Arsenal 3 – 1 Manchester City
For the same reason that last weekend as a guide for 2013-14 was meaningless, so was yesterday. But who knew that meaningless could be so enjoyable?
You can see how this coming season is going to pan out. Every win will be the signal to cheerlead the manager, every defeat the opposite; Business As Usual. Yesterday, I noted that “Handsome victory, resounding defeat; they must be met with the same almost stoical response by the manager“. The only tangible conclusion to draw from yesterday is that pre-season training is over; when the players return to the club on Thursday, they have two days until the real thing begins. But as their thoughts turn to Aston Villa, their confidence should be high.
It was a good performance, settling back to play on the counter-attack whilst stifling City as they approached the penalty area; the way that teams have played against us for years. Crucial to that working successfully was the midfield working hard and Aaron Ramsey continued his fine pre-season with an assist and cracking finish for Arsenal’s second, solving a question for the manager and leaving but one place in midfield as free. Tomas Rosicky will battle for that with Jack Wilshere as the youngster regains his match fitness after a torrid couple of years. There are murmurings around the England international’s injury record; they seem to be the default setting but can we please use Ramsey as the marker for that and not Diaby?
A hint of a new signing came with the introduction of Sebastian Perez, presumably because his trial has gone well. A nasty streak emerged with his caution which takes some doing in a pre-season friendly. Doubts have emerged about whether he would qualify for a Work Permit; if that is the case, hopefully Arsenal will insert a clause in the purchase contract that makes the deal dependent upon this paperwork being issued. Still, he will be nice and cheap so it’s another instance of business as usual.
Post-match, Arsène was understandably pleased with the result and performance but acknowledged that the squad is not deep enough,
I think what is important is the strength of the squad. Today is one game. We want to play 55 games and we are maybe a bit thin squad-wise to go through a whole season.
Which is what everyone has said since May. It isn’t the first time that he has said it either. It is curious that this was in response to a question about the strikers at the club on a day when Giroud and Walcott took their chances with some aplomb but at the same time, entirely correct. Arsenal’s squad is not deep enough but disconcertingly going into the new season, there is little sign of any additions. Luis Suarez’s move is on hold, looking less likely as days pass and the ensuing problems are Liverpool’s to deal with. Rumours this morning abound that Luis Gustavo but these seem to be based on a Metro story and are rehashed in the equally reliable Daily Star, the same paper carrying stories that the Uruguayan will be sold to Tottenham. That’s right, Liverpool will spite a club that they consider a rival for a top four spot by selling to a club they consider a rival for the top four. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, etc. The silly season got into full stride with reports that Arsenal have prepared a £33m bid for Wayne Rooney and United want to sell the England striker to anyone but Chelsea.
All of which has left Arsène nervously facing the week’s internationals around the globe. Malaga have been in the UK this weekend and it is inconceivable that they met with Nicklas Bendtner? It seemed unlikely that Marouane Chamakh would leave the club permanently before his contract expired but Crystal Palace have apparently nabbed him on a free transfer so anything is possible. If only the ruthless efficiency of the Summer’s cull could have been transferred to the acquisitions required.
Amid all of this, there was a hint that Wenger has no intention of changing his priorities. His total of 55 games was ten short if he wanted to win all competitions in which the club will take part. As it is, taking the 38 Premier League and 15 needed to win the Champions League, we can look forward to exits from the domestic cup competitions in the first rounds we enter. Business as usual indeed.