Arsenal fans will of course claim it’s another trophy while other supporters mock it’s only pre-season, but the Gunners have got their 2015/16 preparations off to a perfect start after claiming the Barclays Asia Trophy.
Overcoming fellow Premier League side Everton 3-1 in the final, courtesy of goals from Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil, Arsene Wenger’s men romped home after inflicting a 4-0 defeat on a Sinagpore Select XI three days earlier. The mini-tournament came as a relief to many Arsenal fans, who have been growing more and more cynical that Wenger’s summer transfer business will stop at the signature of Petr Cech alone, amid their obvious need for striking reinforcements.
After all, one of the talking points of the tournament was indeed the emergence of Chuba Akpom who managed to score a hat-trick against the Singapore outfit, prompting many ironic comments on social media that Wenger has found his perfect foil to the ever opinion splitting Olivier Giroud.
But what else did we learn from Arsenal’s journey to the Far East?
Aaron Ramsey will have to get used to playing on the right
Despite both Arsenal fans’ and Aaron Ramsey’s self admittance that he doesn’t like playing on the right of a 4-2-3-1 formation, it appears the Welshman better get used to it. It might only be pre-season, but Santi Cazorla again relished being deployed in his new found deeper role alongside Francis Coquelin, that culminated in a man-of-the-match display against Everton on Saturday.
Able to dictate the pace of the game with his passing ability, the Coquelin-Cazorla combo looks Arsenal’s best bet for a title tilt this term, and when you consider Arsenal fans are also starting to see the best of Mesut Ozil again in the number ten role, Rambo is quite simply the fall guy despite his importance to the team.
Oh and then there’s Jack Wilshere. What must he think? In truth, the next Arsenal injury is never too far away.
Are goalkeeping lapses in concentration now a thing of the past?
Ever since the days of David Seaman, Arsene Wenger has never really done goalkeepers has he, apart from Jens Lehmann of course. All that is set change now following the Gunners’ signing of Petr Cech, who got his first taste of Arsenal action against Everton in the final on Saturday.
In truth, it was the easiest debut Cech will ever endure, but before the half-time whistle after heavy Arsenal dominance, the former Chelsea stopper was pressed into action, palming a Steven Naismith header onto the bar following a sweet delivery from Luke Garbutt. In an instant, Arsenal fans saw everything they need to know about the calibre of Cech from just one set play.
The Gunners have suffered time and again after similarly dominating games, only for the lapses of Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina to cost them in a smash and grab victory for the opposition – just look at Swansea City’s victory at Emirates Stadium last season. The mark of any top class goalie is his concentration when he needs to be called upon and ultimately, Cech passed the interview stage with gusto.
Hector Bellerin is well en-route to future stardom
When Arsenal swooped to complete the double signings of Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers last summer, Gunners fans could’ve been forgiven for thinking that up and coming prospect Hector Bellerin would be playing another season of Under-21 football.
But as the story goes, given the inevitable injury suffered by Debuchy, Bellerin got his chance in Wenger’s first team and after a shaky debut away to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, the young Spaniard with a cockney accent didn’t look back, most famously opening the scoring against Liverpool in a 4-1 triumph for the Gunners last term.
Both Bellerin and Coquelin were the unexpected success stories at Arsenal last season, and the former’s progress has been so rapid that Wenger has abandoned plans to recall Carl Jenkinson from his West Ham United loan spell while extending his deal. Bellerin started the weekend game against Everton ahead of Debuchy and right now, most Arsenal fans would start the Spanish starlet over their £12 million arrival from Newcastle United.
Boasting a wicked ability from crosses, not to mention rapid pace up the right flank, Bellerin gives Arsenal another dimension while making the pitch wide in overlapping Aaron Ramsey and who knows, if he continues improving at his current rate, perhaps former employers Barcelona will be doing a Fabregas in the years to come.
Arsenal still need that world class forward
It appeared wit was the order of the day among Arsenal fans on Twitter, with Theo Walcott being in pre-contract form and Chuba Akpom’s exploits meaning he’s their new messiah in front of goal. Despite these ironic 140-character murmurings, Arsenal’s need for a striker is just as great as it was at the beginning of the transfer window.
Olivier Giroud started against Everton and did nothing to go about improving his image, and while Walcott flourished as a centre forward in the FA Cup Final, he’s never really done it there against better opposition. It’s a frustrating situation for Arsenal fans who claim they’re a striker away from being the real deal.
Alexandre Lacazette confirmed he’s happy at Lyon ahead of facing the Gunners in the Emirates Cup next weekend, and Karim Benzema’s future remains anyone’s guess after coming on as a sub, while Cristiano Ronaldo started as a centre forward in Real Madrid’s International Champions Cup fixture with Roma recently.
In truth, Arsenal fans would take either of the strikers but as with most things Arsenal do, this will come down to the wire at the end of the window, so don’t expect to hear any news in the coming weeks.
Another exciting crop of youngsters are set to emerge
While Arsenal’s academy ranks have fallen behind Chelsea’s in recent years, the Gunners have a far greater reputation for enabling them first team opportunities far quicker and we saw the latest batch of youngsters achieve some game time against Singapore last Wednesday.
Starting the game were the aforementioned Akpom as well as Alex Iwobi – a pacey winger and nephew of Nigerian legend Jay-Jay Okocha.
In truth, this pair outshone the likes of Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the first half and gave Arsene Wenger something to think about, whilst in the second half Gedion Zelalem, Dan Crowley, Jon Toral and Chris Willock achieved some invaluable first team experience.
Of that foursome, Crowley looked the most impressive, giving some reason to the early claims that he’s being considered the ‘new Jack Wilshere’. Only the next few months will determine whether these youngsters can do a Bellerin, earmark a place on the bench in the Capital One Cup or alternatively go out on loan.