A low key pre-season finished on a relative high note. The runout in Cologne was gentle and Arsenal showed that even in a muted performance, they were several levels above their hosts. It would be easy to get carried away following the margin of victory, both in terms of goals and abilities, so hey, let’s do exactly that!
The three new signings all started the match with Cazorla dictating the match; a slew of pre-season changes are being made to Fantasy Football teams this week following an authoratitive performance by the Spaniard. Olivier Giroud was likewise lively, his movement good and he continually put himself into good scoring positions, thwarted continually by Horn in what was a personal dual between the two.
With the tempo of the match not far above strolling, it would be easy to proclaim the immediate influence of Steve Bould in terms of organisation when Arsenal did not have the ball. However, such pace enabled quick recovery when the players realised that they were not holding their lines and as such, there is little point in making too much virtue out of the clean sheet. It would be churlish to ignore it and with better fortune, the hosts might have breached the Arsenal defence twice. Manonne fumbled onto the crossbar whilst Lehmann’s sweetly struck drive in the second half, surely deserved better reward than rattling the woodwork.
The opening goal though had Bould’s hallmark touch. Following Horn’s smart save from Giroud, Cazorla’s corner kick flicked on by Mertesacker and met by the unchallenged Vermaelen, who headed from close range. Ten minutes later, Oxlade-Chamberlain was felled in the area. With a German in your side, there is only one person to entrust with the spot-kick and Podolski duly scored. Subsequent to that burst of goalscoring, Giroud was fed chances and denied by Horn. Köln infrequently troubled the visitors defence and when they did, chances were skewed wide or peetered into the ether.
Arsenal’s third arrived moments before the half-time whistle. Podolski released Gibbs on the left and as the full back scampered down the line, the German tracked and moved into the area, receiving the cutback and burying the chance with aplomb. Robin van who?
Robin van who, indeed as the Dutchman was the noticeable absentee when the team emerged for the second half. Ten Arsenal changes, Podolski was the only remaining participant in purple, from the first half. Arshavin took Cazorla’s central role and flattered whilst Gervinho looked reinvigorated following the summer off and the tour of Asia. He danced on the wing, dallied when shooting or passing was a better option and then watched Podolski do the same. To top it off, he outsprinted the defence, mesmirised them on the way back into area and then buried the chance by deceiving the goalkeeper. Four for the visitors, the afternoon’s scoring wrapped up with a quarter of the match still to play.
Podolski’s ovation was in stark contrast to the muted reception van Persie received. Reduced to a bit-part role today, it may be that van Gaal will play the Dutchman for 90 minutes in midweek to give him his pre-season practice. It is not ideal then neither is his continued silence, refusing to clarify or retract his statement. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
Post-match, Arsène protested his innocence in the van Persie affair,
Our fans want him to stay so you can understand they are excited. Anything I could say about Van Persie would be a lie because he’s our player and that’s it. Robin scored 30 goals last season and you want to keep your best player.
He was player of the year in England. We want to keep him. I cannot tell you more at the moment because I don’t know more.