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Bright start

Yesterday was Arsenal’s 3rd match of their pre-season and it was away in Germany to play FC Koln. It provided the team with another 90 minutes of match fitness and also a chance to parade new signing, Gervinho. The 30 minutes cameo by the Ivorian forward signed from Lille was as promising a start that one could hope for.

We got out of the blocks very quickly and applied pressure on the home side. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey dictated play from the middle with Theo Walcott being the prime attacking outlet. Gervinho started on the left of the attacking trio. I hope that is because he is suited to play there and not so much because Walcott is unable to play on that side of the pitch.

That being said, neither wide players stuck to the sidelines and were very useful coming infield to get involve. Not that both did it at the same time. But generally what it does, is that it helped to provide more support to Marouane Chamakh up front. When one came inside, the one on the opposite flank kept to the side.

The interchange of position and roles can also be seen with the midfield trio. Ramsey and Wilshere taking turns to bomb forward to add to the attacking numbers. On the down side, Alex Song also wanted to get into the act. This lead to numerous breakaways that Koln managed to create. On a few occasions, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen were left crucially exposed at the back. Luckily for us, Koln players are still feeling their way back to fitness and were wasteful with their chances.

The excitement that the team got, going forward is understandable on one hand. Carl Jenkinson (the own goal is just a fluke of circumstances) and Kieran Gibbs provided the overlapping runs from the back. Yet, it was frustrating to see the awareness and defensive discipline not there. If the forwards were smart in their moves, the opposite was true about the defensive midfielder and both full backs. More work on the training ground and clearer instructions from those “leaders” on the pitch will be needed to rectify this. Teams in the Premier League and Champions League would not be so forgiving with those gaps at the back.

Being the new player in the team and making his début, all eyes were on Gervinho. Those who wants to print his name and number to the new jersey will have to wait longer before doing that as the number he wore in this game was not a confirmed one. Now, if you have read my past post about Gervinho, you will note that I don’t have high hopes on him. Two things generally created that idea. One, I’ve not seen enough of him to know better and two, from the little that I’ve seen, I don’t see what extra qualities he brings to the side.

On situation like this, I would be more than happy to be proven wrong. Yesterday’s showing went some way to proving that. That he got off the mark in his first game for Arsenal is nice but not the most telling point. This is still a friendly, let’s wait till we see that in competitive games before making claims that he is our saviour. But the manner in which he took his goals provided a lot of positives. Good timing and playing on the last line of defence with a cool finish for the first and showing the willingness to get into the box for tap-in for the second.

Not even Chamakh could claim to be that sort of striker. Speaking of which, the Moroccan had another match to forget. Misplaced passes being another once of his match highlights. The Chamakh of 2011 has been very disappointing. We must not forget his contributions during the last half of 2010 and I’m hopeful Arsene Wenger and the team are able to help him find back that form. Otherwise, he looks a very mediocre player.

As was with the 2 games in Arsenal’s Asia Tour, plenty of changes were made in the second half. Everyone got a run out. However, it was disappointing on two front. First, the exciting Ryo Miyaichi only added 15 minutes to his Arsenal belt and Conor Henderson had to play at left back. Perhaps Wenger is aware that he will be unable to secure a work permit for the Japanese and hence the less game time. As for Henderson, being played out of position was not the only problem for him. He suffered a late knee injury and it looks quite serious. Does this spell the end of Armand Traore at Arsenal? That a midfielder was chosen to play in his place, or am I reading too much into this?

Without trying to over-analyse things (lest we all forget, this is still a friendly), it was another good workout for us. Another week of training and I think we will see a sharper Arsenal side in the Emirates Cup next weekend. Hopefully some of the ins/outs are able to be sort out before the next game.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.