Reflections on Arsenal’s Preseason

By on August 4, 2009

Jack Wilshere Lights Up The Crowd At The Emirates

The Emirates Cup has officially come to an end and while Arsenal still have one more preseason friendly away at Valencia the conclusion of the Emirates Cup more or less concludes our preseason. After starting off at Underhill, Arsenal worked hard in Austria, playing and winning two matches before taking a quick detour to Hannover to grab another win before heading back to London for the Emirates Cup. Six games in total, five wins, one draw and a cup.  While these were ultimately matches that counted for nothing and the Emirates Cup is hardly a distinguished piece of silverware, the past several weeks’ events should have gotten the lads in great shape, both physically and mentally, for the season ahead. All in all the last few weeks have shown real promise and have given us a lot to be excited about and a few things to worry about as well before heading into the new season.

First, Samir Nasri breaking his leg in a training session was less then ideal.  A player who had a fantastic debut season and played in over forty matches for Arsenal will surely be missed over the first couple of months.  He really started to come into his own half way through the season.  He grew physically and played a crucial part in Arsenal securing a top-four finish.  His absence will surely be a huge loss to the squad.  As tragic as it was to lose such a talented player, the return of Tomas Rosicky and the continued progress of Aaron Ramsey in central midfield should be able to mitigate Samir’s absence.  In addition, it appears the injury was not bad as first expected and, with any luck, he will be back in training relatively soon.

Rosicky To Boost Arsenals Depth

Second, Arsenal will score goals.  The media have made much too much negative fuss over the sale of Adebayor to Manchester City.  This fuss has some fans demanding we bring in another striker, but I believe the preseason has shown we are set in attack.  In our new 4-3-3 formation, we can accommodate more of our attacking players and create more fluid movement going forward.  Arshavin, van Persie, Bendtner and Eduardo have all been banging in goals for fun so far.  Nick had some great displays in Austria and Germany while van Persie has been solid throughout.  Eduardo looks dangerous every time he touches the ball and Arshavin is, simply, a game winner.  With these four plus the pacy Walcott and Vela interchanging and playing up top, goals will not be hard to come by.  In addition, our midfield will boast the talent of Fabregas along with the likes of Rosicky and Nasri.  The ability of all three of these players to pick out a pass and come back deep to take possession and distribute the ball will prove to be integral to balancing Arsenal’s attack.  As the Emirates Cup has shown, the ability of our forwards to interchange and our midfield to drive up in support will produce countless chances and plenty of goals.

Third, and certainly a worry, Arsenal still appear to have major defensive problems.  The sale of Kolo Toure was a step in the right direction.  For the amount of money City offered it was a great move, especially considering Kolo’s recent defensive record.  The arrival of Vermaelen certainly does seem promising but unfortunately our new Belgian defender had to miss out on this weekend’s action due to a slight hamstring problem.  According to some reports, he now seems set to miss out on the season opener at Goodison. Perhaps he will turn out to be the answer we have been searching for in defense.  Regardless, over the preseason the Arsenal defense has once again been split too easily.  On more than one occasion, our high line has been caught square and, subsequently, broken easily.  In the earlier matches, we were saved by our opposition’s inability to finish, but, as we saw on Saturday against Atletico, talented players will make us pay for lapses in concentration, especially in the Premier League. Someone in the back line needs to act like a leader and start to organize the defense or we are in for another long season.  Even more worrying however is our constant inability to defend set pieces.  Arsenal certainly lack height but there is no excuse for failing to clear simple balls and leaving players unmarked.  Arsene Wenger must find a way to sort out this area before the trip to Goodison Park.  For two full seasons now we have been absolutely shocking at defending set pieces.  Perhaps we need a bigger, more physical defender in there, but, whatever it is that we need, it must be taken care of soon.  No team, no matter how great they are going forward, will win major honors defending simple corners and set pieces the way Arsenal do.

Alex Song Poised For Big Season

Finally, Arsenal look to have more strength in depth than at the start of last season.  The whole squad will be a year older and a year wiser.  For Diaby, Song, Denilson, and Bendtner last season was really their first real season as major players in the Premier League.  They all will certainly have grown from that experience.  Song and Nick both kicked on towards the end of last season and both seem to be on track going into the start of this one.  Denilson, Diaby, and Djourou will all provide great depth from the bench after last season’s growth.  Moreover, some of the kids will be ready to make further strides into the first team this season, leaving us stronger and deeper than previously.  Gibbs showed at the end of last season what an asset he can be.  His experiences from last campaign, both good and bad, will only have made him stronger. Aaron Ramsey looks like a man now.  No one doubted the Welshman’s talent last season, but, physically, he just didn’t look to be on the level.  After watching Aaron in preseason, he looks sharper, stronger and more determined to make his mark on the squad this season.  The same goes for Fran Merida, who displayed his talent and ability in the Emirates Cup. He is another player who featured last season but now looks to have gained a bit of presence since then.  Lastly, there is everyone’s favorite, Jack Wilshere. After showing potential last season, Jack absolute delighted Arsenal fans throughout this preseason, culminating in an absolutely magical game and a half at the Emirates Cup, where he was, without a doubt, the Player of the Tournament.  Jack certainly looks ready to kick on and that that can only be a good thing for Arsenal.

