Arsenal inaugurated the football year at the Emirates with back to back wins in the Emirates Cup. They started off with a 6-0 thumping of French club Olympique Lyonnais, in a game that was more or less as one sided as any and followed that with a solid 1-0 win against Wolfsburg.
The game against Lyon at the Emirates cup, was understood to be one where Arsenal would be required to play with rigor, and with a strong starting line up in the wake of the 2015-16 season. Arsene Wenger fielded several key first team players, supplemented marginally by Arsenal’s promising youngsters Alex Iwobi in the starting 11 and Isaac Hayden & Rene Adelaide on the bench, with the former impressing immediately with a great goal, converting a precise pass from Aaron Ramsey. The Frenchman made whole some changes against Wolfsburg with Ozil being the only retained player from the previous day. The Gunners clinched it with a second half goal from Walcott from a Adelaide pass who himself performed exceptionally well for a player who was making his first start for the club.
Many say that these pre-season games give us a glimpse into what is going to happen this season. I would beg to differ. I am in no way certain that Lyon’s 6-0 bombardment at home can extensively determine what kind of games can we expect from Arsenal in the upcoming season. There is no doubt however that the team is preparing well, but at this point it only makes sense to take away a few things from this game without equating Arsenal’s performance with their eventual success in the premier league. These games, were a joy to watch, on several accounts. A few key things need special mention:
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is better than ever:
Wenger has been previously heard saying that Chamberlain is a first team regular, a player who made 20 appearances in the league last season before sitting out due to injury. Chamberlain’s presence in the team, unusually enough , has come to be at a time when several other players have been injured. In other words, at some point in the first half last season players like Wilshere, Walcott and Ozil were all out injured, while Francis Coquelin had still not returned from injury at the time Chamberlain featured for Arsenal. His goal against Lyon, as well his general display on the counter, his ability to switch play with Ozil and the two central midfielders, his ability to read Giroud’s movement in the final third, his dribbling, his never say die attitude and most importantly his physicality, make him one of Arsenal’s most dangerous and complete players on the pitch. I for one saw very little of his link -up play with the likes of Ozil and Ramsey last season. His display in this match suggests that he might play more often, hopefully an entire season. The same would go for Jack Wilshere, who has not managed to play an entire season without being injured for a number of years now.
Arsenal’s strengths have enhanced
Arsenal are known to be an attack minded team. More importantly, Arsenal’s qualities offensively are such the team tries to compromise very little on precision and style, in the way that they play not just to win but to win and dominate. Arsenal’s counter attacks on a few occasions, namely the ones that ended in goals, the first by Chamberlain and the second by Iwobi, were both a class apart. In the second game it was the time one other youngster to shine who goes by the name of Adelaide. He was damn impressive on Sunday, showing just how much talent the Gunners have in store for the future.
All players were fast in their movement and with their skill in front of goal. If such a tempo can be maintained against the likes of Chelsea, there is no stopping Arsenal. Arsenal seem much stronger in these qualities than even last season. In addition, defensively, Mertesacker and Koscielny seem to be as strong as ever, while young keeper Martinez was exceptional and any explanation as to why Wenger has still kept him at the club could be found in his performance yesterday.
Ramsey’s form, an injury free season and partnership with Ozil are crucial
Aaron Ramsey was at it again: running, and tackling, and running and passing and scoring; one of them players who does a bit of everything. His goal, which was without doubt an absolutely killer one, was created by him, beginning with a long ball to Ozil who kept Lyon’s defender occupied till Ramsey made one of his signature runs in towards the opponents 18 yard box, he was marked, but he timed his run in a way that he hit the net in a manner very few people can afford. Ozil and Ramsey ‘s partnership on the offensive, played an important role in Arsenal’s form in the 2013-14 season. This game has seen the importance of their partnership for Arsenal.
I am not entirely sure as to what Arsenal really need to bag the title, but there is some truth in the universal claim that Arsenal must strengthen their squad. I for one, had maintained throughout that Arsenal must strengthen defensively, not just numerically, but by bringing in someone who could orchestrate movement off the ball. Manchester United’s capture of Bastian Schweinsteiger, was an exceptional piece of business. Someone in Schweinsteiger’s mould could prove to be vital in the way Arsenal’s decision making off the ball, especially in their own half is never too hasty. Needless to say, however, I am one of those who thinks we might just have the right additions at the end of the season, for that is definitely on the club’s mind, and whatever piece of Business Wenger pulls off, I get the feeling that it will only be to strengthen what is already there with him.
Arsenal’s victory against Lyon makes Wenger right on this specific fact: that there actually aren’t too many players on the market that could improve this squad. Time will, however (as it always does) tell whether this is a misconception or a reality.