It is another glorious day as we bask in the aftermath of a 4-0 drubbing of Bundesliga.2 side FC Koln, to round off our topsy-turvy pre-season on a big high in sunny Germany. With much of the week revolving around the transfer of Santi Cazorla, and the rumors regarding the future of Robin van Persie, you could be forgiven for forgetting that there was a game on hand over the weekend.
There was a lot of fluidity, and composure to Arsenal’s attack yesterday, now with Wenger playing what looks like his first-choice front 3, should van Persie leave. Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott were all handed starts, and so was Cazorla. Also starting were youngsters Francis Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nico Yennaris, while Wenger decided to start with Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of defence. Kieran Gibbs was preferred to Andre Santos, and Mannone got the nod ahead of Szczesny.
Both teams were complete contrasts to the teams that played the same friendly 12 months earlier. Cologne now find themselves in the second tier of German football, with their poster boy now plying his trade with the Gunners. Arsenal, at this time last year, had sold off their major stars, but this time round, they had made 3 astute purchases.
While much can be discussed about a glum looking Dutchman during Arsenal’s training camp in Germany, there was much to look forward to, as the team went through a lot of team bonding sessions. The squad looks much happier, and a tighter-knit unit, all ready to go for next season.
Arsenal took the lead in as early as the 6th minute, when Thomas Vermaelen had the easy task of tapping home the ball, after a header from Mertesacker. (or was it Giroud? My streaming quality wasn’t that great, plus I had to contend with Arabic commentary from Al-Jazeera, a word of which I couldn’t understand!). Olivier Giroud looked very comfortable, I should say, fitting well into the system.
He set up Cazorla, whose shot was blocked. But, Arsenal did not have to wait long, as Chamberlain was bought down in the box, and Lukas Podolski duly scored from the spot, and refrained from any celebrations. Defensive issues remain though, as Cologne almost hit back, but the shot in question blazed over. Giroud forced more saves from the Cologne goalie, who was clearly winning his personal battle with the Frenchman. However, I am highly impressed by Giroud’s abilities. He looks very mature, and capable of scoring goals, by the bucket load.
Arsenal were 3-0 up soon enough, when a move started by Lukas Podolski was finished by him as well, as he fed Gibbs on the left, to set up a left-footed (duh!) rifle. Again, no over-the-top celebrations. The German remained on the pitch for the second half, as the rest of the side took their places on the bench, to be replaced by the usual suspects, Szczesny, Koscielny, Song, Santos, Arteta, Djourou, Diab..oh well..
Gervinho soon made it 4-0 on 62 minutes, shooting from a narrow angles, after bamboozling the Cologne defenders into submission. Podolski went off after 69 minutes, and was given a rapturous response from the home fans, about 30,000 of them, as van Persie (who?) trudged on. All eyes were now on the Dutchman, to judge his body language, but he was professional throughout. He was given the captain’s armband, for those 20 minutes of course.
Gervinho again looked lively throughout, with his mazy dribbling. I think he will have a much better second season, maybe not his goals, but his assists. My 6 year old niece can finish better at times. Andriy Arshavin, too looked bright at times, and I have said this numerous times, I would love to see him play just behind the strikers, where he has space to exploit and maximize his creativity.
The referee blew the whistle well before the 90th minute, to finish the pre-season. And now, all we have to do is wait 6 more days for the opening whistle against Sunderland on a Saturday, on a gleaming Emirates pitch.
Not much news in terms of transfers though. Nuri Sahin has now been linked with Manchester United. Surprising, ain’t it. We are always the first club to show interest in a player, and soon enough there will be a host of others queuing up. Let’s all poke fun at Arsenal. Grr..
The Alex Song rumors are getting stronger now, with Christian Tello impressing Arsene Wenger. Of course, one of the crappy rumor articles I read online. I do not think Song will leave, or Wenger will let him go, atleast not this season.
That’s it for now, guys. I am off to another gruelling day at work.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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