Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


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Player Ratings for Arsenal’s First Preseason Game Against Boreham Wood

Arsenal’s first appearance of the preseason was a walk in the park against sixth-division Boreham Wood. The 2-0 win was quite comfortable, and the lovely afternoon provided a number of youngsters the chance to shine alongside some season veterans.

Much of the focus was on improving fitness, but a few players in particular shone today. Chuba Akpom, Kris Olsson and Benik Afobe were especially impressive in the second half, and all three young players will hope to have made an impact on the boss today.

The first half performance was rather pedestrian, as Arsenal just knocked the ball around the pitch without much intention of creating chances. Nobody was looking to take anybody on, and while it was comfortable, only a few chances arose.

The second half was much different, as the introduction of an entirely new eleven saw a more direct approach. The possession was still there of course, but players were looking to take Boreham Wood defenders on, and as a result, Arsenal created a few more chances which ultimately led to the two goals.

It would be wrong to read too much into a game like this, but it was nice seeing the lads back in action. The new Puma kits looked sharper than I expected, and overall, this looked a confident side. Here are my ratings for the Arsenal players today.

Player Ratings (1-10)

Yaya Sanogo – 5.5/10 – Sanogo’s movement up front was pretty solid, and he got in a number of good areas, but he really needed a goal today. He sent his two best chances straight at the goalkeeper, and he looked frustrated after the second one. He was unlucky not to get an assist on Jon Toral’s chance.

Chris Willock – 5/10 – The young winger was a surprise starter, and showed himself alright in his first appearance with first-teamers. He looked decent in possession, but wasn’t particularly incisive in the final third. He is a long way off, but could be a talent in a few years.

Jon Toral – 6.5/10 – The young Spaniard may have been Arsenal’s best player in the first half. Popping up in a variety of areas, Toral had a few decisive passes and was unlucky to hit the post with a left-footed effort.

Aaron Ramsey – 6.5/10 – Ramsey looked the best player on the pitch in the early going, but he seemed more interested in building fitness than in scoring goals. He played a couple clever passes, but should have done better when he got to the byline early on. He looked quite comfortable wearing the captain’s armband.

Gedion Zelalem – 6/10 – Once again, the young Zelalem threaded an impressive through ball in the opening minutes, and looked quite comfortable on the ball. He always had his head up, and was one of few in the first half who seemed eager to create chances.

Francis Coquelin – 6/10 – In his return to Arsenal, Coquelin did everything right defensively, with a few well-timed tackles and a nice clearance with a header, but his distribution looked quite rusty.

Nacho Monreal – 6/10 – Monreal wasn’t too busy in the back, but when called upon, he did his job. Offensively, he got onto a ball from Zelalem in the final third and made a couple decent runs.

Isaac Hayden – 6.5/10 – The young defender looked comfortable in the back today, making his presence felt any time Boreham Wood got the ball into the Arsenal half. I’m always surprised at just how big he is.

Semi Ajayi – 5/10 – Ajayi looked well off the pace in the back, getting caught out of position on Boreham Wood’s lone break. He also nearly gave away a handball on the edge of the box.

Carl Jenkinson – 6/10 – Jenkinson didn’t have much to do, but he got forward with some enthusiasm. There wasn’t much in the way of end product, but Jenkinson looked his typical self down the right.

Wojciech Szczesny – 5.5/10 – Szczesny had very little to do. He made one suspect decision on the edge of his box, but he headed the ball away nicely in the end.

Substitutes

Benik Afobe – 7/10 – The young forward made a number of smart runs up top in the second half, and was dangerous in the box. He deservedly got the second goal on a well-taken penalty.

Chuba Akpom – 8/10 – The youngster was Arsenal’s man of the match today. Every time he got on the ball down the left, he looked to take defenders on, and he created a number of chances for himself. He did brilliantly to get the cross in that earned the penalty late on.

Tomas Rosicky – 7/10 – Rosicky provided a couple terrific balls, including the assist on Arsenal’s opener. He looked steady as ever in his usual role.

Kris Olsson – 7.5/10 – The young Swedish midfielder was lively from the moment he stepped onto the pitch. He looked to go forward when he got the ball, and created a host of chances. His opening goal was brilliantly taken. Arsene Wenger will be especially happy with Olsson’s play today.

Abou Diaby – 7/10 – Diaby’s long strides were on display today, as he got forward often, making a number of intelligent runs. He looked confident on his repaired knee, and Arsenal fans will be happy to see his assured display.

Mathieu Flamini – 6/10 – The defensive midfielder hardly got a touch today, but he was steady on the ball, and was well-positioned defensively.

