Once again Arsenal failed to hold onto a lead as poor defending cost them a win and allowed the New York Red Bulls to lift the Emirates Cup.
Wenger fielded what looked like his first XI and interestingly Nasri wasn’t included. Szczesny played the whole match in goal behind Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Gibbs. The midfield trio was Song, Wilshere and Ramsey with Gervinho and Rosicky out wide supporting captain van Persie. I think if Nasri was staying he wouldn’t have played the whole game in yesterday’s weaker line-up and would’ve started today ahead of Rosicky. With Sky Sports reporting that contract talks have stalled with the Frenchman, this was as clear an indication yet that no matter what he says in press conferences, Wenger is putting together a team for the big kick off which won’t include Nasri.
The game started badly for the Gunners when Wilshere was forced off after just five minutes. 18 year old Benik Afobe came on wide right with Rosicky taking over the Fabregas role and Ramsey dropping slightly deeper. The Welsh captain had the first real chance for Arsenal when he blazed over from close range. By then the star of the day Thierry Henry had shot narrowly wide and forced Szczesny into a decent diving parry from a free kick.
New York were defending deep and in numbers resulting in the type of frustrating, boring game we’ve had to watch numerous times at Emirates against inferior opposition. The deadlock was broken on 42 minutes though when van Persie lost his marker and headed in a simple free kick from Rosicky.
Arsenal were enthused and could’ve scored another straight away when Rosicky put Gervinho clean through after another excellent surging run from deep from the Ivorian, but the new Freddie Ljungberg hit the keeper when he should’ve scored.
Half time arrived with the home side comfortably in the ascendency having not been troubled by a defensive NY who fielded Henry on his own up front. Good job too considering the slackness at the back we showed yesterday. Squillaci wasn’t even in the squad by the way – rumours he was picking up his P45 from the Arsenal office have yet to be confirmed.
No changes at the break further reinforced the feeling that Wenger was giving his first XI a lengthy run out and most of this side should line up at Newcastle in 13 days time.
"See, I told you they couldn't defend guys"
The match was poor as a spectacle and degenerated even further when the substitutions finally came. NY came into the game more, pushing men forward to test a back line of Eboue, Bartley, Vermaelen and Gibbs. The warning signs came when NY’s pacy winger easily sped past Gibbs but nothing came of it. However, with four minutes left Eboue showed how clueless he is when he was easily beaten, forcing Arsenal to concede a corner. This wasn’t properly cleared (what a surprise) and Eboue stood and watched as Henry made a great pass right by him to Roy Miller, who crossed and poor Bartley turned the ball over his own line. Bartley had little choice to be fair, it was a goal otherwise. Even though it was only a pre-season friendly, the fact we couldn’t keep out a mediocre side for the second day running doesn’t bode well for the new season.
At the back, from last season’s team we have lost Clichy and replaced him with Gibbs, which I consider to be weakening an already porous defence. We simply must buy at least one quality, experienced defender. Everyone knows that and Wenger seems to have finally caught on too, so let’s hope the rumours about Jagielka come to fruition soon.
Positives – Gervinho was excellent once again and looks a terrific buy (although improving the attack wasn’t as important as the desperate need to improve the defence). Vermaelen has come through another match and looks to be back to full fitness, while young Afobe showed promise when he came on.
Negatives – Wilshere’s injury, but our inability to hold onto a lead again, no matter who the personnel, is the real concern. We seem to lack concentration at the back and it’s not just one or two people. Mistakes this weekend resulting in goals have come from Squillaci, Djourou and Eboue which worries me that maybe there’s a general problem affecting the whole defence rather than it being the fault of one or two poor players. Who knows. Arsene doesn’t appear to, that’s for sure.
The embarrassment of not winning our own tournament would’ve been palatable if the same old problem that plagued us last season hadn’t reared its ugly head again not only today, but yesterday as well. The team were booed off at the final whistle, letting the management and players know just what they think of the lack of improvement from last year’s farcical defending. Let’s hope Wenger pulls out the chequebook and organises some proper defensive coaching to sort it out before the proper matches begin.
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