Helsinki and Beyond (Arsenal V Man City)
The team travelled to Finland for what was arguably our greatest challenge in preseason, namely the match with Man City. As it turns out, however, the Gunners did more than enough to put the Manchester team on the losing side of a 3-1 scoreline. Nasri must have been very pleased.
To be honest, I was very uncertain that we would come out the victors. City beat us 2-0 in what is essentially the same tie last summer, setting a precedent, and face it we’ve not been the best in this tie over the last couple of years. Then add in the fact that City have significantly bolstered their squad with such new signings as Jovetic, Negredo, Fernandinho, and Navas, and Arsenal really didn’t look like winning the game. In the back of my mind I heard a voice that whispered, “If only you’d signed….”
But surprised I would be with an early opener from Walcott chipped over Hart into the far corner. The goal itself was beautifully created by Ramsey, with a perfectly timed and weighted through ball. It’s the kind of goal we love to see as Arsenal supporters, especially since Man City had played ball by themselves for the first 10 minutes, our players barely able to find any possession. After the goal we put in a good shift until halftime, but found no other openings in the defence.
The second half brought two more goals for us: the first from Ramsey moving down the right and getting on the end of a short sequence of one-touch passes (the last of which from Walcott) and ultimately rounding the keeper to keep his composure and finish well. The second came from a fine long ball cross from Walcott on the right to meet Giroud just squeezing past the defender to chip it home. The pass was perfect from Walcott and Giroud did well to score a goal that was by no means easy. That’s eight for the Frenchman in preseason, a very confident tally. He seems a man in form, so let’s hope it’s not wasted on preseason and he has a great year in the official competitions.
Our own defending was very good, in fact better than I’d seen it in a long time. It was composed, well organized, and showed a team effort to keep the ball out of our net. Koscielny was a boss, as usual, making some fine blocks and clearances, ditto for Mertesacker. It was good to see Sagna play at right back where he’s so consistent for us, rather than in a central role. The team overall pressed very well, not allowing City to get comfortable on the ball even though they had possession for long spells at the beginning and end of the game. City would find a consolation goal through Negredo with close to 10 minutes left, but it wasn’t enough for them to mount a comeback. I think Fabianski, the keeper for the second half, should have done better saving the shot, but he had a decent match otherwise.
And with that, our last preseason match has been wrapped up. The question this logically brings up now is whether or not the team is ready for the new season. It was a fine display from us and we played confidently, but there are funds available to Wenger that should be used to improve the squad further. My biggest concern in seeing yesterday’s game was our creativity. We did not produce many scoring chances at all. Yes, we scored three times, but that’s down to the team being very clinical in attack. We had a few chances on goal and we took nearly every one of them, but that’s not going to happen every game, and certainly not against opposition like Man City on a regular basis. Our attack also came almost exclusively from the right, with the left flank being somewhat dormant. If Wenger wants to bring in a creative player and a left winger, I’d have no complaints at all.
City looked tired, they looked sluggish, so to say we were fantastic is a bit of an overshoot. We played well, but our opponents did not and, as such, I don’t think we can use this game as a realistic gauge of our current quality. This is why it’s important that in the few weeks remaining, that the club brings in some new players to cover our weaker positions.
Six days to the new season people.