Arsenal defeated FC Koln 1-2 in an open game at the RheinEnergie Stadion in Cologne. Gervinho scored twice in his 29 minute cameo, and his first goal was a great way to start his Arsenal career.
First half line-up:
Wilshere lifted the ball over the opposition defence and the Ivorian’s run was inch-perfect. He subsequently chipped the keeper with his first touch to score a goal after less than seven minutes. The second goal came within the next ten minutes, as Wilshere fed Walcott, who ran into the box before squaring for Gervinho to tap into the net. Two very different goals from Gervinho, but it showed an array of skills – positioning, timing, composure and skill.
At 29 minutes, Gervinho was substituted for Miyaichi. It could have been due to a knock that the Ivorian received, but also Gervinho hasn’t had a full pre-season with Arsenal, so perhaps he isn’t fully match-fit. Despite this, he was very impressive in his short appearance.
Walcott, Wilshere and Gervinho were combining well with the assistance of Chamakh and Ramsey, although the former was a bit off the pace. Chamakh’s first touch was poor, when only a year ago his ability to link midfield with attack was one of the best in the Premier League. He has lost confidence, but also his awareness has gone haywire – he failed to lead the line effectively.
Wilshere was mesmerising, and made some fantastic dribbles into the Koln box. Ramsey was less imposing than his illustrious midfield partner, sometimes misplacing passes, but generally solid. Song was the same as ever – comfortable on the ball but clumsy in defence. He needs to improve his defensive midfield tactics in order to make the position his own – Frimpong provided a decent performance in the second half which may encourage Wenger to reconsider his options.
At the beginning and end of the first half, Koln caused problems for our defence. Most notable was the mistakes by Gibbs – he needed to use his pace to sort out his poor positioning. Jenkinson started poorly, especially when he and Song allowed Podolski to drift into space for a great chance, but he improved. Unfortunately, he scored a spectacular own goal when trying to clear the ball, which must have caused him some grief. However, he has given decent performances in pre-season, and I am sure he will have an interesting season for Arsenal, with plenty of opportunities.
The main issue from the first half was our defensive frailty – which only got worse in the next 45 minutes.
The second half yielded a totally different team, only Gibbs held his place:
Without Wilshere, Arsenal lacked the cutting edge in midfield. The defence was significantly weaker, and Koln came close to equalising a few times. The closest probably came when Jajalo moved into the box, but Djourou blocked the shot well.
Mannone looked very sharp, and in attack we had shots from Arshavin and Rosicky which were well saved. However, towards the end of the game, it seemed that Koln were accepting defeat. Henderson picked up an injury in the latter stages, but we don’t know the extent of the injury yet. Benik Afobe and Fabianski also featured in the second half, but very few players managed to impress in the second 45 minutes, although Arshavin and Rosicky looked lively.
However, it seems clear from this game that Arsenal’s defence needs bolstering. Fortunately, Wenger said the following the other day:
“Certainly, we will have to find one more defender. We [are] working on it. I don’t want to comment individually because I do not want to destabilise clubs. I do not want to do to other clubs what some clubs do to us so I wouldn’t like to comment individually on any player.
“I can promise we work very hard on it. In fairness, everybody looks for players. Everybody looks for the same area and you see that nobody turns up with magic. It’s all about being steady, working very hard on it and being calm as well.”
This sounds very positive, and it is certainly needed. Some of the defending was appalling and it all stemmed from very high pressing by the whole team. Barcelona manage to press high without causing their defence to constantly be on the backfoot. This could be due to the fact that they rarely lose the ball, but their defenders also stay back and allow midfielders to press. In our case, our back four kept stepping up to press the opposition – which often resulted in dangerous counter attacks by Koln. Whether we buy Samba, Cahill, Mertesacker or Jagielka, something needs to change if we are to challenge for the Premier League next season.