Kieran Gibbs – 6.5/10 – Gibbs wasn’t involved much defensively, but he made a couple of nice runs down the left. His pace was noticeable every time he got on the ball.

Ignasi Miquel – 5.5/10 – The young Spanish defender had very little to do in the defensive end. But on the offensive side of the ball, he’ll be disappointed with a mistimed header from a corner.

Julio Pleguezuelo – 5.5/10 – Another young Spanish defender had a couple headed clearances, but other than that, did very little in his second-half appearance.

Hector Bellerin – 6.5/10 – The third member of the Spanish contingent to play in the second half, Bellerin put in a good display down the right. He was eager to get on the ball, and he combined well with Olsson a number of times to create some chances.

Damian Martinez – N/A – Martinez hardly had the ball in his half of the field in the second half, and wasn’t a part of the match.


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And It Begins, Sort Of

Good morning, everyone. Today is a great day, for the 2014/2015 Arsenal campaign unofficially kicks off with the first friendly of the summer. The wait between the World Cup and the start of the Premier League will feel like an eternity, but games like these ones help help make the waiting a little easier.

Before I get to Arsenal though, I want to say something about the Red Sox. Don Orsillo has been the team’s outstanding play-by-play commentator since 2001. He is so good at the job that you take him for granted sometimes. He is rumored to be in a contract dispute with NESN, the Red Sox’s TV station, and his forced in-season vacation right now makes it seem like NESN might be nudging him out. I can’t stress enough how big a mistake that would be for the network. Watching the last few games without Orsillo in the booth have been painful on multiple levels. Jerry Remy’s color commentary is replaceable, but Orsillo’s play-by-play is not.

Now to the Gunners. I know very little about Boreham Wood, Arsenal’s opponent today, but it’s not the opponent that matters in the first game of the year. It’s about the players slowly regaining their form and fitness, and it’s about giving youngsters a chance to prove they belong in the first team. Even if Arsenal were playing a high school team, it would still be a valuable exercise for the preseason’s first game.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoy watching these games. It’s not that I want to see the starting 11 on the field though. I prefer watching the youngsters, and it’s usually my only chance to do so. Players like Thomas Eisfeld, Kris Olsson and Chuba Akpom excite me tremendously, and I love getting a look a their development. And beyond that, there is usually an abundance of goals in this first friendly against the inferior competition. While the goals might not be the prettiest at this stage, it’s nice to see Arsenal players hit the back of the net in any situation.

I don’t have many expectations for today’s game, because Arsenal haven’t said much about the squad they are planning on playing. They’ve suggested many of the first team players who weren’t in Brazil will be on the field, but I’d imagine there will a number of new faces mixed in. And I would guess as many as 22 or 23 players will see the field. Beyond saying that they’ll be wearing the new yellow Puma strip, Arsenal have offered very little about the preparation for this game other than a series of pictures yesterday.

The first thing I noticed in those pictures was the presence of Francis Coquelin. Remember him? Wearing yet another different number this year, Coquelin has seemingly returned from a season-long loan in the German Bundesliga. I don’t know how long he’ll stay around, but it was a pleasant surprise to see his face again. I’d almost entirely forgotten about him, and a quick internet search suggests most Arsenal fans are in the same boat. It wasn’t that long ago that the versatile young player was starting Premier League matches at the Emirates.

Obviously, this match and the rest of the preseason will be vitally important for Coquelin’s chances at Arsenal. Should he put in a series of impressive displays, Arsene Wenger might have to give him another shot. But if he doesn’t, a transfer arrival at the defensive midfield position could send Coquelin on his way out the door for good. For his sake, I hope he gets a chance to see the field today.

The other first-team player I think preseason will be important for is Yaya Sanogo. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say on him in the coming weeks, but Sanogo has been somewhat of an enigma in his year at Arsenal. I’d be inclined to say he impressed me last year, especially in the biggest matches of the year – remember that his two best displays were against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and off the bench against Hull in the FA Cup Final. However, he never scored a goal. And for a striker, that’s not a good statistic. He simply must score this summer to show everyone he is physically capable of putting the ball in the net.

Carl Jenkinson could also use a huge performance today, as this might be his last shot at convincing the Arsenal brass that they don’t need further cover at right back. Jenkinson should get the start today, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the most dangerous player today. With Mathieu Debuchy coming in as the starter, I would like to see Jenkinson go out on loan to another Premier League club. He needs playing time to keep improving, and it would be a shame to see his growth as a player stunted by a lack of time on the field. Remember that not long ago, he earned an England call-up.

I am way too excited for this match for what it is. But it’ll be great to see the Gunners back in action. I’m sure I’ll have lots to say post-game, so check back later today. COYG!