Arsenal vs. Cologne- 10 things I learned from the game
After the marketing and fun filled Tour of Asia, it was time for Arsenal to play their first game of pre season on European soil. A training camp in Germany led to a game against Podolski’s Cologne team and these are the 10 things I learned from this game.
1) Gervinho- Made the perfect start to his Arsenal career, showing pace and a classy finish on virtually his first ever touch in the Red and White. His movement and timing of runs also showed in other moments of the half, including on his second goal, where he applied just the right touch to glide it past the goalkeeper. The signs look very positive, if only for 30 minutes, seeing as it was his first pre season game, and it certainly looks like Wenger may have done it again. His finishing and pace will surely add more end product to the Arsenal team and make them an even bigger threat when used in tandem with Fabregas, Van Persie, Nasri et al.
2) Ryo Miyachi- Came on for just 15 minutes in a little cameo but showed great signs. Superb speed and had one step-over and drop of the shoulder that left his marker in his dust while his 50-60 yard run at pace, which ended with a delightful pass to Theo Walcott really showed what this player is all about. He seems to be making the right decisions and will certainly be one to watch in cameo roles or in the Carling Cup if he gets his work permit issues sorted.
3) The Defense- The lesser is said about how Arsenal ‘defended’ today, the better. They were all over the place and forgot their basics. Balls played behind full-backs, center-backs being caught out of position and balls played over them, lack of covering for their fellow defenders out of place, losing their men easily and the lack of effort to track back and help out were all alarmingly noticeable during the game. Simple, straight balls played over the top that covered 20+ yards were not being dealt with. A very high line was being played and the defenders still moving up AFTER the ball was played, giving opposition strikers chances to just run in on goal. The word ‘shambolic’ could be used but that may be sugar coating some of what was seen out there today.
What is most worrying is the fact that 3 of Arsenal’s current starting back 4 were playing together in the 1st half, a half where they looked much worse! Wenger spoke last night about ‘certainly’ signing one defender, and after what he saw today, he is sure to speed that search up. The current starting center-back pairing, Koscielny and Vermaelen, looked like strangers meeting for the first time, with the former player looking schoolboy-ish at times. Not only do Arsenal need another center-back but if they continue to organize and position themselves in the way they did today, it will be an impossible task to break the trophy jinx they are currently on.
4) Gibbs- Certainly CANNOT start the season with him at left back. Almost every attack came from his side as he was too far upfield and then decided to jog back to his position leaving the defense very stretched and Vermaelen covering for him meaning just one center-back in the middle. Not a force on the offensive end either, but his unwillingness to track back and get in position after losing the ball is very worrying and will cause a lot of goals unless either Arsenal buy a new left-back or he decides to step it up. Most worrying sign of the game as Cologne saw this and exploited it and any smart Premier League side will pick up on this within minutes.
5) Ramsey- Looked very average and gave the ball away consistently. Maybe not in the right physical condition or maybe has heavy legs but looked a shade of the player he is expected to be, especially in that ‘Fabregas’ role as the most advanced midfielder, right behind the center forward. Not only was his passing not up to the mark but he was also caught on the ball a few times which led to Cologne staging very dangerous counter attacks. Not one of his best games and if he is the man to replace Fabregas then he certainly has to improve his game and take it to a whole other level. Those are some really big boots to fill and it doesn’t look like Ramsey is ready to fill those at a consistent level, just yet.
6) Wilshere- Looks like the decision to rest him and not send him to the U21 World Cup has really helped the player. He looks fresher and at a higher level than any of his opponents or team mates. Was a thorn in Cologne’s side all first half and made a superbly weighted pass to give Gervinho his first Arsenal goal while his mazy runs opened up the Cologne defense at every instance. He has added a bit more calm on the creative side of his game and that will mean a lot more assists for him, especially if he plays in the same midfield as Fabregas as he is bound to be freer with defenses concentrating on the Spaniard.
7) Jenkinson- Had a decent game overall but as was the case with the other full back position, he was caught out of position a few times with the ball being played in behind him. He and his sided center-back, Koscielny, didn’t seem on the same page quite a few times and let players in behind them easily. Also he has the natural instinct to move narrower towards the center-back, meaning he leaves far too much space for the wingers to attack. Unlucky on the own goal though as it was one of the few instances he did read the play and got to the ball. Decent player but certainly needs some more time to even take over the substitute spot at right back. Maybe too early to set Eboue go.
8) Chamakh- Clearly a striker that is low or out of confidence. He needs a few things to go his way and to score a few goals. His 1st touches were poor and he gave the ball away too much and was anonymous for the rest of the half. In a catch- 22 situation as he certainly needs games but playing like this, he can’t expect to be picked to play many, especially over Van Persie.
9) Walcott- He will continue to get into very dangerous areas and positions but his final ball/final decision making will lead to a lot of ooohs and aaahs followed by frustration. His setup for Gervinho’s 2nd goal was perfect, but his pass to an open Chamakh, when let free by Miyaichi was typically frustrating as was his finishing on most instances.
10) Frimpong- For a second straight pre-season, he has shown great signs and is an animal when it comes to closing players down, breaking up attacks and winning the ball back a majority of the times. His work rate and stamina really do make him stand out and his presence should help fill the void left by Denilson moving back to Brazil on loan. In fact I would put my neck on the line and say that he will be a step up from the Brazilian in that position.
All the scoring was in the 1st half and the 2nd half was a bit slower with not much going on, barring the scrap between Squillaci and Podolski.
Overall it was a good pre season game. Its always nice to get a win under your belt, no matter if it’s a competitive game or a pre season friendly and some really good signs, especially going forward from Gervinho and Miyaichi but also some very worrying signs in defense, both at the heart of it and also on the left side which need to be addressed and fast if Arsenal are to win any silverware this season.