Arsenal vs RBNY
Saturday was a day to remember for so many gooners, myself included. Arsenal, for the first time in 25 years, played in friendly in the United States of America. Fittingly enough, their first match in over two decades stateside was against the New York Red Bulls, current home of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you the wonder of watching this match, because there wasn’t much wonderful happening on the pitch. Arsenal looked like a team that had just started preseason. Still plenty of rust to be shaken off. With limited striking options available, Wenger started the game off with six midfielders. Aside from a few flashes of brilliant passing, the final ball wasn’t there.
Arsenal conceded a goal from a set piece, I cringe. Conceding set piece goals reminds me all too much of 2012/2013 season. Aside from the goal, RBNY was fast and physical, and Henry was playing all over the pitch. Knowing he’d be substituted early in the 2nd half gave him the freedom to really exert himself, I’m guessing. He was a joy to watch.
The 2nd half brought on a slew of changes, mostly the youngsters. The half also started with an actual striker in Chuba Akpom, who had his chances, but couldn’t’ find the back of the net. Diaby played, and has something of an injury-free streak going. I joke about him, but if there is one player I really hope can stay healthy and bring a real contribution to the club, it is Abou Diaby. The pictures of his scarred legs from the multiple surgeries he’s had over the last few years is either a testament of his strength and courage or a clear example of when to say enough is enough. This will be settled in the hindsight I would imagine.
The real wonder came from the stands, red and white, yellow and blue, and all the kit colors in between that have represented Arsenal over years. I met a few gooners from Canada and Boston, local gooners from New Jersey and New York and some from the west coast. We sang, we cheered, it was our day to feel as close to the club as many of us have ever had the chance.
At the bottom of this page there is a gallery of photos from the day. It was my first Arsenal match, friendly or not, win or lose, it will stay with me forever.
Four signings and it is only July 29th. Check the temperature in hell. Not sure any of the usual media outlets will have much to say about Wenger’s lack of forcefulness in the transfer market this time around. Although, I’m happy to prove the naysayers all wrong, I’m actually not over the moon with this transfer window. I am happy, and satisfied with the decisions being made, but aside from Alexis Sanchez, the other three signings are nice, but all simply necessary.
Debuchy and Chambers replace Sagna and presumably Vermaelen and Jenkinson, both of which are rumored to be on the way out, loan or otherwise. I’m not sold that Debuchy is a better Sagna, he’s only a few years younger and has a knucklehead challenge on a regular enough basis for me to have associated him with reckless challenges. Let’s just call it a tie, and move on. Chambers is a 19 year old, a U-19 England captain, with huge upside. Will he have an immediate impact? Considering Wenger has already labeled him, a “signing for the future,” I’m leaning towards no. Ospina replaces Fabianski. I couldn’t say for sure that Ospina is better than Fab, but let’s consider Fabianski’s form to close out the year (and showcase him for future suitors). Ospina will need to win us silverware to match Fab!
The ‘help wanted’ sign is still hanging at London Colney. The expectation, and more importantly need, for a centerback is still looming. The options are tight, even with the inclusion of Chambers who is capable of being deployed centrally and on the right. Our midfield was nicely anchored with the return of Flamini last year, however, he doesn’t have the engine left to be fit for 3 competitions. Better than finding cover for Flamini, we need an upgrade. A defensive midfielder has been on the wishlist since the departure of Gilberto Silva.
Then there is the matter of striker, the sexiest position of all. I think Wenger will make a decision by the end of the Austria trip. In question is whether Joel Campbell is the striker that rocked a laser past Manchester United in last years’ Champions League, or if that was only flash in the pan. His World Cup performance for Costa Rica suggests the former. Sanago is still wet behind the ears, and certainly not ready to shoulder the striker burden and lead Arsenal to a title. Leaving us with the oft criticised and slated Olivier Giroud. I’ve heard the proponents and opponents of Giroud, and I firmly remain planted on the fence. I watch him play, and often I find myself frustrated with his play. But then looking at him statistically, the numbers show he’s a on the higher end of the spectrum. I’m not ready to make an evaluation on the man, I think, or rather, I hope that we haven’t seen his best days yet.
Assuming Campbell is a thumbs up. Is Giroud, Campbell, and Sanago enough? We can imagine that in certain situations the likes of Sanchez, Walcott, and Podolski could play more forward roles. Does that mean we have 6 capable strikers? Is this how Wenger counts it? Unfortunately, I’m all questions when it comes to silly season, no answers, and for me striker remains a massive question.
I cannot wait for the season to begin and soon after the window to shut, the speculation that is hurled around the football world is maddening. The sooner we can get to actual unadulterated football, the better. I’m counting the days.
Up the Arsenal!