Although only a pre-season riendly, last night’s impressive 3-1 win over Stuttgart suggests that things are ticking along quite nicely for Arsenal. The game marked the debut of new signing Samir Nasri and Arsene Wenger gave the Frenchman as well as a host of other senior players their first pre-season runouts.
The starting team included Manuel Almunia behind a very strong back four of Bacary Sagna, Johan Djourou, William Gallas – whose captaincy skills were backed by Cesc Fabregas and the manager before the match – and Gael Clichy. Denilson was surprisingly paired with Emmanuel Eboue in the centre of the park, flanked on the right and left by Theo Walcott and Nasri respectively with Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor starting up front.
I think it’s fair to say that the bigger name players were a little sluggish and lethargic in the first half – understandable given that most had only recently returned to training. Van Persie should have scored from a one-on-one situation with ex-Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann while Walcott had a close range effort excellently saved by the same player. Aside from that, things were a little flat.
Indeed, it was not until the destroyers of Burgenland – Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela – were brought on at the break that Arsenal’s attack began to click into gear. Even despite the changes it was Stuttgart who took the lead when Yildiray Basturk capitalised on some lose marking by Djourou to shoot through the defender’s legs and past Lukasz Fabianski.
But from that point on it was all Arsenal as Vela, Bendtner and fellow substitute Jack Wilshere all scored second-half goals.
The first involved a lovely pass from Bendtner and a neat bit of control and finishing from Vela, with both players switching roles for the second. The game was put beyond doubt when some lovely tenacity and skill from Gael Clichy allowed 16-year-old Wilshire to fire home a crisp shot.
You can see all the goals and highlights here.
All in all, it was another very encouraging performance from Arsenal. While the big guns were a little off the pace there is little doubt that they will come good once they get more training under their belts. What is encouraging are the recent performances from the players who are genuinely on the fringes of the first-team. Guys like Bendtner, Vela, Wilshere and Walcott are doing really well and their efforts will give the manager a welcome headache regarding his starting team for the first game of the season.
Following the match Wenger singled out the performances of both Vela and Bendtner as well as admitting that while he does not feel the need to sign another striker, he still feels Arsenal are one player short of the what they require for this season:
“Vela is integrating very well into the team. Bendtner was already a force at the end of last season and he will confirm that this year. Overall, we are still maybe one player short. But up front we don’t need anybody.”
Regarding the comment about not needing any more strikers, I totally agree. There is absolutely no need for Wenger to sign any more attacking players. Van Persie is world-class, Adebayor and Eduardo (when fit) are wonderful contributors to the side, Bendtner is a season older and stronger while Vela – as the manager says – is integrating well. Add to that the likes of Walcott, new signing Nasri and of course Tomas Rosicky and I think things are looking pretty good up top.
What is interesting about Wenger’s comments about being ‘one player short’ is that they came even after the announcement of the signing of Portuguese midfielder Amaury Bischoff – which suggests to me that there is more to come from Wenger. Whether it’s a midfielder or a defender who is brought in I’m not too sure, but I am pretty certain that Bischoff’s signing will not be the last. As always, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Just on Bischoff, it’s hard to know what sort of role he is set for this season. He’s been given the #28 shirt by Wenger and drafted straight into the first-team squad. I’ve little doubt that if Wenger thinks he’s good enough for Arsenal then he probably is, but I do get the feeling it will be something of a learning year for the Portuguese player.
So that’s about it. An impressive win over a decent side and a new signing – not bad for a day’s work. See you tomorrow.
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