Samir Nasri - impressive start
Arsenal have beaten Austrian side Sturm Graz 3-0 this evening, with goals from Samir Nasri (2) and Henri Lansbury. I was extremely pleased to see Thomas Vermaelen lead the team tonight (Rosicky was captain after Vermaelen went off). None of the players who came back on Monday were involved this evening. Fabianski again started in goal and made one smart save, though every time an aerial ball comes in to the box he looks very unconvincing. Arsenal's first goal came when Nasri superbly got the ball out of his feet and shot right-footed into the bottom corner. The second was a free-kick by Nasri in to the top corner - he has had a fine start to pre-season. I'm not a huge fan of Nasri who I think gets an easy ride from the fans - I'll be happy for him to prove me wrong. Theo Walcott was his usual ineffective self, while Arshavin cut the disinterested figure we are becoming used to. Jack Wilshere was quite happy to put himself about and once he'd been chopped down a couple of times, he decided to have a go back - he was predictably booked (and it wasn't even an English referee). The third goal came in the second-half and was the end result of a beautiful passing move, created by Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' superb piece of skill and lovely through-ball, to Henri Lansbury. Lansbury filled the space vacated by defenders tracking Wilshere's excellent run across the defence, and he finished beautifully after dummying the goalkeeper.
I have to say that I am concerned though. I am concerned about Marouane Chamakh. Every time the ball went near him he mis-controlled it, and not slightly, but horribly. The first goal came as a result of his poor touch, with Nasri's bit of skill making up for it. I can understand new players being unable to link play, or to get on the end of things as the understanding builds, but controlling the football? There was a real Baptista look about him tonight and it worries me deeply.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas staked his claim tonight. He was nothing short of superb and his impact was similar to that of Wilshere two years back. He really took his opportunity tonight, initially at centre-forward, and then on the right-wing. Perhaps he will be able to convince Arsene Wenger he is worth a squad number. Emmanuel Frimpong, meanwhile, learnt quickly that playing against a top-division European side is somewhat different to playing fourth division rubbish like Barnet - he was completely at sea in midfield and there is a lot of work for him to do.
For anyone who missed it, the reserves drew 2-2 at Crawley last night, with Rhys Murphy netting both for Arsenal.
Arsenal confirmed Eduardo's sale to Shakhtar Donetsk today. I gave my opinions on this a couple of days ago so I won't repeat myself. Save to say that I wish him every success and I am gutted that his career was ripped apart by such heinous foul-play at Birmingham. I don't know how Martin Taylor and Alex McCleish can sleep at night. A good piece of business for Arsenal, with a reported transfer fee of £6m.
I have got to the bottom of the Denilson issue. He is absent, as I suspected, due to a recurrence of his back injury. My source for this is none other than Emmanuel Eboue! I am worried for any athlete with a back problem, as they never really seem to heal. Hopefully Denilson can get over it quickly and manage the problem, as we are chronically short of any sort of cover for Alex Song. Unless of course Arsene pleases me immensely by signing Scott Parker - I can dream, I suppose.
Arsenal have banned vuvuzelas from the ground. Good. Horrible, noisy things that they are. I would have become quickly annoyed by anyone blowing one anywhere near me. I have no doubt they were excellent for the World Cup - God knows that the football was so bad at times, and the crowds so sparse, that the noise of the vuvus was the only thing to talk about. We are not alone in banning them - eight Premier League teams so far - though not the FA, who are so concerned that nobody wants to watch England that they have halved ticket-prices, and made it clear that they are not banning vuvuzelas just yet.
Finally, Mark Schwarzer was once again linked with Arsenal in the papers this morning, this time with a player-coach role at Arsenal. Not for me. I would far rather, as I have said, spend proper money on a top keeper. I was playing golf this morning and my friend (another Gooner) and I were both of the opinion that, if Wenger wants to sign an experienced man on the cheap, he should go and sign David James for a year. Other than that, quality only...please.
Arsenal next play on Saturday, against an amateur side, again in Austria. I think we will see Clichy, Sagna, Diaby, Song, Vela and Eboue make their first appearances of pre-season. Manuel Almunia might even get a game - unless he is sick. Again. More tomorrow, after evening training.