Arsenal 0-2 City: Plenty Of Pre-Season Positives
Arsenal’s Chinese adventure concluded with a two-goal defeat to Manchester City yesterday. Overall, Arsene Wenger would have been very pleased not only with the workout his players received but also by some of the link up play which was quite heartening.
Being a pre-season friendly, there’s a danger in over-analysing the game. In addition to being a non-competitive fixture, we must also bear in mind that City are a couple of games ahead of us in their pre-season preparation and take into consideration the extremely hot and humid conditions the match was played under.
The pattern of the game mirrored what you’d expect in the Premier League – Arsenal dominating possession, City looking to play on the counter. While both teams lost the ball quite readily at the start of the match, our passing got better as the game wore on and some of Arsenal’s build up play was quite exciting.
Both Arteta and Diaby looked sharper than in the first game against Malaysia XI while Alex Song was increasingly influential especially in the second period. With all our first-choice strikers back home, Gervinho played as the centre-forward although Walcott and Santos alternated roles along a very fluid front three. In the second period, Chamakh’s hold up play and work-rate were commendable while Chuks Aneke and the Ox made positive impressions as well.
The area of concern continues to be the defense. Carl Jenkinson’s enthusiasm combined with the midfield’s inability to cover his forward run led to both City goals. The worrying aspect is not defeat in a meaningless pre-season friendly. The concern is that with Sagna out injured Arsenal conceded both goals with three of our four first-choice defenders on the pitch. And with Diaby fit again, it’s fair to say we had our preferred triumvirate in midfield as well. While some of the woeful defending can be explained away by a lack of match fitness, it continues to be our Achilles heels.
Of course, Jenkinson’s eagerness will be tempered in a competitive fixture. Nevertheless, there is no hiding from the fact that Arsenal looked as unassured in defending yesterday as we did last season. And while Bould and Banfield are not expected to work miracles in two weeks, those structural deficiencies need to be addressed more urgently if we are to avoid defeats in matches we completely dominate.
In attack, the signs are encouraging. With Podolski and Giroud at home and Wilshere and Rosicky to return, there’s plenty of firepower if Diaby can stay healthy. And with the addition of a Cazorla or Sahin, Arsenal have the potential to run most teams ragged in the coming season.
Another notable aspect of yesterday’s performance was the willingness to shoot from distance. That threat forces the opposition defense to come out and creates space for players to run into. Of course there has to be balance between build up play and reeling shots off all the time, but Arsenal have been guilty of over reliance on playing the ball into the net in the past. But for the freakish nature of the Ox’s shot hitting both posts and going out, that strategy would have seen Arsenal get back in the game yesterday.
In fact, our match against the same opponents at the Emirates in April proves the point that the Gunners could do better with mixing things up. Then too, Arsenal dominated the game and forced City to defend deep. There was a refreshing willingness to whip crosses in during that game especially from Arsenal’s right flank. And of course the goal came from a long-range pile driver by Mikel Arteta. Hopefully, we’ll see Arsenal adopt a more varied approach in the coming season.