Arsenal 1 – 1 Atletico Madrid
Atletico win 3 – 1 on penalties
It won’t be long before someone launches a crowdfunding page for their first ‘Emery Out’ banner. Or at least that’s what the wag in me thinks. I’m sure the word I thought of was ‘wag’; began with ‘wa’, anyway.
Did we learn much from the first ‘proper’ game? A few things but mainly that whichever Atletico Madrid team you face, they play the same way.
There’s a danger in reading too much into pre-season fixtures. We can play like kings for three or four matches and then like paupers for the 38 which matter. I can’t get excited about non-competitive fixtures in that sense. It doesn’t mean, however, that the matches are interesting for the nuances of player development at every level, as well as the tactical stuff.
The younger players continued their encouraging start. Guendouzi wanted the ball, distributed it reasonably well, got caught in possession a few times, but overall impressed. In a few years, he could be the heartbeat of our midfield. Then when you see Jeff going to Angers, you realise how rash that prediction is.
Guendouzi’s role in the side is the one Torreira will take. Whether the Uruguayan will be as ‘all-action’ is another matter. Certainly, the YouTube reels make him seem that way but then again, those reels can make Robert Green look like an international goalkeeper. And that could never happen…oh.
Emile Smith-Rowe is one whose time will surely come sooner. As with Guendouzi, it was a mix of mistakes and energy, with the added bonus of a scorching goal. I felt sorry for him; he wanted to celebrate that, as you would with any long-range effort, but then remembered it was a friendly and decorum meant you can’t. Or shouldn’t.
Don’t Look Back In Angers, I Heard You Say
He worked hard for it; beat a couple of players by fair means and for once, Atletico didn’t foul. It was a moment when Franco Baresi’s comments about Maradona’s goal against England in 1986 sprang to mind: “In Italy, we would have taken him out at the kneecaps.” I paraphrase, but you get the grandmaster’s intention.
In a competitive match, I’d guess Godin or Gimenez would step up with a reducer to stop him before he got to the edge of the area. This time no-one did, and to use the footballing vernacular, ESR finished with aplomb. Bravo, young man.
The cliche of a game of two halves. The first half was a much better performance overall than the second. No surprise with a ‘Love Train’ of substitutions on the hour. And I’m not going to dissect individuals performances either. Nor should you.
What matters is that the team is ready for Manchester City and there were signs of what Emery wants as we sought to recover possession higher up the pitch. When Xhaka, Özil, and Torreira are in the line-up, that will be the time to look at how we’re playing.
Post-match, Aaron Ramsey’s role as Arsenal captain occupied some minds. Is he captain material? It hadn’t crossed my mind previously. As a thought, it died a lonely death. Seemingly, Unai Emery hasn’t yet given it a great deal of consideration either:
“It’s not yet official, this decision, but I’ve said to you that I want five captains in the team. Then we will give the numbers for the first, second, third, fourth and fifth. Aaron has the potential to be captain.”
Somebody quickly point Sr Emery in the direction of our history where he can see the value of a strong captain…
Yes, Captain Mainwaring, Sir!
Under the old regime, the captaincy became reduced to a sop to a giant ego or given to the oldest player who was closest to leaving. If there is one aspect of the ‘good old days’ – and I include the first half of Wenger’s reign – it’s that we find a player who understands what leadership is, to captain the side.
On the subject of Ramsey, the new management structure is working with a clear separation of duties. Unai doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Or if he does, he’s keeping mum:
“Football changes every day. It’s not easy, but it does change.
“I was thinking about the match today, then preparation for the match Saturday.
“I think Aaron is an important player for us.
“The contract is one thing for the club and then one thing for the player. I want him to stay with us, to work with us, to give the team big performances with his quality. I think he’s going to stay here with us.”
Nor does he have a scooby about Ivan’s intentions. All you can deduce from Emery’s words is that the ‘G-Man’ is working hard on the “Arsenal Project”. As he should.
The new third kit was launched this morning and all of a sudden, I’ve developed an insatiable thirst for creme de menthes. As we have none, I’ll have to settle for creme de meths.