The Emirates Cup: 3 Things We Learned About Arsenal
We’ve all probably said this at one point – “it’s a meaningless friendly, can’t really tell anything from it.” We’ve all mockingly enjoyed our pre-season run so far. I went so far as to confidently announce that the “septuplet is on.”
Reality is that the Barclay’s Asia Trophy and the Emirates Cup mean little in terms of significance for Arsenal. Still, even though these matches are aimed at fitness and readiness as well as seeing how well some players of the future are progressing – there are some things we can glean from the preseason.
This squad is scary deep.
Outside of possibly needing another striker – which we’re still not sure of – and the need for another DM – which we are more sure of – Arsenal boast a plethora of talented players all over the pitch and with the exception of Danny Welbeck, they’re all healthy.
Tempering Saturday’s 6-0 drubbing of Lyon by the fact that it was only a friendly, you still had to marvel at how seamlessly we moved the ball and scored against Ligue 1 runners-up.
Mesut Özil is looking like a man with a mission, and he has looked more and more like the player whom everyone salivated about when he first signed. With a full preseason now under his belt, and the confidence of the manager behind him, he is truly flourishing. It may be a wild prediction, but if he is managed correctly this season, you can see him being in the hunt for player of the year – hell I’ve got him pegged on to challenge Henry’s assist record.
The fact is we can focus on Özil, but there was talent on display at every level of squad. Centrally – even without another true DM coming in, Wenger can rotate any combination of Ramsey/Coquelin, Cazorla/Arteta Ox/Wilshere and still be safe – though maybe not as lock tight as we want.
In defense we have 2 solid RB, LB and not that anyone will admit but 4 capable and able CB. And yes those 4 CBs are in my opinion good enough to form a defensive group to win the league. With the confidence and calming influence of Petr Cech behind them, it’s only going to get stronger.
Attacking wise, Arsenal have threats across the front three that would be the envy of many of Europe’s top clubs. Olivier Giroud is much maligned (wrongly I say), but he offers that presence up front that often requires attention from two CB at a time. His distribution to his teammates is excellent, he wins the ball in the air, and he can score. (Not as often as many would like.)
With Alexis Sanchez and a healthy Theo as well as Ox and Welbz up top, there is enough available to add the 10 additional goals Wenger is targeting over last season.
The key of course will be health. The biggest caveat Arsenal’s depth carries is that they need to stay fit with no extended stays on the injury list. If the injuries can successfully be managed and exhaustion doesn’t become a factor – this squad is scary deep.
The Capital One Cup should be fun this year.
Jeff – it’s the name on everyone’s lips this weekend. Jeff Reine-Adelaide came over to Arsenal about a month ago from the Lens academy for around £3m (there was another player involved in the deal too.) He has been fully integrated into the first team setup, and – at the tender age of 17 – he is already being heralded as the next Anelka-type signing.
While we urge caution in expectations for the kid, he clearly showed through the weekend that he is an exceptional talent that could very well be the next generation of Arsenal greats. Wenger particularly seemed chuffed by his recent find:
“Reine-Adelaide is something special you know,” he said. “He is a great talent and when he came on you could see that – 17 years old let’s not forget. I don’t remember how I played at 17 but I didn’t play like that.”
When you add Jeff to the list of Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi, Gedion Zelalem, Isaac Hayden, Jon Toral, and Dan Crowley, the selection of promising talent who have all shown their ability looks quite good indeed.
All of that bodes well for a competition Wenger loves to blood promising players as well as to play other first teamers needing time.
There is a reason for fans’ optimism
Arsenal very much need to hit the start of the season in their stride as soon as possible. A start like last season will kill any chance to challenge for the title (and cause the usual social media meltdown).
Unlike last season, Arsenal have about 99% of their squad fit with only Welbeck the big injury issue. Alexis Sanchez will return to the squad shortly to get acclimated after his time off from the Copa America.
Arsenal look confident, and they are enjoying themselves. Without a major upheaval in departures or arrivals, this is a team where everyone is familiar with each other, and that is an advantage that only Chelsea can boast being equal to Arsenal right now. Everyone else has major turnover that will likely have to acclimate.
Wenger is using the “c” word – not that one – consistency you fools – when talking about his lack of movement in the window, and there is merit to it. In the summer of 2003, he brought in Jens Lehmann only, and the rest they shall say is history. While I continue to urge caution in thinking the same is possible (winning the league not going undefeated) – a team that has very little turnover in it can only continue to grow. One that has so much talent in it, with players that actually look like they enjoy playing together – only has one direction to go – up.
That is why we’re excited for this season. That is why for the first time in 10 years Arsenal look a real contender for the title. We won’t get the credit for it of course. But that’s par for the course. (Title contenders are only selected by their total ££ spent.) I don’t know about you though, I care less what they think – from my rather red colored glasses – I think we’re in for one of our best seasons in years.