Showing posts with label Emirates Cup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emirates Cup. Show all posts

27 July 2015

A post that is 99% free of Jeff Reine-Adelaide...

Arsenal won the Emirates Cup for the first time since 2010, becoming the first club to win the esteemed competition for an unprecedented fourth time and—ah, who are we kidding? We all know that this preseason tournament is little more than a glorified friendly, and all involved should be careful not to draw too many conclusions from the proceedings. Is Lacazette utter shite after he (and OL) failed to score a single goal? Probably not. Is Jeff the second coming of Vieira? A quick internet search suggests he is, but, again, the answer is probably not. After thrashing Lyon 6-0 on Saturday, Sunday's 1-0 squeaker over Wolfsburg might feel anticlimactic, even if it did secure a second trophy in as many tournaments.

03 August 2014

Arsenal 0-1 Monaco: Again with the set-pieces...

Feh. Why do we bother hosting this thing? I mean, if we can't win our own tournament, what's the point, really? Despite winning the first match resoundingly, we finish second after failing to score a single goal in the "final", allowing Valencia, the putative whipping-boys of the field, to win it. Oh well. Just as Saturday's result proved conclusively that Yaya Sanogo has become the best striker in Europe as well as in Arsenal history, Sunday's result proves resoundingly that Arsenal is doomed in 2014-15 and for a decade or more beyond to boot. I'm sure Arsène is encouraging the lads to update their curricula vitae (that's French for resumé...), the better to prepare them for careers beyond football. Except for Sanogo, of course. He's still gold.

Nuts to Costa, Suarez, or Messi. We have Yaya.

Pick up the prayer-books. The fat lady has sung. The case closed. We can put this one to bed. And so on. In little more than 24 minutees, Yaya Sanogo has put to an emphatic end any debate over who will be the Prem's top striker. Heck, at the rate he's set, he'll be Europe's top striker. There is simply no way to overstate or exaggerate the lad's quality or potential after that display against Benfica; plain and simple, the only conclusion to be drawn is that it proves once and for all that our striker-needs have been filled, and the only real question is how many league goals will Sanogo get. Thirty seems modest. Forty feels a minimum. Fifty? Perhaps more of a dare.

02 August 2014

Arsenal 5-1 Benfica Video Highlights: Sanogo did what?

The scoreline flatters us a bit on the defensive end, as Benfica threatened frequently but could only capitalize once, denying Damian Martinez a clean sheet. Then again, we could have bagged a few more of our own but for some all-too-familiar misses. The game turned into the Yaya Sanogo show as the man not only opened his Arsenal account in the 26th minute but added three more goals, with Joel Campbell also getting his first Arsenal goal for good measure. This one was well and truly over by halftime when the scoreline was 3-0. Still, the final gives us a strong edge going into tomorrow's match against Monaco. Three points for the win, plus five points for the goals, means we have eight points to three each for Monaco and Valencia, who tied 2-2 earlier in the day. We'll take a closer look at things later. For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the highlights!

If technical difficulties with the video do arise, I'll see what I can do.

01 August 2014

Arsenal v. Benfica: Match Preview

Good God does it feel good to type those words. Look, I know that the Emirates Cup may rank a little lower than the Community Shield, the League Cup, and other such honors, and that this match is a bit of a gussied-up friendly scrimmage, but its arrival means that we're getting closer and closer to actual matches. Soon, we can set aside the speculating and the wondering and get down to some analyzing and assessing. Saturday's match ain't no walk in the park. Benfica won the Primeira Liga title, their 33rd, and finished second in the Europa League, beating Tottenham, AZ Alkmaar, and Juventus before succumbing to Sevilla in the final. They're no slouches, and winning the Cup depends on besting them.

04 August 2013

Arsenal 1-2 Galatasaray: I blame Koscielny

This is all Koscielny's fault.  It's his fault we finished so strong in last season's run-in, his fault that we beat Newcastle on the last day of the season to qualify for the Champions League, his fault that we managed a tie against Napoli on Saturday, his fault that we suffered a loss against Galatasaray on Sunday. It's all his fault that we haven't had any significant signings this summer.

