Continuous transfer rumours are bombing Gooners desktops, laptops and all other devices they have used this summer to check whether Gonzalo Higuain – who apparently had so many medicals in London that members of his family should be seriously concerned by now – will join Arsenal or Napoli, whether Luis Suarez will score and bite in an Arsenal, Real or Napoli shirt, and whether Arsene Wenger is going to pick Nicklas Bendtner or Abou Diaby for favourite “like-a-new-signing”-routine.
Sadly, the injury list is getting bigger and bigger – Wojciech Szczesny, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal have problems that make Wenger’s reactions in the transfer market even more important.
All those news were put aside by the Gooners who could enjoy watching their beloved team in action for the third time during pre-season. After matches against not so dangerous opponents (Indonesia Dream Team and Vietnam XI), our today’s opponents were much more demanding. Also, the match against Nagoya Grampus had a special meaning for Arsene Wenger and Ryo Miyaichi – Nagoya Grampus was the last club Arsene Wenger managed before establishing an era at Arsenal while Miyaichi played at youth level in Nagoya for Sylphid Nagoya. Also, Nagoya manager is Dragan Stojković Piksi, one of the Wenger’s favourites who was also mentioned as a possible replacement for Wenger on Arsenal’s bench one day.
Due to injuries of Szczesny and Koscielny, Wenger started with Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks, while central defense consisted of Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker. Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi got his chance in starting line-up which was greeted with applause from the home crowd.
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The game started in a good fashion. Rosicky and Jenkinson combined on the right flank before the former sent a cross in the middle of the box. Olivier Giroud – who has already scored 6 goals – used the gap left by the two home defenders and met the cross with a header of matching quality. Only a few minutes later Miyaichi could have sent the whole stadium into pandemonium but his left-footed volley ended just a bit wide. In the middle of the first half, Arsenal managed to double their lead. Giroud started a counter-attack where he laid off the ball for Walcott who then made a burst through the middle. The Englishman picked Giroud on the right flank who tried to cut it back for Miyaichi but the Nagoya defender stopped the ball before it reached the Japanese youngster. The only problem for the hosts was the fact Tulio Tanaka hand-balled in the box while doing that. Mikel Arteta showed his class again by letting Miyaichi take the penalty instead of him. Miyaichi stepped up with all the confidence he could have needed and fired the ball into the right corner of the goal to make it 2:0.
Walcott should have scored the third goal of the day but his finish of a counter-attack that started with a precise Rosicky pass wasn’t good enough. The Englishman was a bit selfish as he could have passed the ball to either flank where his team-mates were waiting for a simple tap-in. Nagoya nearly came back into the game when Tanaka produced a wonderful through ball that Mertesacker failed to intercept with a sliding tackle. Ogawa had the best possible opportunity as he was one-on-one with Fabianski but all that the Polish goalkeeper had to do in the end was to collect the meek ball sent by Ogawa, who scuffed his shot.
Our passing looked well and we controlled the game comfortably until the end of the first half.
However, the start of the second half – in which Arsenal went with Wilshere, Podolski, Gnabry and Zelalem in the place of Rosicky, Arteta, Miyaichi and Giroud – wasn’t that bright despite Gnabry’s opportunity in the very first minute. Our defending was shaky and Fabianski was called into action only to create a mess that Kennedy failed to materialize – Kennedy’s half-volley went over the bar despite the goal being empty. On the other side of the pitch, Walcott had problems with his finishing – his first touch after a delightful long ball from Mertesacker was OK, but his shot that came afterwards wasn’t as Narazaki made a fine save. Gnabry showed some of his skills on the left flank, managed to beat two opponents before firing the ball wide. The third goal, however, finally came. And, it was another brilliant pass from Gedion Zelalem, the 16-year-old German midfielder who won the hearts of the Gooners instantly, that provided another opportunity for Walcott to score. Zelalem showed incredible vision for a 16-year-old and found Walcott on the right side of the penalty box with the through ball. Walcott went forward with the ball and chipped it with left foot to make it 3:0.
Wilshere, Walcott and Gibbs played out a sequence that might be a blueprint for some international matches, but the overlapping Gibbs failed to find the proper finish. Walcott created another chance, this time Wilshere had one-on-one with Narazaki but it was Japanese goalkeeper who was on the winning side of the duel. Wilshere returned the favour to Walcott but Narazaki pulled another save.
It’s not like hosts didn’t threat at all. They did and most of it came due to the tiredness of our players who weren’t so determined while performing defending duties. Podolski allowed Tanaka to make a cross similar to the one Rosicky did for Giroud’s goal and Sagna was beaten by Yano in the air who headed the ball home for a consolation goal.
Arsenal had a great chance to restore three-goal-lead. Akpom was released by another brilliant Zelalem’s pass that concluded some nice passing from Arsenal youngsters Wilshere, Aneke and Gnabry. When Akpom found himself in front of the goalkeeper, he decided to clip the ball but it went just wide.
The biggest impression was that Gedion Zelalem is indeed a true gem, one of those players that should lead Arsenal to the glory in the years to come. Fans of the German international team will enjoy in performances of Arsenal talents Gnabry and Zelalem, provided that they fulfill their potential. Zelalem’s vision combined with Gnabry’s flair offer both Gooners and Germans a lot of hope and excitement.
Our defensive game could have been better, though, and it might be a right time for Wenger to sign Ashley Williams or someone else who can play as central defender since we are now only down to Per Mertesacker when it comes to fit natural central defenders.
Midfield enjoyed a lot of good passing. Rosicky should see out his career at Arsenal. Next season might be the one in which Rosicky will be our creative engine from the very start of the campaign.
When it comes to new strikers, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sign a world-class finisher. According to some reports from Naples, Rafael Benitez might be in the mood to lock horns with Arsene Wenger over Luis Suarez as well. Is it just another participant to the boring mind-game between Arsenal and Real Madrid over Gonzalo Higuain or a true interest? A back-up goalkeeper would be a wise addition as well.
on the game…
It was a game played at a good pace. Of course it was a special event and the stadium was full. We played with greater fluency, especially in the first half and we created chances. We lost a bit of cohesion in the second half and were not able to maintain that pace. Overall it was very interesting for us from the first to the last minute.
on what pleased him most…
We played with good focus and high pace. We played with a good attitude and at this moment of the season we look quite sharp. We have no injuries as well.
on taking young players on tour…
It is so they can develop. They can realise what they have to work on. It is a good opportunity for me to see how well they are doing.
on Ryo taking the penalty…
It was not planned. When Ryo scored I thought it was a good decision from Arteta.
on Ryo’s progress…
He is not completely ready physically. He was not completely fit to play but it was a special occasion that I did not want him to miss. He just needs to come back to full fitness and then the rest will come along.
on his qualities…
His pace, his mobility and his movement off the ball. I like players who can move when others have the ball. There is also his attitude, commitment and desire. That is why I decided to keep him.
Jenkinson Sagna Mertesacker Gibbs
Arteta (c) Ramsey
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