Arsenal 0 Monaco 1 - Emirates Cup
Sunday's Arsenal failed to live up to the hype after Saturday's Arsenal thrilled. Arsene was unusually harsh on his team post match as he criticised the lack of movement and sharpness from his team.
In hindsight the team display shouldn't have been such a shock in truth. Our line up consisted of many of the returning World Cup players. Laurent Koscielny, Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere, Alexis Sanchez, Oliver Giroud and Santi Cazorla all started the game and those players have had a lot less time on the training pitch compared to the group on Saturday who Joel Campbell and Oxlade-Chamberlain aside were available from the first week of training.
When you consider the performance of most of Saturday's team at Boreham wood a few weeks ago then it gives me hope that the World Cup returning players are good hard work away from coming back to full sharpness. But time is running out, the community shield next week provides our last chance of dusting off any rust before we kick the season off against Crystal Palace.
Oliver Giroud was woefully short yesterday and Arsene Wenger pointed that out in his press conference but let us not forget his form last pre season when he was scoring for fun and looked in very good shape. I'm guessing that he would not have had that form if the World Cup was last year rather than this so some perspective is needed when judging the performance. Especially when you consider that Monaco are starting their season next week and are further down the line in their preparation just as we were compared to Benfica the day previous.
So to the game, it took a Radamel Falcao header from a set piece to win the game. We've been caught a few times already from set pieces, in fact most if not all of the goals conceded against us this pre season have come from set pieces. The Columbian hit man was left on his own to supply the relatively easy task of heading in from the penalty box. Aside from his goal I thought Falcao was pretty quiet.
Where the French side were superior was through the midfield. Wilshere and Arteta struggled to impose themselves because of the power and technical quality of Kondogbia and Bakayoko. You can see why Arsene wants to add some physical power in that area of the pitch. Hopefully we will get that done soonish.
I thought Alexis tried too much to the detriment of his performance. He seemed to want to beat a man whenever he got the ball and often lost possession but I'm sure he will get better at picking his moments when he is fitter and sharper. He certainly showed glimpses of his quality. Starting on the right wing with licence to drift inside, there was one moment on the first half where he came inside and threaded one defence splitting pass to Giroud in between a few defenders but the Frenchman's legs could not rotate quickly enough to gain control of the situation and the chance was squandered. Once Theo Walcott is back in that right sided position making those runs in behind the full back and centre back then Alexis Sanchez is more than capable of finding him if indeed he is played as a centre forward. That is an exciting prospect.
Alexis moved inside as a centre forward after half time with Chamberlain replacing Giroud and we looked better for it. Chamberlain was one of our better players and that pleases me. I would not be against Chamberlain being a first team starter if he can find consistency. It is great to have a player who is able to open up the opposition with his dribbling as well as being a decent passer of the ball.
The stand out Arsenal player was Calum Chambers at the heart of our defence and looked like the experienced head at the back when he is quite the opposite. He is further down the fitness/sharpness road than most of his defenders in that back line but his composure and reading of the game is a joy to see. On occasions he brought the ball out from the back and looked very cultured indeed.
Arsene hinted at a possible midfield role for him but I'm not sure if there is enough games to test that out so that might happen on the training pitch. He remains one of the stand outs this pre season for sure and I would not be a nervous wreck if he had to partner Koscielny at centre back come the season opener.
We should have received a penalty when the Monaco keeper chopped down Chuba Akpom clearly inside the penalty area but the assistant referee seemed to think otherwise for some reason. It really did not matter though, the performance and fitness was what this was about any else is a bonus so I suspect winning the Emirates cup would not have changed the managers view of the team display on the day.
It was hard to judge anything else really, it is too early for this group of players. Personally I would turn to many of the players who have had more pre season. The likes of Tomas Rosicky and co are better prepared for Crystal Palace at this stage but we'll know more in the Community Shield.