It was a wild, back-and-forth affair with something for everyone, the kind of match even neutrals would enjoy, as Arsenal and AS Monaco went toe-to-toe and traded body blows and uppercuts for a full ninety minutes before setting this epic affair in a shootout every bit as gripping and as dramatic as the match that preceded—ah, hang it all. This one was a pretty tedious affair, but we did manage to win the Emirates Cup, and that’s just the first step this squad will take toward claiming an historic quintuple.
Okay, so, on one hand, this was merely a glorified friendly. On the other, we won it, so it’s a match of record and that trophy is of course every bit as valuable as the other four we’re obviously going to claim. Next up: the Community Shield, which we haven’t lost since 2005. Put another, more-accurate way, we’ve won it the last five times we’ve been in it. Even if it is just another glorified friendly, you have to win the Prem or FA Cup to qualify, so it counts for something. Once we win that one, well, this domestic quintuplet is on like Donkey Kong. Add the League Cup in February, the FA Cup in May, and wrap up the Prem around about, oh, I’d say late April. Of course, there are some wild-eyed fanatics who are letting their imaginations run away from them as they dream feverishly of us also winning the Champions League. That of course is irrational overexuberance.
To bring ourselves back to Earth, it was nice enough to win our own cup. Keeping in mind that it was in fact just a preseason match, and one against an opponent that finished sixth in Ligue 1 last season, are there any meaningful takeaways? Let’s see what we can glean…
What a waste of money. Man, did West Ham pull the wool over our eyes. Clear on goal with only the keeper to bit, Rice hesitated and had his shot blocked. Why did we even sign him? That moment aside, to be more serious, Rice looked cautious to tentative, which is natural considering that this was his first appearance at the Emirates since joining. Despite that, he popped up in interesting areas that one wouldn’t anticipate, such as the burst into the box to very nearly score but for that desperate, last-gasp tackle. Those assuming he’d be playing as a 6 might be surprised to see him playing a bit more as a box-to-box midfielder who’ll score more than few goals.
Emile Smith Rowe
I hate to use the phrase “headless chicken”, but it looked for long stretches like this was what Smith Rowe was as he ran about the pitch. He just didn’t seem like he knew what to do either with or without the ball. It may have been a lack of chemistry with Rice, Vieira, and Tomiyasu, among others. Like Rice, it may have been some jitters related to playing at the Emirates. It’s hard to know, but we have to hope that he can get back to being The Smith if we’re to compete on all fronts in the upcoming season.
HE SAVED A PENALTY. I REPEAT: RAMSDALE SAVED A PENALTY. It was a decent save, nothing specatular, but I’ve argued before that Ramsdale’s reputation has been bolstered by the occasionally spectacular rather than the consistently excellent. For him to save Minamino’s wrist-breaking howitzer of a shot to help us in the shootout will be, for lack of a better idiom, a welcome shot in the arm—although he was caught out several times and was fortunate that Monaco’s finishing wasn’t more clinical. The goal wasn’t his fault, but he was well-beaten on two other occasions only to be saved by the woodwork and/or poor finishing. David Raya may be licking his lips in anticipation.
He looks bigger than I remember. I might even use the word “bulkier”, but that might be taking it a little too far. That first half might have been the best 45 minutes he’s played since signing. He was confident, aggressive, and incisive; he came up with a few audacious tricks and turns; and he pressed well. If Anthony Taylor had seen fit to issue any cards, Vieira might have had a chance at asserting himself even further against opponents under the cosh. As it was, though, this was the kind of performance we’d like to see more of as it suggests that Vieira is perhaps ready to earn a larger role going forward.
Given the captain’s armband, Eddie didn’t disappoint. He put in a proper shift, linking up well, pressing, and getting into dangerous areas. He scored a sumptuous goal from a smart turn to finish a deft half-volley from Martinelli’s in-swinging corner. It capped off a very determined, purposeful half of play from the lad, who made the most of Jesus’s worrying injury (more on that in another post, perhaps) to show Balogun that effort and attitude can occasionally trump ego and talent. This was probably him at close to his best, which still isn’t quite good enough for our aspirations, but he does seem to pop up with goals.
We’ll leave off there. We take our second step to this historic quintuple in just a few days when we go to Wembley to take on Man City in the Community Shield. I think I speak for us all when I say that we should all place all of our assets on betting on an Arsenal victory. What could possibly go wrong?