For my part I rushed home from work, grabbed some food and had a quick shower before hopping on a train with my youngest son who is 22. He bought the ticket for me along with his sister for Fathers Day and 30 minutes later we shuffled into Slattery’s in Beggars Bush for a couple of quick drinks before the game. Usually when I pop over to London to watch Arsenal I meet up with friends in our regular watering hole, but there’s no regular watering hole in Dublin. It meant I didn’t actually meet up with any of the people I hoped to, but I had good company in my son anyway.
We got to the stadium about 20 minutes before kick off which is unusual for me, but then again it’s not often Arsenal come to Dublin and I didn’t want to miss a thing. We had great seats in the lower East Stand and I had a bird’s eye view of the Arsenal players warming up. The stadium wasn’t completely full, but the official attendance of just over 46,000 in a stadium that takes 50,000 seemed just about right.
You can’t read too much into the game itself as pre season games are exercises in building fitness as much as anything else. The manager did wait until the hour mark before making his first substitution which is unusual for a pre season game which is what makes me think the team that started could well be the one that faces City. There are plenty of other players who are just back from World Cup duty to add to the squad, but lack of fitness could prevent them from playing next week.
Aaron Ramsey was named in the starting 11, but he picked up an injury in the warm up and didn’t play a part in the game. His contract situation still hasn’t been sorted and the manager admitted afterwards that he didn’t know what was happening with Ramsey. If we can’t tie him down to a new contract there’s a very real chance he will leave on a free transfer next summer and that’s something we can’t allow to happen. With the transfer window closing in a week we’re quickly running out of time in which we could realistically sell him and buy a replacement.
Back to the game itself and it’s obvious the manager wants us to play out from the back with Petr Cech getting more touches in that game than he has possibly ever got in an Arsenal shirt. It didn’t always work out with Chelsea pressing us and turning us over a little too often for my liking. It’s something we will have to work on and it’s obviously going to have a few setbacks on the way.
We pressed Chelsea too and while their defence dealt with it better than ours, we did have some joy pressing their midfield. I thought Matteo Guendouzi was very impressive in our midfield and was always on hand to take the ball from the defenders and try to link up with the players ahead of him. He was caught in possession a few times and made a few wrong choices, but overall he really looks like one for the future and maybe even the present too.
Chelsea took the lead after Antonio Rudiger rose above our defence to head home a corner and our defending left a lot to be desired. He almost did the exact same thing early in the second half from another corner, but his header went wide with the Arsenal players looking helplessly on. There’s still a lot of work to be done on our defence and it doesn’t look like the failings of last season and previous seasons have been cured quite yet.
Mesut Ozil played the whole game despite not being back as long as many of the other players. He was behind almost everything good we did in the game and it was a magnificent reverse pass from him which put Reiss Nelson in the space he needed to set up Alexandre Lacazette for a tap in to equalise with virtually the last kick of the game. As I’ve said previously the manager needs to get the best out of Ozil if we are going to have any chance of having a good season.
Lacazette had to make do with a place on the bench, but he took his chance when he came on even if he should have equalised from a one on one with the keeper a little earlier. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played from the start and he could have had a couple of goals too. It will be interesting to see if the manager can accommodate both of them in the team at the same time.
When that late equaliser went in plenty of people had already left which I found a little odd. Why wait over 30 years for Arsenal to come to Ireland and then leave early to get a drop on others for public transport. Some of them came back for the penalty shoot out, but those who left could most definitely hear the huge roar when Arsenal got their goal. I would say the crowd was at least two to one in favour of Arsenal it was certainly a lot bigger than the crowds they got when they visited in the 1980s.
The penalty shootout was very entertaining and I was impressed with Arsenal scoring all six of their penalties. With the players we had left on the pitch at the end of the game I was struggling to find five players I could trust to take the penalties, but I needn’t have worried judging by the standard of Arsenal’s penalties. It came down to Alex Iwobi to convert the winning penalty after Chelsea missed their sixth penalty and he duly obliged much to the delight of the majority of those in the stadium.
Cech saved that sixth penalty to set us up for the win and I thought he was our best player on the night. He saved a penalty from Alvaro Morata during the game as well as saving three times when faced with Chelsea players one on one. Maybe the arrival of Bernd Leno has given Cech the push he needs to find the form of a few years ago.
All in all it was a very enjoyable night watching “the greatest team the world has ever seen” win, even if they left the equaliser late and the win was only on penalties. It was good to spend some time with my son before he heads off around Europe on his Interrail adventure for the next few weeks. The only disappointment was not finding the time to catch up with my many other Arsenal friends.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.