I usually reserve my optimism and expectations or the first few fixtures in the season, but even I find myself in high spirits after Arsenal’s utter destruction of Benfica in their 5-1 win in the opening day of the Emirates Cup.
With AS Monaco to come tomorrow and perhaps an XI that closer resembles what we may come to expect for the Community Shield against City, Arsene Wenger gave an unofficial debut for Calum Chambers at center-back; with young right-back prospect Hector Bellerin slotted into the XI as well to the right of Chambers, the pair of them each put on very solid displays in a preview of what could well be fifty percent of Arsenal’s back-four in the coming years.
Chambers looked solid as ever in his first Emirates Cup appearance for the club; assured on the ball, confident and did not appear nervous one bit. As for Bellerin, he was brilliant. Getting forward with every chance, and showing off his technical ability on numerous occasions, he would even get an assist on Joel Campbell’s excellent volley for Arsenal’s second goal on the day.
The stars of the day were no doubt Campbell and Yaya Sanogo. The big French striker, being kept at the club this season and being given every chance to prove himself without a loan, went on to score four goals on the day. It took him a bit to settle and find his footing, but once he did, his awareness in the box was put on display as time and time again he turned up in the right place at the right time. Really, he could have had five or sex goals, but his double-brace would be more than enough to convince Wenger, and many Gooners as well, that maybe, just maybe, he has what it takes.
Campbell himself played quite well as well, which led Wenger to categorically deny any loan move or permanent transfer away from the club for the Costa Rican attacker;
“No. There is no reason to let him go. I want to keep him.” – “Campbell has done very well. I like the way he plays, he’s good on the ball, creative and collectively as well e has a good balance between individual skill and collective attitude – that’s not easy to find.”
Apart from his well taken goal, Campbell’s movement both on the ball and off it gave the Benfica back-four a torrid time of it for the duration of his appearance. He himself should have had more than one, but it was certainly the type of display that everyone was hoping to see from the youngster; he’s highly regarded amongst the support, and all of us are quite happy to see him get his chance this season.
The cap on the Emirates Cup afternoon would be the unofficial first appearance of Alexis Sanchez, who came on for the final fifteen minutes. He looked lively from his very first touch, and although he didn’t get himself on the scoresheet, Sanchez looks prepared to hit the ground running after he had a wonderful World Cup for Chile. Never afraid to take players on, look for a killer pass or cause havoc off the ball to create space for others, his awareness has already fit flawlessly into the tactical framework – I cannot wait to see him this season.
While I will be the first one to tell you that pre-season performances can only be taken with a grain of salt, I am certainly really impressed with our showing today, especially in the attacking third. Everyone in the attacking four to even Ramsey, and Wilshere pulling their usual late arrivals into the box, we played very well.
There were one or two questions at the back naturally, but that can be more attributed to the fact that Nacho Monreal was slotted in at center-back, and his replacement Ignasi Miguel; both of them looked shaky, but were not awful.
With Radamel Falcao and Monaco to come tomorrow in the final day of the Emirates Cup, a much sterner test will be provided. But if today’s performance is any indication, this season could well be one to remember for the club as we look to finally make a proper challenge on the domestic front.