Following Atletico Madrid’s dull draw with PSG earlier in the day, Arsenal’s game with Rangers became the match which will decide the winners of the pre-season tourament. Arsenal went into the game just one point ahead of second-placed Rangers.
As expected, Wenger made some changes to the line-up from the previous day but stuck with the 4-3-3 formation which has served so well in pre-season. Mikael Silvestre started the game in central defence with Gallas. Clichy started on the left with Eboue on the opposite flank. At the back, we see Almunia for the first time since the Columbia game. The midfield trio was Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida. Merida must have impressed enough in the previous game against Atletico to have made the starting line-up, and he impressed again. The attacking trio was Jack Wilshere, Andrey Arshavin and Eduardo, probably the three smallest forwards we have used in some time. Robin van Persie was rested for the game.
Let us go through the interesting bits again.
1 – Jack Wilshere wins Man-of-the-Match… again!
Two eye-catching performances and two Man-of-the-Match awards, and two goals. Can anyone believe this boy is only 17 years old, the youngest on the field (probably in the entire tournament as well)? His first goal was an opportunistic one, he got into a favorable position and reacted fastest with a snap shot that crept under the arms of Allan McGregor. The second was heart-warming to see with three teenagers involved. Sanchez Watt chased down a Rangers defender on the left to square the ball for Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey held onto the ball and waited for the right opportunity to drift in a perfect cross for an equally special half-volley by Wilshere into the top corner. I wonder which other Premier League team is able to boast of such a young combination working together to destroy the Scottish champions. On top of the goals, Wilshere was eye-catching throughout. He showed pace, trickery and great upper body strength. During half-time, my buddy Marcus texted me to say he was impressed with Wilshere. He will certainly have a role to play this season, but Wenger is trying to manage expectations showered on the young shoulders of Wilshere. But with the world having witnessed how special this 17-year-old is, how long can he be kept under wraps? I urge caution as much as Wenger because at this age, confidence plays a big part. He has impressed against Europe’s top sides but how he will respond to the rough and tumble of Premier League football is something we have yet to see. He certainly impressed in the entire tournament and played the entire 90 minutes. Wenger said in the post-match conference of Wilshere:
“Of course I am pleased with him. He always had his football [ability] but he has gained some power now. A year ago he had to go across the pitch and now he can go straight. At that age that is normal and you can see that he is comfortable on the ball, he can take people on. You have seen that on both days.
“I don’t know how much he will play. I speeded him up, I put him at 16 years of age in the dressing room and gave him a chance to practice everyday with the first-team players. If I had taken him out of the youth team now you would not have seen what you have seen today. That means he has benefited a lot from special treatment and an acceleration of his education because he plays for one year with the first team. But how many games? I don’t know. The only problem in England is knowing the impatience of the people is that it will be difficult to keep the right pace in his progress.
“Could he play the whole Premier League campaign? Certainly not. He is physically strong because he has a strong body, Jack. It’s difficult to predict.”
We have a real gem on our hands and he is all home-grown! But let us repect his development just as the manager said.
2 – Eduardo is as deadly as ever.
Eduardo’s finishing is as impeccable as ever. When he received the ball from Fran Merida in that position, I knew instantly he wasn’t going to waste the chance. With 5 quick passing players (Cesc, Merida, Arshavin, Wilshere and Eduardo), Arsenal were all over the Rangers’ defence and controlled the game out of sheer pace and skill and teamwork. All are not significantly big in physique (Merida is the tallest and biggest of the 5), but the movement is classic Wenger’s Arsenal. With a player like Eduardo in the side playing in a formation like this, he is bound to score goals. If he stays fit, I expect no less than 20 goals from him this season.
3 – Mikael Silvestre played the entire 90 minutes.
Silverstre actually didn’t do too badly. Although he almost scored an own goal trying to clear a square ball from the right, he worked hard throughout and generally won most of his challenges. Gallas wthdrew from the game with a slight knock with Alex Song coming into defence with Silvestre. After Song partnered Silvestre, that was when we started to look shaky in defence. However, the two chances that were given to Rangers in which Almunia did well both times to save, it was Song who was to blame and not Silvestre. With Wenger thinking Song is a defender and with his unwavering faith in the bald Frenchman, I’m beginning to really believe we are lacking in quality in defence. I mentioned before that it will only take one or two long term injuries to one of Djourou, Gallas and Vermaelen to expose us and two of them were unavailable in the second half today. And with Djourou being rested for the entire game, all three were missing and that was when we looked uncomfortable in defending.
4 – Sanchez Watt and Aaron Ramsey impressed.
Sanchez Watt played for the first time at the Emirates Cup and he showed plenty of desire and graft if not real skill. His involvement in our third goal and Wilshere’s second cannot be underestimated. Ramsey continued to combine tenacity with visionary passing and skill. Players like these simply showed our strength in depth when we are using 4-3-3. I hope to see more of Watt because he seemed to have a lot of potential. Maybe he will start playing in the League Cup.
5 – Rosicky looks fit and raring to go.
Having completed 45 minutes the previous day, Rosicky was brought on for 17 minutes agaqinst Ranger but was straight into the action. Bacary Sagna, who was rested wit Djourou and van Persie for the game, believed Rosicky has a big role to play this season and I believe most Gooners will think so. I had a poll on this and most Gooners feel we have missed his presence very much last season and I believe in that too. His quality will be best suited to 4-3-3. If he stays fit, we may yet see his best form for Asenal.
6 – Traore played leftback again.
Traore continued to impress with another solid performance after replacing Clichy at halftime. His positioning in this position has matured a lot and there was this instance when he raced all the way back to rob a Rangers winger off the ball, held off the challenge with his shoulders and started an attacking move. Slick and strong, I now wonder who will get the nod to replace Clichy if he was out – Gibbs or Traore? Only Wenger knows.
7 – Arsenal won some silverware at last.
It seemed like a long time but the last time we lifted the Emirates Cup, we went on to be geniune title challengers after we were written off in pre-season. Sounds familiar? Maybe it’s an omen for good things coming our way. It is the first piece of silverware Cesc won as captain and many more may it follow!
And finally just a small piece on Patrick Vieira to lead to today’s poll. There are a lot of rumours regarding the possible return of Vieira, and I think that he won’t return due to two reasons:
1) Vieira would want regular football.
We are unable to offer the 33-year-old as much football as he would have liked to be able to stand in contention for the next World Cup. That could have been the reason why he wanted to leave Inter in the first place. He might be a good squad player to have and can provide much needed leadership and guidance in the squad but he might not be contented with a diminished role at the club.
2) The form of the current midfielders in the new formation.
In the new formation, Vieira might not be as effective as before. There is no doubt that Vieira is a good player with a lot of experience and is a winner. But with mobility as the key to the new formation, Vieira might not fit in as well as Wenger would have liked. On top of that, the form of Ramsey, Song, Cesc and even Fran Merida is probably giving Wenger second thoughts about getting Vieira to return. Wenger said of the Vieira situation:
“Patrick is a great player and I have not considered it yet to bring him back. It is a possibility that I have to think about. It is not sure he will decide to join us if I decide to try and make him come. There is a lot to think about. I have no personal problem with Patrick Vieira, I have a huge respect for him and we have good relations.”
On to today’s poll then.