another option for the Gunners would be a loan move for Real Madrid's Nuri Sahin if Song leaves. Sahin is an attacking midfielder with the ability to score goals and he has been compared to Cesc Fabregas. But now that Santi Cazorla has joined Arsenal from Malaga, there may be less of a need for Sahin.
The year was 1996. Shaquille O'Neal had just been announced as the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first full day of the Atlanta Olympics. Just four years into his career, he was already one of, if not the, most dominant players in the game. He left an Orlando Magic team that made it to the 1995 NBA Finals only to be swept by the Houston Rockets with him leading the way. Shaq played like a monster in his first finals appearance as he averaged 28 points, 12.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists. To put it simply, this was his emergence as one of the greats. At this point in his career, he couldn't count himself as one of the all-time greats, but he most certainly was one of the league's best at the time. But he became a free agent in 1996 and spurned the Magic for Lakerland. Orlando had let one of the greatest centers NBA history walk.
The first regular-season games of the Barclays Premier League kicks off next Saturday and there is no doubt many of us are excited. So with nine days until the season kicks off, what situations should we keep an eye on? Here are five story lines that will surely make us wonder up to next Saturday and beyond.
Will Manchester City defend its title? - After winning the Premier League title last season on goal difference, Manchester City has had bragging rights since May. But with virtually every other team in the top six from last season making improvements, will City, which has made zero transfers, be able to sweep through teams as easily as it did last season? Head coach Roberto Mancini has been frustrated by his inability to get another high-profile name into a sky-blue kit, but with the riches at his disposal, it's only a matter of time until City makes a transfer. But will it be enough to keep other teams at arms length?