Apologies for my long absence from blogging. I was drafted in for the ABC’s online coverage of the London 2012 Olympics, which resulted in horrible 2:00am starts and not having the energy to do anything else other than working, driving home, vegging out and sleeping. The Games, which were brilliantly hosted by the Brits and produced some awesome moments with Usain Bolt and Mo Farah (GOONER), are done and dusted, and I can return to Arsenal duties.
August 8, 2009. Arsenal travel to Spain for a preseason fixture against Valencia. The result? A convincing 2-0 win for the hosts and hundreds of questions asked of Arsenal. Many internet boards were incredulous at the loss, despite it being a friendly, finding all sorts of flaws in the team despite the loss counting for nothing.
Fast-forward three years later, and another friendly fixture against relegated German opposition has us salivating with expectation. Arsenal beat Cologne in convincing fashion, with old boy / new signing Lukas Podolski scoring a brace in a 4-0 win.
There are a hell of a lot of positives emerging from this game. The big three new boys – Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Podolski – all featured in Arsenal colours (purple?) for the first time, and all three seemed to slot in with ease.
Cazorla was making an obvious effort to impress, spraying long balls everywhere for wingers and full backs to run onto and setting the pace in midfield.
Giroud will have better days in front of goal but his movement was immediately encouraging and he wasn’t afraid to use his physique to boss the Cologne defence.
Steve Bould’s influence on the defence came to the fore on the opposite end of the pitch with the game’s opener as Cazorla’s corner was lobbed onwards by Per Mertesacker to Thomas Vermaelen, who had a simple task of nodding in the first goal.
Podolski’s two goals speak for themselves – one came from the penalty spot after a Cologne defender stupidly took down Alex Oxlade Chamberlain in the box when the ball looked to be going out. The second came from a van Persie-type thumper, preying on hesitance from the defenders in the box.
On van Persie, the media reaction has been pretty diplomatic over the ‘muted’ reception he got from the Arsenal fans when coming on. It was more half-negative-half-neutral, but I would hope we save the biggest booing for him only once (if) he moves to Man United. Failing that, it’s simply counter-productive to boo one’s own player, especially if we keep such a vital, potentially title-winning tool along the way.
If he makes the move to a Manchester club, go nuts. Boo the shit out of him. But for now, I really feel the fans, whose anger is fully justified, to hold fire just a little bit longer.
Gervinho scored our fourth on 60 minutes after a lovely burst of speed down the left flank, showing some good control at pace to keep the ball in play and go past the full back, before cutting in and sliding the ball home past a flat-footed keeper. I don’t see many like that being scored against premiership-standard stoppers, but it continues the Ivorian’s good form in preseason.
Aside from individual performances, the team’s enthusiasm from the first whistle, in a friendly with nothing at stake, was very encouraging. Coquelin, Gibbs, Cazorla and Podolski all formed a pack on the left flank to harry their opponents out of possession, which is exactly what I like to see developing. Before our closing down involved one or two players at most closing opponents down. This hunting-in-packs mentality, virginal as it may be at the moment, is one I hope is encouraged more and more.
That’s about as much as I could gather from a bleary-eyed, begging-for-sleep viewing of events. I’ve left out a host of players who also had good showings, but I’d encourage you all to let me know your thoughts on them, and on the new signings, in the comments.