I for one love preseason, after a month or so of no Arsenal it really whets the appetite for the coming fixtures and gives us a chance to see our young guns potential. In recent years it’s also been a fantastic opportunity for our fans from across the globe to watch the team they love in person, even getting to meet some players or even the boss. It should be a time where you can watch the game with no anxiety over the result, revel in some new signings and just get a feel for the squad for the season ahead.
To managers it’s just a means of getting players back to match fitness and assessing which of them are good enough to be in the squad for the season, an especially important part for youngsters or fringe players. For the board it’s basically a marketing ploy, an excellent way of boosting your fanbase (and thus your revenue) in countries where The Arsenal haven’t made waves yet. However every year I find that many of our fans on twitter take preseason so seriously, to the point that negativity begins to take hold before we’ve played a minute of competitive football.
Lets look at our results from this preseason and see where we’re at; so far we have recorded 3 wins, 2 losses and a draw. Of our 3 wins, 2 of them were pretty much a foregone conclusion against the pair of Sydney teams then we went on to Shanghai to draw with Bayern in 90 minutes followed by a shootout victory. Our first loss came at the hands of a near perfect Chelsea team in Beijing before flying home to play in the Emirates cup with a thrashing of Benfica and a close defeat to Sevilla handing us the “silverware”. Not too shabby if you ask me.
Sydney FC 2-0(W)
Against Sydney FC we saw a fresh faced starting XI with youth players such as Bielik, Brammal, Willock and Nelson plus a debut for our new LB signing Sead Kolasinac in the back 3. It was about as comfortable as you’d expect from a first preseason game, with an early goal from Per and some outstanding performances from Nelson and Willock. Had our forwards been a bit more clinical we may have been 2 or 3 nil up before the eventual substitutions, but a lack of sharpness was to be expected.
At 68 minutes the whole outfield team was replaced, giving our new club record signing Alexandre Lacazette the opportunity to shine and within 15 minutes he calmly took his first goal for the gunners. Another surprise of the game was the performance of Eddie Nketiah who had a couple of great chances in his 20 minutes on the pitch including one off the post and starting the move for Lacazette’s goal. All in all, a decent start to our preseason outings.
Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1(W)
With a completely changed starting XI to the first game, we saw Lacazette’s first start for the club and he was involved early on with a great turn almost resulting in a goal. Unfortunately he was unable to mark his full debut with a goal but with a flurry of goals in 10 minutes just before half time from Giroud, Ramsey and Elneny, we made light work of the opposition.
In truth the score line flattered WSW, as their goal was a result of a indirect free kick in the box that would have been difficult not to score. We were also incredibly unlucky to not record another handful of goals with us striking the woodwork 3 times and their keeper making a string of good saves throughout the game.
Bayern Munich 1-1(W on pens)
Our first real challenge of preseason came against Bayern in Shanghai, with a bout of illness ruling out several players and causing Kolasinac to be replaced early on in the game. This meant we were on the receiving end of most of the game with Cech keeping us in it with an unbelievable performance, only conceding to a Lewandowski penalty which Bernat was extremely fortunate to win.
Bayern were unlucky not to go 2-0 as a Tolisso goal was incorrectly ruled offside. With the bombardment of attacks we managed to hold on until the 94th minute when a quick breakaway started by Iwobi, then crossed back into his path by Ramsey was converted via a great header. With it finishing 1-1 the only way to settle the game was a penalty shootout where Emi Martinez proved his worth with 2 exceptional saves to hand us the trophy.
The game against Chelsea in Beijing was similar to the Bayern game with us on the backfoot for most of the game. With Brammal and Maitland-Niles in our back 5 it’s unsurprising that Chelsea’s first team attackers cut through us with ease. With us mostly unable to string many passes together in midfield our attack was unusually quiet, other than a brief spell at the start of the second half.
When one of our best chances of the game was a shot from Coquelin, it’s pretty clear that we weren’t our usual selves going forward. One positive from the game was the link up between Nelson and Malen late in the second half, almost culminating in a goal for the latter.
With a home debut for Sead Kolasinac, our first game of the Emirates cup was set to be an exciting one. Some poor defending and a couple of unlucky deflections handed Benfica 2 goals but other than that we were in complete control with Kolasinac instrumental in several goals. His strength and superb final ball didn’t go unnoticed amongst fans and teammates alike, with Wenger commending him in his post match interview.
Many other players staked their claim to be in the first team for the start of the season including Theo Walcott with his brace and his cross that ended up as an own goal. Olivier Giroud also scored a brilliant volley after some excellent wing play from 17 year old Reiss Nelson, who’s performances this preseason must have increased his chances of some first team game time possibly in cup ties.
With Elneny at CB and no Xhaka in CM it was unlikely to be a vintage Arsenal performance against a strong Sevilla side. Ben Yedder nearly put them ahead early on, kept out only by the woodwork with us looking defensively shaky from the outset. We looked the worse side throughout and they made us pay just after half time with a Correa goal.
After conceding the team seemed to spring into action, becoming more direct with our attacks and Chamberlain finally found Lacazette in perfect position to slot home. In typical Arsenal style we switched off pretty much straight away and a wonderful curled effort from NZonzi proved too much for Cech to keep out. Due to the rules of the Emirates cup we somehow came away with the trophy due to our goals scored against Benfica but it was a hollow victory.
The first real test comes against Chelsea in the community shield on Sunday although in reality it is still a preseason, unless you’re a United fan and then it’s the completion of another treble with our other 2 preseason trophies. Personally I’m happy with our performances so far, with our new and young players in particular giving us something to be optimistic about with regards to the start of the season.
With Leicester looming the season is about to start in earnest and I hope that some of the negativity I’ve seen already subsides by then and I hope that we can give the team the full support they need going into the new season. As a novice blogger my writing may not be great but I’m sure it will improve as I continue to contribute to Clock End Talk throughout the season, so I hope you continue to read along with us!
Written by – @RamXhakle