So pre-season began in earnest yesterday with a 2-1 over a Malaysia XI, although it took a couple of late goals to do it.
Having gone ahead in first half injury time with a belter of a goal, the Malaysian side looked fit and determined to cause a ‘shock’. We looked very much like a team which was playing its first real game and although we never really clicked we missed a number of very presentable chances. Andre Santos could have had a couple in the first half, while Benik Afobe could have done likewise in the second but rusty finishing and a couple of half-decent saves kept us from scoring.
Late on young German Thomas Eisfeld finished very well from inside the box after a good cut back from Nico Yennaris while Chuks Aneke won the game with a shot which rather cruelly deflected in off a defender’s heel. I think the Malaysian team more than merited a draw but there you go, that’s football. We played two completely different outfield teams in each half, the only constant was Vito Mannone in goal, and it was a game to complement our fitness and conditioning work, not one to pull apart and analyse in great detail. Afterwards, Arsene said:
The result was less important than the workout. I think we got the quality of the game we wanted and that is very positive. We got through it without any injuries and it was a good game.
Overall we still have some tactical work to do and some physical work but don’t forget that some players have only had two or three days training. Some others have only had a maximum of seven or eight so physically we are far from what we can produce.
We now go to China where we’ll prepare for a game on Friday against filthy Man City in the Beijing National Stadium. Regardless of the fact it’s pre-season I suspect there’ll be a bit more intensity to this particular game due to all that’s happened between the clubs over the last couple of seasons. I’m looking for our young French defensive midfielder to get stuck in to our money hungry friend just so we can talk about how Nasri has been on the end of a Coq reducer. Should be fun.
Away from the tour and back home, there’s good news as Laurent Koscielny has agreed a new deal with Arsenal. It’s the ubiquitous ‘long-term’ deal but it’s believed to bring him up as far as 2017. He says:
I’m delighted to have reached agreement with the Club. I have had a fantastic time here and look forward to an exciting future with Arsenal.
And I don’t think you’ll find anyone who could complain about this. His signing, two summers ago, wasn’t exactly inspiring, but it just shows that Arsene Wenger is capable of finding and developing defenders. Perhaps now Steve Bould can bring a bit more defensive focus to the team in general, which would certainly add another dimension to things.
Meanwhile, Theo Walcott says his people and Arsenal are still talking but has remained fairly non-committal when talking about his future, saying:
It was always going to be (a case of) hold back until the end of the Euros. We continue to talk and we’ll just see where it goes. My agent and the club will continue to talk and when there’s something to know I’ll get involved.
It’s not exactly ‘I want to stay’, is it? But then again, I expect he’s under orders from his agent to say as little as possible as they look to work out the best deal possible for their client. Could they be using the old ‘Ooooh, you couldn’t lose van Persie and Walcott in one summer’ line to see if Arsenal will buckle to their financial demands? Who knows, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
There are two reasons it’s been left this long by Walcott and his people and that’s to 1) use brinksmanship like that (and the fact he could leave on a free next summer) to strengthen their position or 2) to sort out a move somewhere else. Where that somewhere else would be, I just don’t know. Anything other than City, United or Chelsea would be a step-down, at least in terms of having no Champions League football for the season ahead, I’m sure they could afford to pay him well. If they wanted him.
It’d also make you wonder whether or not the Cazorla stuff is having an effect. What would it mean for Walcott if we signed him, and had Oxlade-Chamberlain nipping at his heels for a place? Is he up for that fight? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
As for Cazorla, we’ve been through it all in 24 hours. Some reports say we’ve agreed terms and opened negotiations with Malaga. Malaga say we haven’t even spoken to them, no deal has been agreed with anyone and they don’t want to sell. Which, when you think about it, is the position we’re taking with van Persie even though everyone knows we’re going to sell him at some point this summer. Most of the stuff in the Spanish papers says ‘according to English paper The Guardian’, so it’s hard to see what’s going on but pretty much every report says he’s happy to join us.
It’s another wait and see job but if it comes off I think it’d be a genuinely fantastic signing. An experienced, quality player who would add more creativity to our midfield. Not quite in the same way that Cesc did but perhaps in the same way that the manager is looking for Giroud and Podolski to share the burden of van Persie’s goals, Cazorla would be the guy to augment the passing of Arteta or Song (or even Walcott!). We shall see and although I’m still very cautious about this deal being done, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
For the stats fans, 7amkickoff has done one of his By the numbers on both Kosciely and Cazorla, go read.
Finally for today, the PFA have issued social media guidelines to players having charged Emmanuel Frimpong for his unwise response to a Sp*rs troll. There have been calls for the club to prevent the players using Twitter and the like, but I think Arsene is right that it would be over the top and prevent free expression. What we have to hope is that they use it properly, don’t get involved with idiots looking to provoke them, but more than anything you’d like to think they become aware of how they’re perceived due to their use of it.
I know they’re young guys and all the rest but maybe a footballer should be best known for what he does on the pitch than what he does on Twitter. That’s not to say the two things can’t exist side by side but footballers on Twitter are operating under such a microscope that any little transgression becomes a bullshit headline in rags like the Metro who bottom feed to get hits. Anyway, hopefully there’s a lesson learned for Frimpong and an example to others of how not to do it.