Firstly, Arsene Wenger paid tribute to Sir Bobby Robson who passed away yesterday. I remember he was once linked to the Arsenal job before Wenger’s arrival and he himself has admitted to having a soft spot for our club. A great manager who an impressive CV, he will be missed in the footballing world. I was really surpised to hear of this piece of news because he never seemed out of football for too long.
And it is heartening to know that John Hartson is recovering well following his operations.
So Arsenal completed their friendly tour with a stopover at Hannover (I mentioned in the earlier posts that it was to be our last friendy in Austria but that was a mistake and I apologise) with a solid win, our third in a row since the Barnet draw. More importantly, Hannover 96 is a much more difficult opposition than any of the three previous opponents. Arsenal managed to keep a clean sheet with Vito Mannone and especially Wojciech Szczesny impressing. Let us go through the interesting bits again:
1 – Arsenal played in the horrendous white for the first time.
If the result is anything to go by, the supersitious would think it brings us luck and back to the good old days of 1-0 to the Arsenal. I still hate it though.
2 – Manual Almunia is rested.
As mentioned above, both the reserve goalkeepers played and I thought Szczesny looked very good. One can tell he still has quite a bit of growing and bulking to do, but he has the basic raw qualities of a commanding ‘keeper. Mannone has to look over his back now.
3 – Arsenal’s formation looks set on 4-3-3
It seems Wenger is expermenting with a new formula during the Austrian tour, utilising his wide array of creative midfield talent in an exciting formation. When we lose possession, it is effectively 4-5-1 with us crowding out the midfield and our younger central midfielders such as Denilson and Ramsey seemed to thrive in this style of play. I must say the player that has impressed me the most is Aaron Ramsey. He really seemed much stronger than last season and he is working very hard in every game. He might be the player to surprise a few people this coming season.
4 – Song returned to midfield, or is it?
Alex Song was impressive when we are trying to win back the ball, he was robust in his tackles and decisive in his interceptions. However, it seemed like he and Vermaelen interchange their positions rather often especially in the second half. Vermaelen tend to play pretty high up the pitch but Song will get back to fill the hole he has left behind if there is a counter-attack. I’m not sure if this is part of the plan or if Song has matured positionally. If it is the latter then Vermaelen would need to work on his defensive line with his defensive colleagues.
5 – Vermalen works well with Djourou.
Vermaelen doesn’t possess the same pace as Toure, but Djourou is the pacy one who can complement Vermaelen. Vermaelen on the other hand, is strong in the air and gives balance to the back four as he is left-footed. There will no longer be awkward clearances on the weaker foot as lon as he is playing. Vermaelen is also a player who loves a crunching tackle and that is fantastic to see.
6 – Eboue played the full 90 minutes.
I thought Eboue was really hardworking during the game and was industrious in his play. Whenever he lost the ball he got back up and got back to work. No more gamesmanship and I was actually impressed with his overrall game. I wish he will stay.
7 – Fabregas looked fresh.
Last season, we didn’t see the best of Fabregas as he was jaded from too many games. The Euros really tire him out and then he was knocked back with a 4 month layoff due to injury. This summer’s break is essential to him and it would have been even better without the Conferderations Cup. He looked refreshed and up for the game and scored a very good goal. I remember some time back he was in a similar goal scoring position having rounded the ‘keeper but put his shot wide. He has the composure now and he is certainly looking good. He will be vital to our success this season. Rival fans tend to forget the real Cesc was missing in the first half of last season, and this is another reason to be optimisstic.
8 – van Persie has matured.
In the second half, he got entangled with a Hannover defender who got it worse and he was shoved in the face by that brute not once but twice. Robin did not even retaliate or complain to the referee. In his early years at Arsenal, van Persie would probably have broken the defender’s nose, or something. Ok, I’m exaggerating but you know what I mean. On top of that, we should remember that he was the first player to console Gibbs fllowing that infamous slip against Man United last season. His captain’s armband after Cesc was taken off, is well-deserved. He also looked much stronger physically and that can only aid us.
9 – Traore was injured.
He was having a pretty good pre-season and putting in some solid performaces and impressing with his crosses. I’m not sure if he will be out for long but Silvestre came in for him yesterday. Silvestre actually did well. With Gibbs missing the Emirates Cup tournament due to lack of training, one cannot wait for Clichy to return fast enough. We might see him in the Emirates Cup, together with Rosicky.
Ok, that’s about that and it is another good workout. We might see more on how the team will look next season in the Emirates Cup as the squad’s pre-season comes to a climax. We begin tonight against Jose Reyes’ Atletico Madrid. Let’s hope we retain the Cup with some good performances and good goals!