FM17 – Arsenal (August ’16)

Here we go then. We’ll start off in our default shape, with a team that’s as close to first choice as is possible. Michael Keane gets a debut in place of Koscielny.

West Brom 1-1 Arsenal

Well, that wasn’t very good. The first half is dominated by thoroughly underwhelming set pieces. Ozil and Cazorla are guilty of terrible deliveries time and time again. We’re having more possession, but not creating a whole lot with it. I give the lads a piece of my mind at half time, and it seems to spur them on a bit.

We create more chances in the next 20 minutes than the whole of the first half, but then West Brom hit us on the counter and James Morrison puts us 1-0 down, with what turns out to be the only decent chance of the match.

I’ve already thrown Lucas and Belotti on for Walcott and the woeful Giroud, and I add Ramsey in a desperate attempt at getting more bodies forward. This has no impact, however, with a minute on the clock and my hope all but evaporated, Kieran Gibbs whips in a beautiful cross and Andrea Belotti spares our blushes with a clinical header.

Tony Pulis and I trade a few insults for the next couple of days. He’s apparently convinced they deserved to win it. No Tony, that’s the fouls stats you’re looking at. I start a list…

Next up is Bournemouth at home. This should be one of our easiest fixtures. On paper at least. But if you’re not paying attention, paper will cut you wide open and leave you bleeding, with tears in your eyes. Ramsey comes in for Cazorla, who really did nothing against West Brom, but the rest of the team get a second chance.

Arsenal 4-0 Bournemouth

Much better. The full backs are brilliant, Bellerin sets up Coquelin for his first Arsenal goal after 9 minutes to settle the nerves. Five minutes later, Gibbs assists Giroud with another great cross. Bournemouth have a few minutes of pressure, but then we kill the game off. First, man of the match Bellerin creates another, with Gibbs tucking it home at the back post. Then, Alexis cuts inside and puts Giroud in for his second. Game over.

The second half peters out into traded corners and substitutions, but I don’t care.

The last game of the month is a big one. Chelsea away. I’m not too proud to attempt a more defensive approach. We stick in Elneny for Ozil, and wheel out the 4123. Oxlade-Chamberlain is in for Walcott, who’s out for a bit with a twisted knee.

Chelsea 0-2 Arsenal

I’m thrilled with that. It’s a fairly even game. They make more chances, but we make better ones. Alexis Sanchez scores a nice finish after a scrappy free-kick falls his way. Chelsea have the better of the rest of the first half but we keep them out.

“Don’t get complacent” is my half time refrain. They bring on Willian and Fabregas for Matic and Azpilicueta, leaving Willian alone to defend their right hand side. I switch the tactics to target that side. Ten minutes into the second half, Oscar comes on for Alonso. Now Pedro is alone on their left flank as they go all out for a goal. We go back to exploiting both flanks.

We trade minor chances, until the 73rd minute, when The Ox breaks down the right and puts the ball on a silver platter for Sanchez, who taps into an empty net. Belotti smashes the ball against the bar to almost put a cherry on top of the win with five to go.

A decent start, after a poor first 45 minutes, but with other teams also dropping points, we’re top. For now.

And I’ve bagged a personal trinket!

That’s August wrapped up. Next on the fixture list is Man City, in yet another away encounter. Fingers crossed…

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