Without him, we might have stumbled out of the top four, thereby convincing Arséne that, yes, we do in fact need signings. There was so much love lavished on Kos that we came to believe that we are going to be just fine, that Per's lack of pace is more than made up for by positional awareness, that we could field a back-line of Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker, and Miquel against Drogba and Sneijder. Without Koscielny, we would have made enough signings by now that we'd be obliterating the likes of Galatasaray, but no. This morass we're in, this imbroglio, this cess-pool of mediocrity we now find ourselves in, is all his fault. Even the fact that he wasn't on the pitch against Gala is his fault. 

I kid, I kid.

This little set-back is, I believe, actually a good thing as it reminds (those of)us (who need reminding) of our needs; strengthening the defense and offense. Almost all of our focus in transfer-talk has been on forwards—Jovetic, Rooney, Higuain, Suarez—with barely a murmur of shoring up the defense. Yes, it showed greater cohesion and organization during the run-in last year, but let's be honest. We backed into fourth place thanks to a favorable schedule and some help from Spurs. Losing the Emirates Cup to Didier Drogba Galatasarary should serve, I hope, as one more reminder that all is not quite as good as we had led ourselves to hope or believe. We have Aston Villa coming to town on 17 August; that's thirteen days to conclude any signings in time for a player to be ready. The early fixtures afford us a little time for bedding in, but that's no excuse to dilly-dally.

We've seen how thin we are at back over the last two days. Jenkinson, though a bit better than he was on Saturday, still needs more time than we have. To keep the ball on his right, he will take three left turns instead of one right, making him vulnerable to losing the ball deep in our defensive third and preventing him from making passes anywhere. Miquel showed his inexperience, forgetting or not knowing that Drogba will fall like a man shot if molecules of your sweat land on him, especially when he's in the box. A cagier defender would not let himself fall victim to that, knowing that Drogba is to diving what fish are to swimming. It's just what he does. His second goal, however, lays bare Mertesacker's deficiencies: caught flat-footed, he was unable to keep up with Drogba as the pass from Sneijder arrived, nor was he able to change direction quickly enough to get in front of Drogba to prevent the shot.

Of course, at the other end, it was a familiar story as we were unable to unlock a defense. Lots of passing and dribbles amounted to nothing as we couldn't actually get off enough quality shots (for the grammarians out there, let "enough" modify both the number of quality-shots as well as the quality of shots themselves). When we did, our attackers too often shot high, wide, or directly at Gala's keeper. Sanogo looked promising, but that's as much credit as I'm willing to give. Even Walcott's goal was an accident, as everyone expected some kind of deflection. When it didn't come, the ball just bounced on in. We need more offense than that kind of rubbish (sorry, Theo). A forward like Higuain might have come in handy, if not for the direct-threat he could pose but for how he'd help to stretch a defense out of shape to open up chances for teammates. Sanogo had some chances, but he isn't ready to have that effect, and on a day when others squandered their chances, we were left with precious few options.

It's with all of this in mind that I eschew a more direct reflection of the game. The result is about as much as we deserved after relying on a fluke-goal for 78 minutes and conceding twice in ten minutes to a player who has bedeviled us far too often over the years.

Yep, all the pieces are now in place for a dramatic signing or two this week. Thank you, Gala, for helping the scales to fall from our eyes. I refer, of course, to the crust I'll be rubbing from my eyes when I wake up Monday morning to read of some beautiful, beautiful signings. Please?

Arsenal v. Galatasary match preview

After a nifty comeback to earn a draw against Napoli, we face Galatasary, who bring long-time nemesis Didier Drogba and old favorite Emmanuel Eboué back to the Emirates. This should be an exciting game; our two-goal draw with Napoli leaves us in second place with three points, and Porto's one-goal victory leaves them in first with four. Winning on Sunday wins us the Emirates Cup, plain and simple. Should we draw and Napoli defeat Porto, Napoli takes the Cup.

Gala's manager Fatih Terem favors an attacking style, and with the arrivals in January of Sneijder and Drogba, he moved to a 4-3-1-2 to position Sneijder in a #10 role, allowing him to distribute to Drogba and top goal-scorer Burak Yilmaz. Of course, the big story of this match is the return to London of Eboué, who has waxed rhapsodic about coming back, and it should be lovely to see him squaring off against Arsenal. 

