Saturday, 10 August 2013

Arsenal Beat Manchester City 3-1 In Their Final Pre Season Game

Arsenal played their last pre season friendly against Manchester City in Helsinki earlier today. With midweek international friendlies coming up it was the last chance for the manager to put the finishing touches to his team before the new season starts at home to Villa next Saturday. With that in mind Arsene Wenger picked a team which was pretty close to what would be considered his strongest available starting 11 with the exception of Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud being on the bench.


What was noticeable was the sparsity of experience on the Arsenal bench with youngsters Gedion Zelalem and Isaac Hayden and trialist Sebastien Perez all getting a place. City had a strong team and a very strong looking bench after spending almost £90 million on new players so far this summer. Financial fair play may be something UEFA are intending to introduce very soon, but it doesn't seem to matter to City.


City made most of the running from the start and had by far the majority of the possession, but it was Arsenal who scored first. Aaron Ramsey played a delightful ball in behind the City defence for Theo Walcott to run on to and he clipped it over the advancing Joe Hart into the empty net. It was a classic counter attack from Arsenal and a clinical finish by Walcott from a superb Ramsey pass.


There were less than 10 minutes played and Arsenal had a lead and something to hold onto. City pushed forward and created some half chances of their own but they were repelled by some good defending, some good goalkeeping and some bad decision making on the part of the City players. The closest either team came to sorting again in the first half was when Bacary Sagna hit the post with a left footed effort from outside the box.


Both teams made plenty of changes at half time with Arsenal bringing Lukasz Fabianski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud on for Wojciech Szczesny, Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski. City rang the changes too but neither team was weakened by the changes they made. The game took more or less the same pattern as the first half with City failing to take advantage of the amount of possession they had and Arsenal looking to do damage on the break.


15 minutes into the second half Arsenal scored two goals in quick succession to put the game beyond City. Walcott played Aaron Ramsey in behind City for the first one and he rounded Hart to put the ball into the net and make it 2-0. Only three minutes later it was Walcott who turned provider again with a glorious 50 yard ball from the right sideline to the feet of Giroud on the edge of the City box. Giroud lifted the ball over the advancing Hart and it again nestled in the empty City net to make it 3-0 to Arsenal.


The game died off a little after that and it wasn't surprising with City three goals behind and more changes being made by both sides. Arsenal introduced Perez for Mikael Arteta first of all and then Zelalem came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson for Sagna. City brought on a lot more experience and began to look more likely to score a consolation goal at least as Arsenal sat back and defended.


Giroud had a goal disallowed for offside and then Alvaro Negredo finally got City on the scoresheet with a neat finish through Fabianski's legs after being played through the centre of the Arsenal defence and holding Laurent Koscielny off. It gave City some hope and they tried to rally but it was to no avail as Arsenal managed to see the game out comfortably enough. Hayden came on for Ramsey with a couple of minutes to go just to make sure all the subs got a run out.


The difference between teams for me was Arsenal's ability to create genuine scoring chances and how clinical they were in putting them away. They looked a far more settled team and it wasn't surprising considering there have been virtually no new arrivals since last season. When Arsenal emptied their bench it wasn't long before they were bringing on very young and inexperienced players and a trialist while City were bringing genuinely proven players on.


Some of those Arsenal youngsters look very promising but it's a huge ask for them to play a large part in the first team this season. The team and squad are crying out for new additions after all of the players who have left recently and I have no doubt the club are trying their best to bring those players in. The latest players to leave are Ignasi Miquel who went on loan to Leicester and Marouane Chamakh who has made his merry way to Crystal Palace. 


I can fully understand the need to let Chamakh go, but it's hard to understand how Miquel has been let go on loan with only two fit centre backs at the club. Thomas Vermaelen is nowhere near returning from injury and and an injury or suspension to any of the defenders would leave Arsenal in a very awkward situation. A central defender is an absolute must for the club and they need to sign one immediately.


Arsenal made seven changes during today's game but it was noticeable that only one of them was in defence. There were no other defenders other than Jenkinson available to bring on and it's a very worrying situation for the club. Hopefully Nacho Monreal will be available after his injury very soon as Kieran Gibbs is injury prone at the best of times.


It's also hard to understand how Perez has been brought in as a trialist in a defensive midfield role and got a game against City while Frances Coquelin has been loaned out. Is Perez better than Coquelin and if not why was Coquelin allowed to go before a replacement was found just like Miquel. I know loan moves will hopefully improve both players but should that be at the expense of Arsenal.


Overall the performance was very encouraging and the victory was a welcome one with the new season just about to start. The team showed a spirit and an understanding which could go a long way as long as the right players are added to the squad in the next few weeks. At this stage I don't care when they come in as long as they do come in and they're the right players.


The performances of Koscielny and Sagna in defence in particular were very encouraging and the midfield axis was good in defence and very good when they got a chance to attack. Walcott looked very sharp and took his goal very well as well as making the other two goals and getting the man of the match award. I'm still not convinced by Podolski as a central striker but I have a feeling Giroud might have a very good second season in English football.


The latest transfer news would seem to indicate that Bayern Munich's Luis Gustavo could be on his way to Arsenal and I would be happy to see him added to the current Arsenal midfield. The Luis Suarez deal is still in limbo but hopefully Arsenal will get their man as they don't seem to have an alternative. The centre back that's so badly needed is another matter and I can only hope negotiations are going on in secret somewhere and Arsenal will reveal their man sooner than later.


That's it for today.


See you tomorrow.


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