Before we go to the match, some depressing news: Philippe Senderos has apparently signed for Everton, according to Arseblog. I’ve mentioned many times in my blog that I feel Senderos should stay as he has the raw qualities of a brilliant centreback and at his age, he is still at the beginning of a long centreback’s career. With Toure having left, it is imperative fo us to keep the defenders we currently have at the club. Without Senderos, we would be left with only Djourou and Silvestre as experienced backup to the first choice pairing of Gallas and Vermaelen. And I’m not sure I’ll even pick Silvestre for my Sunday team.
To the game:
It is such a relief to finally see Arsenal in red, at Emirates Stadium. Such a sight really brought my spirits up as it is a sure sign of just how close the new season is upon us. It has been a dull summer but the opening of the Emirates Cup marks the beginning of a new season.
4-3-3 is once again used with Tomas Rosicky back in the line-up. Although we are without a few key players in the starting line-up as Wenger had to mix and match certain first-teamers to suit the two-day tournament, we still started with a pretty strong line-up. Cesc, Clichy, Arshavin and Eduardo were on the bench, while Alumnia and Vermaelen were out of the squad altogether.
Traore shook out his minor knock sustained against Hannover 96 to start with Sagna on the opposite flank, while Gallas and Djourou started in the centre of defence. The midfield trio was Rosicky, Denilson and the ever-improving Ramsey. The three up front are Van Persie as the target man flanked by Bendtner and Eboue. Let us go into the interesting parts of the game:
1 – Aaron Ramsey started again.
I’ve mentioned that Ramsey has been the one player who had impressed me the most in pre-season and he continued his fine form last night against a top opposition. I’ve always wondered why he seemed to play well against poor opposition but freeze up during a big occasion. I’m glad he started and played really well until he was subsitituted in the 66th minute. He showed a willingness to go into 50-50 challenges and in shoulder-to-shoulder challenges, he often comes off the better. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play more often in the coming season. And can you believe he is still only 18?
2 – Djourou looks the real deal.
In my very first post on this blog, I’ve mentioned that Djourou has everything a top defender need – speed, aerial ability, timely and hard tackling, strength and height. Everything except experience and that bit of defensive cunning that comes along with it. He came back from Birmingham looking a bit rusty incentral defence due to first of all his different positioning in Birmingham, where he played as a holding midfielder. Secondly, he was playing in a team of graft and having come back into a team like Arsenal, he needs time to re-adapt to the speedy game that Arsenal deploys. But he seem to be back to his best now. I still think he should be ahead of Gallas in partnering Vermaelen and they look to complement each other. But I will have no complaints if Gallas plays, as long as all three of them stays fit throughout the season we would be fine. But I maintain, if Senderos really leave, then we are a bit short here.
3 – Arsenal looks compact in the centre of the pitch.
Never thought you would ever read this about Arsenal? Well, I’m surprised too but it seemed like the new 4-3-3 formation really utilises the strengths of the players we currently have. Whenever we loses the ball, Atletico has a lot of problems going past the midfield without using long direct passes. The form of Ramsey certainly helps.
4 – Rosicky doesn’t look like he has been away.
Rosicky had a brilliant game yesterday. As Wenger mentioned in the post-match conference, we still have to be cautious about playing him but he doesn’t look like he is at all rusty. His famous twists and turns are back and his excellent finishing was evident when he scored a fabulou goal, only to be ruled out for offside. If it had counted, imagine what a lift it would be for his confidence as well as the squad’s. I’m confident he will be playing a large role this season, let’s hope he stays fit. Remember, we still haven’t seen Arshavin and Rosicky play in the same team, and that is a mouth-watering prospect! MMMMM MMMM!
5 – Bendtner to be a target man?
Bendtner has played most of pre-season as one of the attacking flankmen, mostly on the right. Last night he played on the left of the attacking trio and did well. However, I feel maybe we can get more out of him if he plays at the focal point of the attacking trio. He has a huge leap and can hold the ball the best out of our existing strikers. He can then lay it off for one of the flankmen to have a crack. I would like to see Wenger experiement with that in a real game with van Persie on the leftof the attacking trio, maybe we can see more goals that way.