Interestingly, Gala fielded a nearly full-strength squad against Porto and didn't seem to make any substitutions that I could find record of. It looks like Sneijder, Drogba, Melo, and Eboué were still on the pitch in the 80th minute as far as I can tell, so their fitness for Sunday's game is questionable. Sneijder at 29 is the spring-chicken of the bunch, Melo and Eboué are 30, and Drogba is 35, so I imagine that they and even their younger teammates may come in a bit winded. Despite playing so close to full-strength for so much of the match, Gala was lucky to advance as Porto dominated possession but missed on two penalty kicks. Yilmaz didn't play on Saturday, so he may come on in place of Drogba and might just be the more-dangerous attacking option. 

By contrast, our rotation against Napoli not only seemed to rejuvenate us and spark a comeback, it keeps us comparatively fresher. Fabianski, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky, and Giroud played a full 90' (highlighting the need for greater squad depth in defense and at forward), but rotation elsewhere was strong as Sagna replaced Jenkinson and Walcott replaced Gnabry at 56', Arteta replaced Wilshere at 64', and Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Ramsey at 63'. Chuba Akpom joined the fray at 88' for the ineffective Podolski, for what that's worth.

In their 4-3-1-2, Galatasaray can leave themselves exposed on the flanks, which we could exploit through some combination of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry (all of whom should be fresh), or Podolski. Gedion Zelalem was on the bench for the Napoli match, so we may see him make an appearance as well. Even if Cazorla isn't available, our attack looks dangerous. Giroud seemed rejuvenated over the last 25-30 minutes of the match, and a bit of confidence and relief from scoring could allow him to relax enough to create some great chances. No one on Gala's defense stands taller than 1.84m (6'), so Giroud has a good 8cm (4") of height to work with as well.

If we can start this match as we finished against Napoli, we should have little to worry about. I said in my Emirates Cup preview that Napoli were the most-dangerous team we'd face, and I stand by that. Despite playing only 30 minutes of so of quality football, we nabbed a draw. I'm not a big fan of this kind of extrapolation, but Napoli did beat Gala 3-1 in a friendly on 29 July and did so without Higuain or Reina, so that's an encouraging sign in our favor. Looking within, I think that the draw with Napoli was just the right amount of a jolt after the Asia Tour; we'll likely go into the match with Gala reminded of the importance of starting strong and playing well for a full 90', and that should be more than enough to earn us a victory.

03 August 2013

Arsenal 2-2 Napoli. Effin' hell, I'll take it!

After a dismal first half, I think many of us were throwing our hands up in despair. All of our worst fears were coming to the fore: the defense was in shambles, the midfielders looked sluggish, and we seemed content to pass the ball around until we were fouled or lost possession. We couldn't unlock a Napoli team that seemed happy to park the bus and hoof the ball the length of the field. It's an ugly style of play, but it only has to work once in a while. Sadly, we obliged twice through some horrid defending, and it looked like we were set for an embarrassing afternoon. The only bright spot for the first half, it seemed, was that Higuain hadn't scored. Then again, he was on the bench.

Let's get the rest of the bad news out of the way, the better to end on a high note. First, Carl Jenkinson. He looked truly out of his depth. His poorly headed ball that led to Napoli's first goal is only the most glaring fault, and this was just as much a fluke as it was poor positioning. Had he headed more cleanly, we could focus more of our attention on his extreme right-footedness, a flaw that limits his options when looking to play the ball out of the back and when joining the attack. It seems at times as if his left foot is allergic to the ball, and this, more than one bad header, is a problem that he will need to address if we're to count on as our right-back of the future.

Second, Podolski. He struggled all the way through, highlighted by a piss-poor PK that could have leveled the score ten minutes after Napoli's goal. His shot was tame; it lacked any pace and was placed only a meter or so to Reina's left, leading to a fairly easy save and a deflating letdown. The foul itself was dubious, a clumsy knee-to-knee hit on Gibbs that offered a scary reminder of how close we are to needing to call up a right-back from the Academy. Back to Podolski, it seems that each shot he took was a few feet wide; each pass he made was tentative or off-target, and he gave the ball away far too often. His performance begs the question of why he was allowed to stay on as long as he was, especially given how bright Gnabry was looking on the other side.

