Friends made, Arsenal’s makeshift squad departed New York having lost to the Red Bulls in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Sadly not all ticket holders reached the stadium but those that did gave tremendous vocal backing to the touring Gunners.
In truth they got a very watered down Arsenal experience in return, but one that was necessitated by the absence of so many of Arsenal’s World Cup stars. We started with Tomas Rosicky up front, and with Nacho Monreal partnering Isaac Hayden in the centre of defence.
The pleasure of seeing Thierry Henry once more was counter-balanced by the sight of Tim Cahill launching into reckless challenges. This was not a friendly in his eyes, clearly. Henry it was who had the first clear opportunity and Wojciech Szczesny was grateful to turn the effort wide. Bradley, son of Ian Wright Wright Wright, failed from a similar angle and both Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey went close for the visitors.
The goal that would decide the match arrived just past the half hour when Wright-Phillips applied the finishing touch to an Oyongo knock down from point blank range. Had we been fielding two experienced central defenders that goal would have rung alarm bells, but under the circumstances it was a minor irritant. Our best chance to level came shortly afterwards when Jack Wilshire was denied by the excellent Robles in the Red Bulls goal.
Not surprisingly Arsene rung the changes at half-time and the introduction of, among others, Abou Diaby gave us a different shape. The injury-plagued Frenchman had the ball in the net only to have his celebrations cut short by an offside flag.
At least we did field a striker in the second-half. Chuba Akpom, like Wilshere before him, found Robles in the way when put clear. In truth though chances at either end were few and far between as the game petered out.
As a football exercise we probably gained little. I felt for Zelalem, built up pre-match, a wonderful creator of chances but with no striker to pick out. A little too for Monreal, like a fish out of water at centre-half. Such observations seem harsh. With so many good players yet to feature we have yet to take shape. Three big weeks lie ahead.
In diplomatic mood the boss praised Thierry and our hosts afterwards.
“For us it was a great experience, everybody enjoyed it and nobody wants to go home. It was a short trip but a very exciting one because New York is a special city. But what is even more special for us is how popular football is now.”
Therein lies the reality. This was an exercise in promoting football in general, and Arsenal in particular, in a valuable market. The sight of so many Arsenal shirts in the crowd last night was proof that the objectives had been achieved.
Welcome David Ospina
It is good to see confirmation of the signing of Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina from Nice. I think anybody who witnessed his performances in the World Cup will agree we have definitely strengthened a key position. At 25 his best years lie ahead and he will surely push Wojciech Szczesny hard for a starting berth.