6 – Fran Merida is surprisingly good.
I’ve only seen Merida a few times but last night was the finest performance I’ve seen him in. He was confident, composed, and passes well even when he was under pressure. He also seem to be rather strong with his shoulders. We might see him start the League Cup games this coming season.
7 – Clichy is back.
The media has been reporting that he might miss the beginning of the season but it is far from the truth. Clichy is back and he is looking as quick and strong as ever. Barring any mishaps (cross fingers), we should have our first-choice defence at the start of the season and that is essential considering we are having quite a big opening month with some big clashes.
8 – Vito Mannone impressed but almost conceded an embarrassing goal.
I thought Mannone had a good game overrall. Fabianski has still not been seen and I wonder if that is because of his ‘minor knock’ or if Wenger is seriously looking at promoting Mannone. I have a feeling we might be seeing Mannone at or League Cup games this season, rotating with Fabianski. He almost conceded an embarrassing goal when he palmed a Maxi Rodriguez shot up in the air and the ball dropped rght next to the left hand post. As for the goal, he could have done better to close Pacheco down. But overrall, his performance is encouraging to see.
9 – Arshavin = Magician
Andrey Arshavin will forever be in Arsenal folklore having scored an amazing 4 goals against Liverpool at Anfield. Last night, he was once again in sizzling form. His left-footed smash from Fabregas’ cross was assured and crisp. And after we conceded the equaliser, he went out and got us a goal out of nowhere. After watching the replay several times, I’m still trying to figure out just how he managed to hook the ball into the far corner of the net from an impossible angle. There is only one Arshavin, and he is magic. And he did all this in 24 minutes of play being a substitue, imagine what more he could have done had he started. Arshavin + van Persie + Rosicky = GOALS GALORE
10 – Arsenal deserved to win.
Although we conceded a goal, we must look at it as a lesson learnt instead of a weakness in defence. No matter how much of a Gooner you are, you have to admit the Atletico goal was a well worked goal. The pass that split the defence was inch-perfect, and the run by German Pacheco was timed to perfection. I thought Mannone should have done better with the goal by pressuring him more but such things will come wit experience. For example, I think Almunia might have forced Pacheco into a mistake in the one-on-one. However, the way we controlled the game means we deserved to win. And to do so against a top Spanish side is comforting. We looked to have a complete squad on the basis of this preformance but we must not get carried away.
11 – Wilshere was Man-of-the-Match.
Jack Wilshere burst onto the scene at last year’s Emirates Cup where he made Míchel Salgado look slow and poor and scored a brilliant goal against Lehmann’s VfB Stuggart. He seemed to like this tourament as he produced another fantastic performance. He seemed to be free of certain chains that looked to be on him in earlier pre-season games as he looked more concerned about keeping the ball. But in this game, he looked so much more at ease and produced the kind of trickery that we know of him. He gave Atletico Madrid all sorts of trouble and was stretching their defence inside out. He also looks to be quicker than before. Wenger mentioned in the post-match conference of our 17-year-old prodigy:
“He has matured, and compared to one year ago he has more power to take people on. That shows there is big potential there and makes him much more dangerous, he has gained a fraction of power that makes him much more dangerous. When he starts to go past people in the final 20 yards, you can always say there is something special there.
“At that age, unfortunately patience is not the first quality, but he is at a big club and has a chance to compete at the top level. We have to manage that well, the desire and the opportunity to play. The potential is there.”
12 – Sergio Aguero is as good as his reputation.
I’ve heard so much about this young Argentina international and I was hugely impressed with him. He always looked dangerous and he is a very stocky player who can handle physical challenges very well. To me, he looks like a more skillful Tevez. Maybe we can snap him up, he looks like he suits out system. And he’s only 21. Hmmmm… Definitely one to watch out for, I bet in a few years all the big clubs will be fighting for his signature.
Right, with that encouraging win, we are on course to retain the Emirates Cup. I think if we play our game, we should be able to sweep Rangers aside. Although Scottish sides always raise their game against English sides, based from what I saw from their game against PSG, we should be able to defeat them comfortably.
Come on, Gunners! Make sure the cup stays at the Emirates!