With just two weeks to go until we open our league account at Everton, the boss certainly has some things to think about from this past week.  The emergence of some of our younger talents as well as the return of both Eduardo and Rosicky will certainly help us deal with the loss of Adebayor and the temporary lay off from Samir Nasri.  Alex Song certainly looks to have staked his claim to the defensive midfield position.  He has been wonderful throughout the preseason and during the end of last season.  I believe Song can be the player we lacked last season, however, Arsene will have some thinking to do about what happens when he goes to the ANC in December.  This will certainly be worrying.  Denilson just doesn’t look up to it, so, hopefully, the manager will think of something to do.  The return of Patrick Vieira could be the answer, as he would be a player who would not only lift the squad and the fans, but someone who could both help Alex Song in his development, as well as deputize for him during his absence with the national team.  Regardless, Arsenal do not seem far away from greatness.  We are perhaps a bit short in a few areas but the boss now has the time and the money to address it and I believe he will.  Arsene knows this is a big season for the squad and for the fans.  He will certainly be up to it and he will have his players up for it.  Call me crazy, but after seeing the way our squad is starting to gel (and ignoring the fact no one in the team can head the ball away on set pieces) I just get the feeling this is going to be our year.  Arsene set out with a mission this preseason to prove that his squad is capable of competing.  He has certainly made a believer out of me.


  1. Felix Angulo

    August 4, 2009 at 3:21 am

    I totally agree with you. We have the capacity and ability to win trophies this season. A couple of addition for extra cover in case of eventualities, (hoping Nasri is just one isolated case of injuries seasonwise) and we’ll have a squad ready to compete in all fronts.

    A well written piece ! Congrats!

  2. cinjo

    August 4, 2009 at 3:36 am

    I saw preseason highlights. I think our attacking options are too good now. And we don’t need anybody else in attacking. But the main problem we are seeing is defense. I think Arsenal defense is so poor. If wenger is not strengthening our defense then it will be a big problem in this season. Song improved a lot. I think we filled the position properly. But main problem Arsenal team facing is lack of hight. That’s the main concern now.
    Wenger must buy one world class defender with good hight.

    • BendyTheViking

      August 4, 2009 at 3:59 am

      I am inclined to agree with you. But I will mention this in Arsene’s defense. When we played with Gallas at defense and Song in the holding role we looked much better defensively. I think Song is the cog that makes all the difference. When Ranger’s got their big chance on goal it came from lack of communication in the back between Silvestre and Song. I wonder if a back line with Gallas and Vermaelen could do. It is really unfortunate we couldnt see them together at the Emirates Cup because that could have showed us a great deal more about what to expect this season. But I would feel safer with another CB in there, especially if we sell Big Phil.

  3. joseph

    August 4, 2009 at 4:38 am

    guys, get real. any one watch Song’s inability to even deal with some of leagues power players. until, we have someone to boss the midfield, wenger will go on and on abt how we have the world’s most talented youngsters without a trophy to talk about. we are fortunate our rivals(villa, everton,man.city) have thiner squads. inaugust, we might be lucky to get more than 6 points coz we shall beat pompey and man.city but the games against everton, manu will wake u eternal optimists out back into the reality that there is no way we can challenge in any competition without a stable backline. Every long ball or set piece worries the keeper coz he knows wat is in front of him. we need Hangeland, De Rossi and a new keeper(alumunia has no compettion)my pick would be the cheap but very talented Diego lopez from spain or Afineev

    • BendyTheViking

      August 4, 2009 at 5:43 am

      De Rossi will never leave. You are delusional if you think any sum of money will get him out of Roma. Hangeland played in a low line with pretty much a back 5. A high line like ours without an imposing midfield would see a big brute like him exposed time and time again. Almunia is fine. He is hardly the weakest link of this team. I agree Song is not world class but who else is available? Maybe Diarra, not the dolphin one. Maybe Matuidi. I don’t know but I can promise you De Rossi will not leave Roma.

  4. natsteel

    August 4, 2009 at 8:26 am

    DeRossi has already said he’s not leaving Roma so that is a dead issue. It was probably a dead issue all the time as all that talk was unconfirmed. I highly doubt Arsene ever considered even contacting Roma about him. I just can’t for the life of me see Arsene bringing an Italian into our midfield. I would not be averse to bringing in Hangeland but I can’t see the Boss doing it after he has just signed Vermaelen. And I’m not sure how much that changes even after Senderos completes his Everton move.

  5. Phil

    August 4, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Great Blog agree with all points

    • natsteel

      August 4, 2009 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks, Phil. BTV’s piece was a very good and optimistic look at the coming season. Glad you enjoyed the piece and the blog!!

  6. always gunner

    August 6, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Well written again natsteel, agree on most points. What occurred and seemed to standout in the e.cup was a big hole on our right side in defense. Watching young Gibbs last year ( and yes he made3 a few blunders) he seemed to have the ability with Sammi to make the left side safe, each tackling back when the other was going forward. Likewise Eboue at times seemed to link with Sanga. But it seemed glaring and obvious in the E. Cup games the right side mainly had a big hole. Players seemed to be drawn to the middle encroaching on each other in the middle and lacked any cohesion whatsoever. The line as you rightly pointed out did not have a general such as Adam to organise the defense. Corners were always a danger and we were caught many times wanting. Better teams will make us pay if we dont correct IMO these seemingly glaring problems. Denilson will in time be able to close the gap on the left but the right side of our defense is too slow and we are continually dragged out of position. (Just my thoughts).

    • natsteel

      August 6, 2009 at 10:07 am

      Thanks, always gunner, but this piece was written by BendyTheViking who is essentially my co-blogger here at Arsenal Station. And you are absolutely right about our continuing problems defending set pieces. I hope you’re enjoying some of the new features on the blog like the streams and highlights. Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your comments.

  7. always gunner

    August 6, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Sorry put it down to a senior moment, hope Bendy forgives me. As i said one of the top blogs, keep it this way please.

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