Monday, July 20, 2015

Arsenal 3 Everton 1 (Barclays Asia Trophy Final)

Arsenal lifted their first trophy of the season as they comfortably beat Everton 3-1 in the final of Barclays Asia Trophy held in Singapore. Although the main purpose of these games was for the players to gain fitness ahead of a new season, we, supporters, were unexpectedly treated to a fine show of Arsenal brand of fluent football for this time of the year. In fact, the manager admitted he was a little bit surprised with the level of his side's fitness and sharpness especially in the intense heat and humidity of Southeast Asia. Considering that the majority of the players who started today did not come back from holidays until last Friday, their performances were quite impressive. Wenger was also full of praise for how quickly his players were getting back to full fitness.

The biggest talking point prior to the Asia Trophy final was Cech's debut in Arsenal colours. The ex-Chelsea goal keeper was named among the much-changed starting line-up from the side who faced Singapore Select XI three days ago. A reported fee of £10 million may be too big a price to pay for the 33-year-old goalkeeper, but the statement Arsenal made through the signing showed their intent for this season.  Given the enthusiasm of the local fans in the Singapore National Stadium towards every touch made by the new signing, Arsenal certainly did  good business here. It also instilled a belief in his new team-mates that they will be genuine contenders for the title. Asked how difficult it was to prise the world-class keeper away from the title rivals, Wenger answered that it was more difficult for him to decide to add another goalkeeper to the three good keepers he already had. The signing of Petr Cech clearly indicated a new direction in the Frenchman's transfer window approach.

Arsenal took the lead in the 22nd minute after Theo raced onto Santi's lofted long pass and slotted it home. Just before the break, Cech made a finger-tip save to divert Naismith's header on to the crossbar. Kone fired the rebound home, but the off-side flag was already up.

The Gunners stepped up the pace of the game even further in the second half, with the introduction of the Ox in place of Jack. The 21-year-old injected some dynamism, but his final ball needs to improve. He was also guilty for Ross Barkley's goal as he was dispossessed by Gareth Barry deep in his own half (shades of Monaco) Santi and Kos were furious with him. It may have been a mere pre-season friendly, but it's good to see some players clearly show their passion for the game. At this point, we were 3-0 up thanks to Santi's 58th-minute solo effort and Özil's cool finish on 62 minutes, but it was a pity that Cech was denied a clean sheet on his debut.

With the 75th-minute goal giving Everton slight hopes of a comeback, Arsene Wenger brought on Coquelin in the 76th minute for Cazorla to make sure there would be no more drama before the final whistle. Before this substitution, Arteta came on the pitch in the 71st minute to replace Walcott in his first appearance since November last year. Amid a few newspapers claiming that the club captain had had the recurrence of a calf injury and was not available for selection, it was a delightful sight, but his foul just outside the box suggested that it might be some time before the Spaniard can raise his sharpness to a level enough to convince us he is a reliable backup for Coquelin.

There was still time for Chuba Akpom to make another encouraging appearance. The youngster grabbed the headlines on Wednesday after scoring a hat-trick against Singapore Select XI. He had a glorious chance to score, but he rushed his finish and his shot was easily smothered by Joel Robles. However, he showed his strength in his hold-up play. The 15-minute outing didn't do any harm to the 19-year-old's prospect.

Santi Cazorla was arguably the Man of the Match, providing assists for Arsenal's first and third, as well as getting on the scoresheet himself with a sublime individual effort. However, what most impressed us was the team's collective performance. Arsenal showed much more creativity and penetration than their Premier League opponents going forward, while they looked alert against Everton's quick counter attacks. They were quick in transitions from defence to attack and vice versa.

Arsenal started with no dedicated holding midfielder, with Aaron Ramsey in his preferred central position alongside Santi Cazorla. The Welshman put in  a  good defensive shift.

Competitions were everywhere. Hector Bellerin made a crucial last-ditch tackle inside the box, while Mathieu Debuchy showed us why he was signed as a first-choice right-back last summer, when he started on Wednesday against Singapore Select XI. Kieran Gibbs did not put his foot wrong after Nacho Monreal delivered a solid performance three days ago. Theo Walcott showed he can score from the flanks with Olivier Groud playing a target-man role.

It is an encouraging  fact that we are still to have Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky coming back from holiday and injury. At the same time, there is no doubt that a section of Arsenal fans are more concerned that Arsene Wenger may have strengthened his belief that there is little need of new additions to the squad after this convincing win. The major reason for this belief he cited was "cohesion" within the team, which was demonstrated in this game. However, this was the man who pulled out the signings of Mesut Özil on the transfer deadline day two years ago for £42.5 million and Alexis Sanchez for £35 million last year. Keep fingers crossed that a world-class defensive midfielder or striker will suddenly become available before this transfer window closes.

Arsenal team: Cech, Bellerin (Debuchy 70), Chambers, Koscielny, Gibbs, Cazorla (Coquelin 76), Ramsey, Walcott (Arteta 71), Özil, Wilshere (Oxlade-Chamberlain 46), Giroud (Akpom 76)

No comments:

Post a Comment