3 points being the number of points given to any team that wins a match in the Emirates Cup. Unfortunately for us, 2 draws was what the team achieved at the end of some dour performances. Thierry Henry and his men of New York Red Bulls claimed their first Emirates Cup on their début appearance. Another one of our legends being given a fitting chance to show our appreciation of his service.
Not for one moment will I buy into the notion that this tournament was created for anything other than to provided match practice opportunities as well as giving fans the privilege to see foreign teams playing at Ashburton Grove. So, don’t tell me that we can’t even win our own trophies and all that bullshit.
As with previous editions of this tournament, matches are separated by 24 hours in between and usually the full strength of the squad will be utilized. This was of course, what Arsene Wenger did. Those that played the full 90 minutes against Boca Juniors on Saturday were rested for Sunday, while those that did not feature at all gets to play the full 90 minutes against New York Red Bulls on Sunday. This is the stage of the season where bodies and energy levels are being rebuild and recharged, another reason why selection became so.
The manner of both draws can easily be construed as repetition of our failings last season. Leading on both occasions only to be pegged back in the end. That too, despite the paltry time on the ball that the opponent had. It indicates that the team are well capable of dominating oppositions, well enough to take leads but not well enough to kill off the tie. There were also periods in the middle of the game, especially in 2nd halves where our team played at a very pedestrian pace.
1. New faces acclimated well. Carl Jenkinson had a good first run-out at the Grove. Pace being one of his major attributes while his team mates will have to start getting used to his ability to deliver crosses into the box. Gervinho claimed an assist in the opening game and proved that Wenger might get it right with his transfer. Direct when on the ball, good work rate off it and plenty of pace/trickery. On this showing lots will be expected of him this season.
2. Returning faces also fared well. Armand Traore went to Juventus on loan last season as one of those we’d rather see leave the club. A year long sojourn in Serie A seemed to have increased his level of defensive awareness. Not getting caught out of position is a very clear sign of improvement. Had he not featured in Emirates Cup, Traore might one of those leaving. Now, that is not so clear any longer. Tomas Rosicky was another who lifted the crowd with his performance. Easily far more comfortable in the middle of the park rather than in wide positions. Was instrumental in all things going forward for us in the NYRB game.
3. Robin Van Persie looks to start the season on fire. He scored 2 goals in as many days. How well we fare this season would very much be dependant on this man’s form. Injuries permitting of course. Though, to be fair, needs to lay off those free kicks or really start to increase the number of hours he spends practising it in training.
1. Defensive frailties are obvious to you and me. Apart from when we had our best defensive line-up on the pitch, we’ve looked very shaky. Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs are now what constitutes our best available defence. NYRB may not be the best match for comparison value but the unit did look good in that game. Only when Koscielny went off, did the balance change. Poor form and low confidence currently afflicting Johan Djourou is a real worry. The Swiss has not looked the part since the back end of last season.
2. Lack of ideas when in attack. While the players that were actually on the pitch were not the best that we have, but it was still painful watching us trying to find an opening in both games. It was almost as if the team is devoid of any creative instincts. Sadly, it only serves to show how big a player Cesc Fabregas is for Arsenal Football Club. Instead of trying to copy what the Spaniard brings to the team, perhaps Wenger could’ve tried different things. Tactics wise, we could have at least tried something else.
3. The booing. Was it really necessary? Booing never help to achieve anything. I can understand that these people paid good money to watch their favourite team in action. Some, do come from various parts of the world, what with the ease of purchasing tickets compared to during the course of the season. Of course they have their rights to show their displeasure at the team. On the basis of those performances, the booing was not totally unjustified. Yet, let us all take a breather and consider for a moment, that the Emirates Cup is part of pre season, a friendly if you like. Nothing to be gain out of this exercise except for match fitness.
4. The injury to Jack Wilshere. Looked to play a big part in our season, losing him before the season start is not a good sign. Wenger noted in his post match conference that the injury is minor and will not last more than 2 weeks. Given what has happened previously, I will wait for Wilshere to reappear in time for the trip to St James Park before feeling relieved.
One more week of training awaits the team before the next friendly match, away to Benfica. That is a game that I think will have a much bigger bearing on the season that yesterday. Hopefully, more things could be ironed out this week. Both, transfer and weaknesses.