As I previously mentioned, I wasn’t able to watch the Arsenal-Monaco game yesterday morning. I monitored the game via Twitter and tried to find extended highlights, so I have a pretty good sense of what happened, but there isn’t all that much from the match itself that I can fairly analyze. Overall, it’s disappointing to miss out on winning the Emirates Cup on home turf yet again, but at the end of the day, the results aren’t what matter.
What I gleaned from the stuff I’ve watched and read was that a few of the Arsenal players looked to be a bit behind on their fitness. Olivier Giroud in particular looked a long way off from being ready for the new season. It’s entirely understandable given the World Cup and his late arrival at preseason, but it’s now looking like it may take at least until the end of the month for Arsenal’s main striker to be ready for extended game action.
However, any fears about Giroud’s absence were surely lessened on Saturday when Yaya Sanogo scored four goals against Benfica. It also looks like Arsene Wenger is quite comfortable playing Alexis Sanchez through the middle, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sanchez start up front against Manchester City next weekend in the FA Community Shield. And even Chuba Akpom could be a decent option up top if need be, as he once again showed himself quite well against Monaco yesterday in a substitute appearance.
With the German contingent still yet to return to training, Wenger’s options in certain areas will be limited when he selects his team next weekend. A trophy is on the line though, so he can’t run out an entirely inexperienced and experimental side. At this point, I think I would like to see a lineup of Wojciech Szczesny, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, Mathieu Debuchy, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Yaya Sanogo take the field at Wembley on Sunday. Joel Campbell might also be in line for a start.
Other than fitness issues and an obvious penalty that wasn’t given late on, my only issue with the game was Aaron Ramsey’s inclusion in the starting lineup for the second day in a row. Ramsey is unquestionably Arsenal’s most important player at this point. And he picked up an unfortunate injury last winter due to overuse. So why Wenger thinks it’s a good idea to play Ramsey two days in a row in preseason is beyond me. Maybe it would have made sense to play him another half today to get him some more game action in the abbreviated summer, but he was on the pitch long after halftime. This wasn’t Wenger’s smartest move in my opinion.
Switching to baseball, watching the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball last night felt odd given the events of the last week in Boston baseball. This is certainly not a team built for primetime at the moment. The fact that Clay Buchholz is the de facto ace of the staff for the rest of the year is a scary thought for all those interested in fast-paced, low-scoring baseball. A Buchholz with no confidence against the Yankees in a nationally televised game is a recipe for a four and a half hour marathon. Who doesn’t love those games especially when the teams are bad?
But the bigger issue is Buchholz on the mound these days. Something needs to happen to get him in a mental place where he can pitch with confidence again, and I’m not sure getting hammered every fifth day is going to do the job. It’s strange to think about how he was thought about a year ago at this point, when he was the pitcher who was going to take the Red Sox to the World Series upon his return from injury. But now that he’s finally healthy, he’s been terrible all year. Maybe a trip back to the DL for shoulder tightness will allow him to take a break in order to get right mentally. It’s not like the Red Sox would lose anything with him not on the mound.
And on another note, while I think it’s a shame Paul George got hurt playing for his country in summer basketball, that injury should not mean the NBA needs to ban its players from participating in international tournaments. Injuries like the one he suffered can happen anywhere, anytime. Even if players aren’t competing officially, they’ll be out doing workouts on their own, playing pick-up basketball as well. And leg injuries are just as likely to happen then. So there is no need for overreaction. Fortunately for all of us who love international basketball, Adam Silver is a very reasonable man, and I think he’ll see this issue clearly.