Sunday, February 5, 2023

Pre-season concludes with an encouraging win

After a summer which has been sunny, weather-wise, and fairly miserable, football/transfer wise, it was interesting to see how Arsenal would fare against Man City yesterday.

They bought big, quickly and early. We Sanogo. Yet, we ran out impressive, comfortable, 3-1 winners (goal clips in that link). So much so that Arsene Wenger chucked on a trialist (Colombian midfielder Sebastien Perez), and 16 year old Gedion Zelalem for a decent chunk of the second half. While we lost a bit of our fluency with them on, and City managed to pull one back, we never looked in danger of losing the lead we thoroughly deserved.

The overall performance was solid, reassuring and has backed up what I’ve said all along – that we do have a decent core to this squad with some good players in it. Aaron Ramsey was outstanding in midfield. He was tireless, as ever, but added attacking threat and end product to his game.

He set up the first for Theo Walcott with a brilliant pass, and scored the second after great running from midfield. It augurs well for the season ahead and that he’s picked up where he left off last season is very promising indeed. Walcott himself set up the third goal for Giroud. The pass was something we don’t see often from him, and Giroud’s control and finish was excellent. It was good to see him score against a good defence and keeper as most of his pre-season strikes have come against part-timers.

City did have their moments but in both halves Szczesny, and then Fabianski, were alert to the danger and made good saves, and overall it was a display and a performance based on what worked well for us in the final third of last season. We stayed compact, crowding them out when they got near our area, and defensively we looked good. What was different yesterday was the fact our counter-attacking had some real purpose to it, and we took the chances when they arrived.

As you would expect, there were the usual ‘gags’ afterwards about how a win would ensure the manager keeps his chequebook closed, but winning or losing yesterday wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, have any impact on what we need to do. The chequebook has been closed all summer, I don’t know what difference one game would have made, bar us having to contend with injury.

Yet, the boss acknowledged the squad lacks depth afterwards, saying:

I think what is important is the strength of the squad. Today is one game. We want to play 55 games and we are maybe a bit thin squad-wise to go through a whole season.

No maybe about it, but this feels like a road we’ve travelled down once or twice over the last few months. I can’t be the only one dreading the midweek internationals and the potential impact they might have on our squad should we pick up a knock or two.

The fact we played Perez in a game so close to the start of the season could be seen as an indication of how light the squad is, but I can’t imagine that’s all it was. He wouldn’t be involved if he hadn’t impressed during his trial and I suspect we might like to bring him in. The issue, of course, is the work permit and whether or not he can get one, so we’ll have to wait and see there.

I know there are a lot of rumours about Luis Gustavo (Almadovar) but I don’t think I’ve seen anything coming from anywhere credible on this, and given the fact others have been more strongly linked and nothing’s happened, this is something I’ll believe when I see.

Anyway, to me yesterday was really pleasing, and anyone who can’t find something to enjoy in the fact that we played so well and comfortably beat a team like Man City might need to find something else to pass their time. However, it also illustrated that if the right players were added to this team, we’d have a fantastic chance of winning something this season.

As it stands the squad is simply too shallow. A couple of injuries and a suspension here or there, inevitable in any football season, and we’re stretched to breaking point. There can be no excuses, the manager has referenced that himself, and the fable internal solutions we have are not what’s required. So, well done to the lads yesterday, it was enjoyable and encouraging, and provides a good boost ahead of Villa next weekend, but let’s not think that one game is the answer to all our worries.

Meanwhile, another one has gone out the door – this time it’s Marouane Chamakh on a free transfer to Crystal Palace. On the one hand [something positive about his first 6 months at the club], on the other, what are they smoking at Selhurst Park?

I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of him. I know he did a decent job when the Dutch Skunk was absent, but after that he was nigh on useless. And expensively useless at that. Not one of the manager’s better deals, you have to say. Anyway, good luck to him.

Right, that’s your lot for a Sunday morning, have a good day, more tomorrow.

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