Well that was fun, wasn’t it? Arsenal (no mention of the missing World Cup Germans or that we started with Olivier Giroud on the bench) thrashed a (media emphasis, much-weakened) Manchester City 3-0.
Arsene surprised a few with his selection of Yaya Sanogo to start in the main striking role, and although the former Auxerre youngster missed a golden opportunity to double Arsenal’s advantage in the first-half he contributed two assists as a rampant Arsenal simply overpowered the City midfield, Yaya Toure and a certain Mr Nasri included.
From the off the Gunners coveted possession and City were reduced to attempt countering on the occasional break. Arsenal’s right flank, with new boys Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez prominent asked questions that the champions couldn’t find the answers to. Early chances were traded, Clichy heading clear under pressure from Sanogo and then Debuchy and Alexis retreated to thwart Nasri and Fernando respectively.
The lead that Arsenal richly deserved came in the 21st minute. Alexis fed Sanogo on the edge of the box and he found Santi Cazorla who made room for a left foot drive into the far corner. Remember the play, because you will see more of the same this season, I’m sure. In fact we did just 22 minutes later. Alexis burst down the right with pace and fed Sanogo on the edge of the box who in turn set up Aaron Ramsey for yet another Wembley finish from the scorer of the FA Cup winner in May.
It was mesmeric stuff, an intoxicating blend of passing and movement at pace with the ball, and solid defending with new boy Calum Chambers catching the eye alongside Laurent Koscielny. Few wanted the half-time whistle to arrive, but it did and signalled a trio of substitutions by Arsene. That of Nacho Monreal for Koscielny is the most concerning, given that it was because of an Achilles problem for the French international. With Per Mertesacker unlikely to figure next weekend it means we could face Palace with the Chambers and Nacho Monreal partnership that played the second-half at Wembley.
Alexis made way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, most significantly, Giroud came on for Sanogo. After City had twice tested Szczesny it was the big Frenchman who calmed the nerves, thumping a glorious left footer home from 22 yards out while surrounded by three blue-shirted defenders. In truth that knocked the stuffing out of a dispirited City. Their half-hearted attacks foundered more often than not on the rock that was Chambers today. He may struggle to get a game when we are back to full strength, but how often do we stay in that happy state?
Indeed looking at all three new boys who started today it seems clear that the squad is stronger already, although another couple of quality acquisitions would be welcome. Chambers, if as versatile as he is being touted, could do a more than adequate job in three roles. Debuchy I thought was excellent as an attacking wing-back. The quality of his crossing was a delight to the eye, but defensively he may need to concentrate a little more, having been beaten a little too easily a couple of times in the first-half. Nobody will be surprised, I’m sure, to hear me being effusive about Alexis. He seems to have so many qualities, and all allied to a willingness to work his socks off from back to front, on the right, and in the centre of the park. I’m salivating at the prospect of watching him play with Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott.
Yet from effusive it is time to plant one’s feet firmly on the ground again. Thirty-eight Premier League matches lie ahead. Beating the champions in a friendly, albeit a competitive and prestigious friendly, doesn’t put any points on the board. In the coming nine months we will hopefully close the gap on City that existed last season. We were the best team of the calendar year of 2013. Now let’s convert that to being the best team for a season, just for the fourteenth time.