Arsenal’s new boys v. Köln
The last of our preseason friendlies has finished in Cologne yesterday with a 4-0 win for Arsenal. It’s a much more promising result than the previous games we’ve played this summer (of the five we won two), and lends some confidence to the team for the upcoming Premier League opener against Sunderland this Saturday. Of particular interest to gooners is the appearance for the first time of the three new signings Wenger has made over the summer: Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, and Olivier Giroud.
Cazorla seems a real positive for the Gunners with his quick thinking on the ball and his vision to see a pass. A number of times early in the game he opened up the Köln defense with some well chosen passes to players like Walcott and Giroud. He seems eager to be involved in the opposition half and that’s something we need from a playmaker and attacking midfielder. The first corner he took from the left lead to the first goal of the game when Mertesacker headed it into the air in front of goal for Vermaelen to head home easily. Cazorla’s presence around the box and willingness to dictate play is promising for the coming season.
Podolski scored his first Arsenal goal from the penalty spot when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was taken down at the edge of the box. The Pole was calm incarnate as he struck the ball into the left corner. He would later double his tally just before the half with a fine left-footed strike from a Gibbs cut back on the left side of the box. Podolski fired a long ball down the left to Gibbs who took it to the line until passing back to the Pole who blasted it into the right of net with vigor. It was a fine piece of play and shows the team to be much sharper than they were in Asia. Podolski himself, though scoring two goals against the team he’s played for for many years, says he’s still a couple of weeks away from being fully ready to do damage on the pitch. His display yesterday was surely encouraging.
Giroud, though not scoring in his debut for the club, had a number of great opportunities to find the back of the net. That he didn’t score from a fine header in front of goal is testament to the skill of the Köln keeper. In fact, Giroud being denied by the opposition keeper became something of a “B story” to the match. The big positive to take from the Frenchman’s performance is his positioning and ability to get into scoring positions. The real test, of course, is whether he can reproduce this against Premier League teams and not a relegated German side.
The three big signings for Arsenal during the summer made a significant impression on the pitch during the first half. Of course, Wenger put nearly an entirely new side on in the second half, which slowed down our game play and the effectiveness of our attack, but served to give other players quality opportunities to gain sharpness. Gervinho scored the fourth and final goal with a fine run down the left side of the pitch, evading defenders and reaching the line only to turn back and fake a pass across goal, instead he slipped the ball in the near side of the post. If we see more of this skill and decision making from him, we could be in for something special in the coming months. That said, he does have a habit of taking too much time in front of goal, either for his own shots or for picking out a pass, often leading to defenders cutting out his effort. Perhaps this is something the coaches will work on with him.
That’s a brief recap of the game with the focus being on the new boys in the squad. Only time will tell whether or not the glimpse we got yesterday is representative of their future contributions. What it does leave us with is a sense of depth to the squad and a better starting point to the campaign than we experienced this time last year.