Third, Giroud. He had a truly awful first half but saved himself with a strong final 20 minutes. He was showing all of the bad habits that plagued him last year: sloppy shooting, poor dribbling, an inability to create chances for himself or others. It reminded me of his form early last season when he was desperate for a goal, anything to relieve the pressure he must have felt to replace van Persie. I just don't think he has the mindset or the skill to be that kind of scorer, at least not yet. His performance in Asia showed us that he can deliver, albeit against inferior competitors. Playing in front of the Gunner faithful, again, however, seems to have made him regress.

It was in the second half that the game seemed to shift. Perhaps Napoli was content to sit back and try to soak up pressure rather than pressing forward, but we seized the momentum. A number of subs seems also to have turned the tide; Walcott came on for Gnabry (who could have had two brilliant goals in the first half, including a cheeky, 50-yard chip that went just over the crossbar), and Sagna came on for Jenkinson. Giroud wasted a spot-kick by blasting it straight into the wall, but the attack looked more incisive and purposeful. By the time Arteta and Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Wilshere and Ramsey, you'd have thought that we were the superior team.

Now, to the bright spots. Sagna came on and looked ten years younger, outleaping and outrunning Napoli's forwards. He sent several dangerous crosses through the box, placed just beyond Reina's reach but also out of reach of any forwards who were strangely absent at the far-post. Sagna's fountain of youth was a sight to behold. Between he and Koscielny, the defense tightened up brilliantly, and their involvement in both goals is a fitting tribute to their efforts. Koscielny was, even without his goal, my man of the match. He snuffed more chances than anyone on either side, by my estimate, and he patrolled the back-line with authority and tenacity. His goal was a stunner; he charged in to head home brilliantly, earning us a draw and keeping the Emirates Cup up for grabs.

Elsewhere, Giroud redeemed himself in the last twenty minutes with some well-taken shots from some tight angles. By the time he (or Sagna) scored in the 71st minute, he had made me almost forget his poor performance up to that point. Perhaps it was Higuain's appearance at the start of the first half that sparked Giroud to life. Speaking of Higuain, I wanted to reach out and punch the commentators for defending his play. It seemed that each time he got the ball, he was dispossesed, and they just kept saying he was still getting in shape. Yes, it's the preseason, but let's be honest: Koscielny was too much for him. We'll just leave it at that. I harbor no hard feelings against Higuain, but I was pleased to see that he didn't score (or come close, thanks to Kos).

In the end, I think we got the result we deserve and need. A loss would have stung too much, we didn't play well enough, long enough for a win, and a draw leaves no one happy. We're still alive in the Emirates Cup (as hosts, there's more pressure on us to put on a good showing), but there was enough to remind Arsène that we need some signings. A win might have glossed over our weaknesses, but it should be quite clear now (if it wasn't already) that we need better options up-top and some bolstering at the back. One on hand, we held our own against a Napoli squad that has been fairly aggressive in the transfer-market (enough to beat us to Higuain while also adding Reina, Albiol, Callejon, and five others to date). On the other, had we been able to deploy a tricksier striker capable of unlocking a defense, we might have done better than merely holding our own. If we expect to do better than 4th place, we'll need some help.

Here's hoping we get a few surprise announcements on Monday after beating Galatasaray. Their 1-0 win over Porto means they have four points to our three in the Cup. Let's win out, then, before he leaves, have a meeting with Porto's Jackson Martinez. Perhaps some business could be done?

Thanks, as always, for your visit. Feel free to comment below. Before you leave, please also consider casting your ballot in the 2012-13 YAMA Awards. Woolwich 1886 is honored to be a Best New Arsenal Blog nominee. Thanks!

30 July 2013

Emirates Cup Preview: it's clobberin' time, Napoli...

