Evening all and there is only one place to start after Arsenal rounded off their Far Eastern tour this afternoon with a classy 3-1 win over Everton to win this year’s installment of the Barclays Premier League Trophy.
With the Emirates Cup to come in a week’s time and a Community Shield date with Chelsea the weekend after that, Arsenal could conceivably begin their Premier League campaign with three ‘trophies’ already safely tucked away – not a bad way to prepare for a season which many feel could see us end our long wait for the title.
Theo Walcott, starting the game in Alexis Sanchez’s position on the left of the front three, rediscovered his goalscoring form from the FA Cup final by latching onto Santi Cazorla’s pin-point pass and guiding a first time half volley past the Everton ‘keeper to give the Gunners the lead in the 22nd minute.
The England international’s run and finish – intelligently controlled by manoeuvring his right foot over the ball and striking it downwards off the turf and skidding past the goalie – made a mockery of the misconception that Theo can’t finish and lacks a ‘football brain’. This was Walcott at his best; a superbly timed and directed dart from wide combined with a clinical strike on goal. From coasting to celebrating in the blink of an eye.
As for Cazorla’s chipped assist from inside the centre circle, well, the vision and execution using his ‘weaker’ left foot was as majestic as his all-round display. We’ll have a real problem replacing Santi’s outstanding skillset when he does eventually depart, because for me there isn’t another player in our squad right now who can replicate his talents in the middle of the park – a velcroed virtuosity that has become vital to our performance and overall pattern of play this past year or so.
We then doubled our advantage 13 minutes into the second period when Ozil fed Cazorla on the right following a short corner and having weighed up his options, the Spaniard decided to go it alone, twisting and turning to bamboozle the defending James McCarthy on the edge of the area before drilling home at the near post leaving the ‘keeper motionless.
And Cazorla was at it again just four minutes later, exchanging passes with Mesut Ozil to allow the German to sidefoot emphatically into the net for three nil, making it two assists and a goal for Arsenal’s captain on the day. I would tie him to as long a deal as possible as he shows no sign of being debilitated by age.
The one sour note in a dominant display arrived with 15 minutes to go when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – otherwise his usual, buccaneering best down the right flank following his introduction at half time for Jack Wilshere, allowed himself to be dispossessed by Gareth Barry who in turn fed Ross Barkley to strike a venomous left footed shot past a helpless Petr Cech.
The former Chelsea ‘keeper had looked confident and composed throughout, producing one brilliant, finger-tip save to turn a Stephen Naismith header onto the crossbar in the first half, before parrying away a fierce long distance strike by Luke Garbutt in the second.
Overall a pleasing start to life in Arsenal colours for the Czech and you can be sure the Ox would have received a bit of a rollicking from the ‘keeper had this been a competitive fixture. He’ll have no doubt been disappointed not to keep a clean sheet but impressed by his new team’s controlled yet expansive display. Especially after a decade and more of pragmatic, painfully dull ‘football’ at Stamford Bridge.
Afterwards, manager Arsene Wenger praised his side’s victory and the cohesion of our play, saying:
I’m pleased with the performance because the focus in pre-season is to find the quality of our game back and I think for long periods we played in a very convincing way and the way we want to play – together, with good team play. Everybody shared the same vision on the pitch of the game we want to play. That’s positive.
He then shared his views on Walcott’s work in the win, and explained how the modern-day footballer no longer returns from his summer holidays three stone overweight after a few weeks of hard drinking and binge burger eating:
He is sharp and prepared well. He is like every player – they look fit, close to full fitness. It’s quite amazing how the players are back to a good body shape and a good [level] of fitness because they prepare well. Now football has changed – they come back after holidays and they don’t start from zero. They have done their homework and he is one of them
Moving on and there are a number of Arsenal-related transfer whispers to either get super excited about, or dismiss with the scorn that horseshit clearly deserves, including Mathieu Flamini moving to Galatasaray, our interest in Napoli’s left back Faouzi Ghoulam (with a first name like that, he was born to be a Gunner), which ties in neatly with advances from Athletic Bilbao for Nacho Monreal, a bid for Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubaeyang and finally, ongoing negotiations with Roma for highly-rated Italian central defender Alessio Romagnoli. And breathe…