Cologne Friendly: First Chance To See New Signings, Last Opportunity To Prepare For Sunderland
The last game of pre-season takes place today in Cologne, a final chance for Arsene Wenger to judge who’s ready for the Premier League opener against Sunderland in just under a week’s time.
Besides evaluating match fitness, the more important issue for Arsene will be to strike a good balance. We have many players capable of starting in more than one position so it’ll be interesting to see how the manager perceives each one’s role within the team.
Versatility can be a problem as well. Playing in a different position every match can destroy a player’s rhythm. So although Podolski is comfortable on the left flank or behind the striker and Cazorla can play in any midfield position, the Boss will be keen to identify the best roles for his key players.
From a fan’s perspective of course, it’ll be hugely exciting to see how the new signings impact the team. Although I’d thought previously that Cazorla might start on the flanks, the training video on Arsenal.com seems to suggest he’s playing centrally and Arsene probably seems him as the creative force in that midfield engine. Can Theo Walcott’s pace benefit from Santi’s through balls?
Similarly, Podolski is a good finisher and has the uncanny ability of being in the right place at the right time. Can he profit from Theo’s crosses? In addition, the German is disciplined and works hard without the ball so Kieran Gibbs may be afforded more protection on the left side.
With Robin van Persie almost certain to be with us at the start of the season, it means Wenger has very good options in the striking department at present. I expect Robin to start the Premier League game against Sunderland, Arsene preferring to ease Giroud in with a few substitute appearances.
Exciting times these. Without building up expectations too much, there’s certainly good reason to be optimistic. Perhaps today’s game will not provide too many clear-cut answers but there’s no disputing the fact that we have better ingredients for success this time around.
Back to today’s match. The manager will probably give 45 minutes to an hour to most of the players. As much as Arsene will want senior members to combine quickly, he’ll also be keen to avoid last-minute injuries. Plus he’ll want to give a run-out to one or two of the talented youngsters he’s taken to Germany. Serge Gnabry will definitely feature in his home country and Nico Yennaris may push Carl Jenkinson for the right back spot.
With one eye on Sunderland, I think our best starting eleven at the moment would be the one on the right.
The promising thing is that almost every position in the front four will be contested. Podolski could make way for Gervinho or even Santos, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain could challenge Walcott, Diaby would push Cazorla and of course Giroud will be waiting in the wings to take over from Van Persie.
Even in midfield, Arteta and Song will be put under pressure when Wilshere, Rosicky and Frimpong return with Ramsey and Coquelin added to the mix for good measure. And most of these players are capable of playing in different positions which adds to the flexibility. If Song were to depart for Barcelona for example, Diaby could slot in along side Arteta.
In defense, I think we will see a marked improvement from the current incumbents as the season progresses. It’s not going to happen overnight but there seems to be an awareness of our problems now and there’s work being done behind the scenes. As long as we can avoid a lengthy injury list, the defense may provide a pleasant surprise this season.
My only (recurring) worry is in goal. Wojciech needs able deputies to not only provide back up but also challenge him for that number one spot. An experienced keeper who’s willing to bide his time would be a perfect addition, if we can find such a commodity at a reasonable price.
Overall, there’s no doubt the squad looks stronger than at the same time last year. Today’s game will not provide all the answers but perhaps we may get a glimpse of things to come during the season. Maybe Cazorla will set up a couple of goals for Van Persie, forcing him to re-evaluate his ambitions?
Hopeful, I know. But doesn’t the world revolve on hope after all?
If there’s no TV broadcast in your region, get Arsenal Player now to watch the game live. Enjoy.