Hello again from a very sunny Brisbane – I hope you had an excellent weekend. Just a quick round-up of the Amsterdam Tournament to go through today before I move on to more important matters.
As most of you will know by now Arsenal competed in – and won – the Amsterdam Pre-Season Tournament over the weekend. Arsene Wenger’s boys played two matches, defeating hosts Ajax 3-2 in the opener before drawing 1-1 with Spanish side Sevilla.
The first match saw a near-full strength Arsenal side fight from two goals down at half-time to steal a late win. The first period was characterised by some rusty defending from Kolo Toure, two excellent strikes by Luiz Suarez and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and some less-than-perfect finishing by Emmanuel Adebayor.
The second half, though, saw a complete turnaround as Adebayor scored a fine headed goal before playing in substitute Nicklas Bendtner for the equaliser. Adebayor then continued his act of recovery by tapping home the winner after a fine move involving Denilson.
It was a fine attacking performance after such a shaky start and demonstrated what a near full-strength Arsenal side is capable of.
The second match proved to be an even more tricky affair for Wenger’s side but for good reason with the manager changing the entire starting XI. Philippe Senderos captained the side and Arsenal went ahead very early on when Carlos Vela showed good determination and strength to hold off Abdoulay Konko and fire low past the goalkeeper.
But from that moment on it was mostly Sevilla who went on the attack and forcing Lukasz Fabianski into a number of notable saves. The Arsenal goalkeeper was by far his side’s best player as Sevilla came at him time and time again, but even he was helpless to stop the late equaliser from Javier Chevanton.
But it ended at 1-1 as Arsenal picked up their first trophy of the new season.
Although the second match probably didn’t go as Wenger planned there were plenty of positives to take out of this tournament. Indeed, there are three things that I have taken out of the pre-season preparations that have me looking towards the next season with real optimism. They are:
- Adebayor’s tireless performances suggests he will be anything but a one-season wonder.
- All four of our strikers are looking very sharp. Robin van Persie and Adebayor will certainly start the season as first-choice but Wenger will have no hesitation to throw in Vela or Bendtner should the quality drop.
- Both goalkeepers are looking very solid. Manuel Almunia has essentially been faultless while Fabianski’s performance against Sevilla suggests he is making positive strides.
On the flip-side, there are a couple of things that have me a little worried. They are:
- The lack of depth in central midfield. Wenger has confirmed that Abou Diaby will miss the first month of the season and this concerns me for two reasons – the first being that I’m still unconvinced by Denilson and the second being that it illustrates that the squad is too thin in this area of the park. With Diaby out and Alex Song at the Olympics it puts a lot of pressure on Denilson and of course, 17-year-old Aaron Ramsey, who will surely sit on the bench against FC Twente on Wednesday night.
- Philippe Senderos and Johan Djourou still don’t look quite ready. I’ll never write the pair off – indeed, I think Djourou in particular will turn out to be a great centre-back – but in the meantime I can’t see any harm in bringing a Nemanja Vidic-like defender to cover for Gallas and Toure. I know it won’t happen but I still see it as a big problem if it doesn’t.
To his credit, it does seem like Wenger is making an effort to rectify the situation regarding the lack of depth in central midfield if not the lack of a hard-man in defence. Indeed, Udinese midfielder Gokhan Inler has been strongly linked with the manager himself suggesting that even if the Swiss player does not come in, someone else will.
In his own words:
“We try to find the right player. My target is always to spend the right money on the right player, therefore the timing of your buy is also important as well. I do not know yet if it will be [Gokhan Inler] or somebody else.”
The manager also went on to say that although there is interest in Inler (and perhaps others) he is still a little way off making the required signing because he is too busy at the moment. It is, when you think about it, a fair point. Indeed, Wednesday night sees the first ‘official’ match of the season and it is – in many ways – one of the most important they will play all season. FC Twente may be managed by Steve McClaren (heh heh) but they beat Ajax last season to earn this play-off spot and they will be hell-bent on knocking Arsenal off at home.
I’ve little doubt that Arsenal will get a positive result from their trip to Holland but the boys need to be very focused. There have been mistakes from each of the central defenders throughout the pre-season and Wednesday night is the time those little lapses in concentration to stop. It’s also the time for Denilson to stop dwelling on the ball for too long and the time for Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri to get the bit between their teeth and go at defenders with the same intensity that Jack Wilshere has during pre-season.
I don’t know what else to say really so I think I’ll wait for more material in tomorrow’s news. Until then, enjoy yourselves.
Have your say on Arsenal’s pre-season or where the squad stands by leaving a comment.