Sunday, July 26, 2015

Arsenal Win First Trophy of the Season!

Arsenal has just won its fourth piece of silverware in the past year and a half! Okay, it’s only the perennial Emirates Cup, but the team had not won their own preseason tournament since 2010 and, before the FA Cup in 2014, had gone nine years without any legimitamet trophy. Now they have won two FA Cups in a row, last year’s Community Shield (over City) and now this, rather marginal fourth. After losing to Monaco in the final last year, they won this two-day preseason event with real style, first crushing Lyon 6-0 and then finishing the job off with a tidy 1-0 win over the Bundesliga runners-up Wolfsburg. Theo Walcott, who is close to signing a new contract with the club, scored the only goal of the game today after the blowout yesterday.

Arsenal have been impressive throughout the preseason culminating in the huge victory yesterday. After an even start, the hosts turned the screw on their Ligue 1 opponents with Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey all hitting the net in an outstanding spell of attacking football, before Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla added goals in the second half to wrap up a resounding 6-0 win. In the four games, a number of youngsters have impressed. Chuka Akpom scored a hat trick against Singapore XI in a 4-0 semifinal win in Asia, Alex Iwobi scored yesterday linking up nicely with Giroud and the rest of the front line and Isaac Hayden marshaled the defensive midfield role after replacing Francis Coquelin in the closing stages of the Lyon match. Most impressive might be the versatile midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who Wenger signed ahead of Barcelona last month.

The biggest concern for Arsenal fans heading into the new season is the lack of activity in the summer transfer window so far beyond the capture of ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. As John Terry argued, having Cech could earn Arsenal 15 points, which would – if you don’t have a calculator handy – have given them the title last year. On the other hand, there is a sense that Arsenal could benefit from another DM and a world-class striker. Two hundred million pounds is sitting in the bank waiting to be spent and it appears Wenger’s pecuniary nature might leave it there earning interest yet again. This is made more troubling as City, Liverpool and United have all spend huge to improve their squads, while Chelsea tinker with minor enhancements.

Wenger has certainly improved his reputation in the market the past two seasons, finally spending real money to bring in Ozil and then Sanchez in subsequent windows, together with Brazilian Paulista to back up Mertesacker and Koscielny. Yet the defensive midfielder Arsenal fans have been calling for for years never came and though Francis Coquelin has marshaled that position with surprising success and mettle since returning from a loan spell last December, there is a sense that if he goes out injured, the Gunners will be right back where they were last season. The same can be said at the striker position, where Giroud now stands as the sole clear centre forward on the team; even as there is belief Walcott will get more chances in that position this season. Even with Sanchez and Walcott, they do seem a little short for a team hoping to compete in four competitions and finally sustain a title chase. It also appears there are players out there who could be bought for the right price, with Benzema, Lacazette or even Dzeko all viable options that could strengthen the center of attack.

Preseason signs have been positive, for what that is worth, but the first real test comes next weekend in the Community Shield, an event that will probably be taken a little more seriously this year, as Wenger attempts to finally best his archrival Mourinho in a game that matters.

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