Arsene Wenger kept his word and hasn’t signed anyone before the Emirates Cup. Still, 60,000 spectators were in north London today in order to watch the first Arsenal home game since the 4:1 victory against Wigan in the penultimate match of last season. One of them was Vu Xuan Tien aka “The Running Man” who proved his passion for Arsenal during the Gunners’ visit to Vietnam.
Napoli have been the most demanding opponents since the pre-season begun and that includes off the pitch battles for players’ signatures. The Serie A runners-up have already won one of those battles – they signed an Arsenal target Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid in order to replace Edinson Cavani who signed for PSG. They also signed Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol who used to share the locker-room with Higuain at Madrid.
Wenger decided to make some changes to the squad. Per Mertesacker was given the armband in the absence of captain Vermaelen and vice-captain Arteta (who started the game on the bench). Cazorla and Yaya Sanogo weren’t among the players selected for the match and are yet to make an appearance in pre-season, but are expected to feature tomorrow.
Arsenal should have scored after just three minutes when Kieran Gibbs’ low cross – with some luck – found Serge Gnabry who had a lot of time to score from ten meters but the German youngster sent the ball wide. We didn’t have to wait too long for our first punishment. A long ball from Inler into our penalty box was intercepted with Carl Jenkinson’s unintentional header. Unfortunately Insinge fired the ball into the net.
Gunners responded well with Gnabry in the central role. Firstly, he created a chance for Giroud who failed to convert, then Reina poorly distributed the ball and it was then cut down by Gnabry and the German youngster tried to lob the Spanish ‘keeper with a clever chip but it went just a little bit over the bar.
The best Arsenal chance of the first half-time came after a soft foul by Valon Behrami on Kieran Gibbs. Podolski sent an unusually meek low shot that Reina saved easily. On the other side of the pitch, Napoli seemed to have no problems with finishing. Pandev used all that space he was given by our defence and a not-so-good Fabianski dash to double the lead.
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Podolski could have redeemed himself for the missed penalty but his shot was tipped by Reina. Napoli came close to scoring a third after the run of Pablo Armero down the left flank but Insigne didn’t react properly at the far post. That’s why the first half ended 0:2.
Wilshere tried to change something in the second half but his right-footed shot ended wide after an excellent darting run forward. The game went into a peaceful period that ended in the 72nd minute. Giroud forced Reina to make a save resulting in another corner. After the corner, Giroud tried a nice bicycle kick. The ball deflected off Sagna’s back straight into the net, the Gunners were back in the game.
Just six minutes after Giroud’s response, Arsenal completed their come-back. Arteta sent a cross from a free-kick on the right side. Mertesacker sent a powerful header goal wards, Reina deflected it and Koscielny was the first one to react properly and headed the ball home to equalize.
The defence was too soft again and our attack lacked sharpness on some occasions. Perhaps it will look much better with Santi Cazorla in the starting line-up. Gnabry showed that he has a lot of potential again while Podolski looked a bit tired. Just like last season, we were poor in the first half and successful in the second.
We need reinforcements ASAP.
on the match…
It was a good game overall. It had a good pace against a good side. Napoli is a good side. They finished second in the league in Italy last year. They are very good at counter-attacking. I feel overall during the 90 minutes that we played very well going forward. It took us some time to adjust defensively. It was as well a mental test because we were 2-0 down against such a good team to come back to 2-2. It was very interesting for us.
on talking openly about transfers…
I don’t understand this kind of thinking and I wouldn’t like to talk openly about negotiations because that is not my target in the press conference. I can just repeat what I said yesterday: until the 31st, which is one month in front of us, we will work very hard to strengthen our squad without naming any specific names because I don’t believe that will make negotiations easier. After that you can make all kinds of thinking about the prices of the players.
on transfer negotiations…
When you want to buy any player you need the agreement of the club and the agreement of the player and you need to agree a price. So you need three agreements. It is like you go to your neighbour and say: ‘I want to buy your house, so get out tomorrow morning.’ He will not be necessarily happy about it.
We have to focus on the players that we have. We are not drawn too much into the stories. But I can understand that they are interesting for people who love football, but it is not the most important in the game.
We will treat every transfer with the rules we have always followed and in a fair, respectful way. That is our club. Other clubs do it differently and that is their problem. But we are completely faithful to the values we think are important here.
on winning the title…
I am confident. Why should I sit here and say to you that we can absolutely not win the title with the players we have?
on his team’s performance…
I think our defence in the second half played very well. Defensively in the first half we gave too much distance to their players, we marked them from too big a distance and we shortened up a little bit in the second half. Our distances between the lines was shorter and we played higher up and overall we did very well on that.
on Gonzalo Higuain…
What can you do if every player I don’t buy scores a goal and suddenly it is a disaster? They do not have to stop to play because they go somewhere else. Higuain is a good player. If he had scored today, he would have scored today and it wouldn’t have changed my mind.
on players possibly leaving…
Gervinho we are at the moment close to an agreement with a club where he should go. Bendtner we are nowhere. At the moment he is completely here. Chamakh might go somewhere, it will be decided in the next 48 hours. [They are] permanent moves.
I think they are a very good side. Very well organised. I like what they did in midfield. You could see that this team plays for a few years together. Hamsik was especially dominant in the first half. They gave us big problems there. Overall they are compact, united and a very well-organised team that is very good.
on extending Bacary Sagna’s contractWe will try to extend Bacary Sagna but we are not close to an agreement.
on making a bid for Luis Suarez…
I never said we have made a bid to Liverpool, now I can tell you we have made one, so at least that is some information. All the rest, I would like to keep to us. If we progress in that situation, we will inform you. At the moment, that is where we are.
Jenkinson Mertesacker (c) Koscielny Gibbs
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