It looks increasingly unlikely that we'll hear of any major transfers before this weekend's Emirates Cup, so let's set aside the feudin' and a-fussin' and get down to some fightin'. We have a number of tricksy clubs coming to town, including a sassy one from Napoli, stealers of Gonzalo Higuaín's signature. They deserve a proper thrashing for that (even if we have only ourselves to blame. Scapegoating is always easier than looking oneself in the mirror). More seriously, let's have a quick look at the three teams we'll be hosting as well as the schedule itself. For those not familiar, each team plays twice, with the standard three points for a win and one for a draw, and a point earned for each goal scored on top of that. This year sees Napoli, 2nd place in Serie A this past year; Porto, champions of the Primeira Liga; and Galatasaray, champions of the Süper Lig.

Schedule (London times listed)

Saturday, August 3rd:
  • Arsenal v. Napoli 4:00pm
  • Galatasaray v. Porto: 6:20pm 
Sunday, August 4th:
  • Napoli v. Porto 4:00pm 
  • Arsenal v. Galatasaray 6:20pm 
I don't know if you can talk of a favorable draw--I might have argued that Porto would offer the stiffest challenge a few weeks ago before transfers took place. Now, however, I wonder if Napoli is the biggest threat to us winning our own tournament. More on that below as we run through the three teams.

First, we really need to settle their hash. They've been nothing but trouble since selling Cavani. His transfer drove up prices, tightened the market, and, of course, gave Napoli cash to spend on Higuaín. Had we just boosted our bid instead of fawning over Suarez, we'd have Higuaín. Our fault. Similarly, Napoli's nabbing of Reina might further complicate our pursuit of Julio César, half-hearted though that has been. It remains to be seen how well these two additions can bed in, having just joined the squad last week. They've made a number of other minor additions, such as Raul Albiol and José Callejon (is there anyone from Real Madrid who hasn't signed with Napoli?) to make up for some equally minor departures. Napoli hosted and defeated Galatasaray 3-1 in a friendly the other night, for what that's worth. Rafa Benítez's tenure at Napoli, ironically, could just begin with one more trophy in London if he can get these players in order. Let's see to it that he doesn't have to suffer that irony.

As I mentioned, Porto might have offered the stiffest challenge to our winning the Emirates Cup. However, they've suffered the departures of João Moutinho and James Rodriguez, and with no significant replacements signed, have left some holes in their squad, but they'll still have the dangerous Jackson Martinez, scorer of 26 goals in 20 appearances last year. Without Moutinho to organize things, Porto will have to rely even more on Martinez to score—something he may struggle to do if our defense can focus on stopping him. As with Napoli, Porto seems interested in snatching players before we can; they've been strongly linked with Bernard even as we've come closer to signing the diminutive Brazilian. However, we don't get to face Porto, so there's not much in the way of revenge for us to pursue, at least on the pitch. We may just have to settle for signing Bernard instead.

Eboué! Eboué! Eboué! Eboué! Eboué! C'mon, admit it. He might just be your favorite ex-Gunner. He may have bottled a few here and there, but he injured John Terry once, and that counts for something, doesn't it? I kid. One should never seek to injure another human being. Then again, John Terry. Let's move on. There was a time when I actually started to fear this team; they deployed not just Eboué but Sneijder and Drogba. However, Drogba is aging and decrepit and no longer strikes fear into my heart. However, this is a feisty team, and we'd be remiss to overlook them. For one, merely typing the team's name stretches me to the limits of my abilities. They did give Real Madrid a run in the Champions League, winning 3-2 at home but losing 3-0 at the Bernabeu to fall on aggregate, 5-3. We might look down our collective noses at the Süper Lig, but Galatasaray didn't advance to the Champions League quarterfinal based on good looks alone (I promise I'm not slighting Drogba with that suggestion).

Long story short, this could be a barn-burner, especially if we falter against Napoli. They strike me as the toughest team among the three we've invited. A lot depends on which players each team sends out, of course, but I like our chances even if some of our youngsters feature ahead of first-teamers. Zelalem and Akpom in particular looked sharp on the Asia Tour. It should be exciting one way or another, that's for sure.

If you have any predictions or insider knowledge that I'm not privy to, feel free to share. While you're here, consider going over and voting in the 2012-13 YAMA Awards for Arsenal bloggers and writers. Woolwich 1886 is honored to be nominated as a Best New Blog. Thanks!