Giroud's spectacular second goal
It was another very pleasing display from the touring Gunners in Hanoi yesterday. There was some nice football, seven good goals (again) and one or two encouraging individual displays. Similarly there were a couple of players who failed to push their case for more game time, especially considering the paucity of the opposition. There was even time for an easily overlooked misuse of the Arsenal captaincy. All in all I suspect Arsene Wenger will have found the game more useful than a 7-1 scoreline might suggest.
Let’s deal first with those who I felt did themselves few favours against the Vietnamese national side. Carl Jenkinson I thought was particularly poor on the day. Given that he was up against opposition like that I felt he was very quiet going forward, while defensively he was the weak link in the first-half. Arsenal were never really threatened too much in that time, but the closest they came to seeing chances created against tended to be from moves where Jenkinson was either out of position or failing to attack the ball properly. This was in marked contrast to Bacary Sagna who played at centre-back. I’ve mused in the past on the fact that I think a move to the centre of defence could prolong Sagna’s career at Arsenal, while helping to develop Jenkinson in the appropriate way. I would very much like us to sign a centre-back, but if it was made clear that Sagna and Vermaelen were there to challenge Koscielny and Mertesacker, then that would be a situation I’d be happy with if money was spent elsewhere on the squad. Having said that, the back four that finished the game (and conceded the goal) showed a lack of depth at the back – with only Monreal and Vermaelen not on the tour we had Miquel out of position at left-back, and midfielders Kris Olsson and Chuks Aneke at right-back and centre-back, respectively.
The other player who I felt was very poor on the day was Ryo Miyaichi. I was a little surprised to see him take the field as I suspected he was being kept fit for the two games in Japan. Having been given 25 minutes to do his stuff he pretty much stank the place out and looked seriously out of his depth in comparison to his Arsenal team mates. The pace that is a feature of Ryo’s game was missing in a big way. In his defence it was his first game since he got injured playing in the FA Cup for Wigan at Everton (and that had been his first appearance in months itself). With Ronald Koeman admitting he wants to sign him at Feyenord I would be surprised if Ryo is with Arsenal for long after the players get back.
The positives were very good indeed. Most impressive was the finishing from Olivier Giroud. The French striker has his critics, me among them on occasion, but you can’t argue with his start to pre-season, which has yielded 5 goals in 90 minutes on the pitch. Yes the opposition is sub-standard, but you can only score past what faces you. His finish for his hat-trick goal yesterday was a genuine strikers touch, while his second goal had been nothing short of spectacular. Given the speculation there has been about incoming competition for him you have to admire such a response.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dominated the midfield and his goal was also a sublime effort, and thoroughly deserved. He looks so much better playing through the middle, and Arsene has some huge decisions to make on who takes the field in that area for the proper stuff. Jack Wilshere came on for twenty minutes but wasn’t really in it – there is no rush where Jack is concerned. Gedion Zelalem picked up where he left off on Sunday with some glorious passes played through the defence to pick out willing runners. The physicality of the English game is something he will have to come to terms with given his slight build, but his football ability appears unquestionably good. I am very impressed by Zelalem. Chuba Akpom also did himself no harm with a well taken brace, and he might have joined Giroud in the hat-trick stakes with a little more composure and a little more luck.
So what about this captaincy business? Regulars will know that this is a particular issue with me. I believe that Arsene Wenger does not appreciate the importance of being Arsenal Captain as far as the fans are concerned. Over the last few years the armband and its history has been disrespected in the extreme with some of those who have been allowed to wear it (Squillaci and Silvestre?) Obviously Mikel Arteta led the side yesterday at the start of the game, but he was substituted at half-time. I fully expected that Per Mertesacker would have taken over the armband at that point as he entered the fray, as that is what happened at Newcastle when Arteta went off injured. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I noticed that Wojciech Szczesny was the Arsenal skipper instead. With five games to go last season he wasn’t even in the team, having been dropped for his poor displays. Frankly, if we brought in a decent goalkeeper then Szczesny would not get in the side again this season. That being the case, I don’t understand why he was given the honour of being Arsenal Captain, albeit in a pre-season friendly. When he was eventually taken off he gave the armband to the BFG, despite Jack Wilshere also being on the pitch – you will remember that Thomas Vermaelen made a point of putting it on Jack when he went off in a game early last season. It may seem a minor thing. It may even actually be a minor thing. But to this Arsenal supporter it is a source of great annoyance. If there is a positive then at least it let me get through a post without moaning about no signings being made (well, almost get through it).