A First Real Test for the Arsenal (Highlights)

By on July 30, 2009


Arsenal endured their first real test on Wednesday evening at the AWD Arena coming away with a 1-nil victory over Hannover 96 thanks to a well-worked goal finished by Cesc Fabregas in the 9th minute [highlights below and to the right].

Arsenal came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and completely dominated the entire first half. Their passing and movement were superb and Hannover struggled to even string more than two passes together for much of the first forty-five minutes. The goal came early as Nicklas Bendtner, playing wide right in Arsene’s take on a 4-3-3 (actually, it’s more like a 4-2-1-2-1), looped a ball to Robin van Persie who, with his back to goal outside the box, turned inside and fed Fabregas’s well-timed run. The keeper came out but Cesc went around him and hit the empty net.

Bendtner would go on to have a few chances of his own in the first half as would Andrei Arshavin, who was deployed wide left with Robin van Persie as the central striker. When the Gunners lined up, I was sure that we would see much interchanging of positions among the front three but, surprisingly, Bendtner stayed wide right for almost the entire first half. While it is not where he can be most effective, he nonetheless still imposed his presence on the match. The Gunners fell away in the second half as Hannover came out of the interval more determined to get stuck in and hold a bit of possession.

What this match did was give Arsenal its first exposure to a scrappy, rough match this preseason. And while they were never able to get back to the form the side showed in the first half, they responded well and held on to the lead despite having what Wenger called “heavy legs” due to twice-a-day training sessions against a team who is almost two weeks ahead of Arsenal in their preseason training

Bendtner, I believe, has really taken his chance in this preseason. It was no secret that he would never have the opportunity to be a regular in the first XI as long as Adebayor was at the club. But now with Adebayor gone, it is the big Dane’s moment and he is grabbing it.

Kolo Toure’s deal with Manchester City was also confirmed yesterday and I’d like to wish him the best of luck. While I’m disappointed to see him go, you have to admit that 15m for a player who has looked past his best in the last 18 months is a pretty good bit of business, as usual, on Arsene’s part. Whether or not he can make it a great bit of business by using the money wisely yet promptly remains to be seen.

Patrick Vieira

Also, rumours fueled by Ian Wright, the Sun’s resident Arsenal critic, now have Patrick Vieira returning to the club on a “pay-as-you-play” basis after turning down a similar offer from Spurs. The headlines linking Vieira to Spurs rightly made me cringe. And, even though he is 33, I would gladly have him back on a free with a one-year deal. He would bring experience and leadership back to the club, and, while he obviously can’t play 40 matches, he could play 20. Though, I imagine his real contribution to the club would come in training and the locker room.

It also appears that Emmanuel Eboue may be on his way to Fiorentina well and truly after all. Eboue made a point of recognizing and clapping the traveling Arsenal supporters following the match. I have to say that this is the deal that would trouble me the most of the three who will have left. Eboue is the one player for whom we do not have a ready-made replacement. There is no player in the squad who you can automatically say would become Sagna’s primary backup should Eboue leave. Not to mention his versatility which has seen him play on both the right wing and even in a holding position in addition to his natural right back spot. This move has the potential to leave us very exposed at right back should anything happen to Sagna, god forbid.

Enjoy the highlights!

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