The second pre-season friendly against Austrian side SK Sturm Graz was a much sterner test than the one against Barnet. The Austrian Bundesliga season has already started and we could see the opposition were fitter, sharper, and much better organized.
The first half was closely fought and Arsenal led by two goals thanks to some real class by Nasri. The Austrian side created some chances but didn’t have the ability to finish them off.
It would be premature if I express concern at some of our defending but Arsene really needs to sort it out before the season starts. Vermaelen and Djourou both looked rusty and made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Koscielny was no different. Once again we were troubled by a few balls over the top and were opened up by some runs in behind and down the channels.
The full backs weren’t troubled that often and since they were both (Nordveit and Traore) third choice players we can’t really get into much analysis. I do have to note that Traore made a number of forward bursts but didn’t have the final ball. No change there then. Nordveit was fairly solid and made a couple of good tackles. I also thought he had a good long pass and a decent cross on him. The only time I was worried was when the opposition were pressing high up in the Arsenal area and he passed it square in the penalty box to Djourou who was already under pressure. It reminded me of the panic I’d seen in his game in Bundesliga but that’s only one instance so far so I’ll just leave it as a point to observe in future games.
The starting midfield was an interesting choice. Frimpong, Wilshere and Nasri were the chosen ones. It was good to see the opposition asking some serious questions by pressing hard. Frimpong wasn’t able to dominate the midfield as he did against Barnet but he did a decent job as the holding midfielder even though he was caught out once or twice. With less time on the ball Wilshere wasn’t as influential as the last game either. At times I feel he keeps the ball for too long or tries a stunt when a simpler pass is needed. I guess it’s necessary for him as he is a confidence player and has the ability to take the defenders on. Some of his tackling was quite rough as well. Nasri provided the touch of class with both goals. The first goal reminded me of a Fabregas finish from last season, I think it was against Bolton. The second was a nonchalant free-kick.
Amongst the forwards, Arshavin was laid back; Chamakh was rusty and some of his first touches reminded me of Bendtner; and Walcott was his usual inconsistent self as he made some good runs but the final pass wasn’t always there.
As the players who played in the World Cup and have just returned were not available for selection the whole team wasn’t changed at half time. Djourou, Walcott, and Nordtveit played the full ninety minutes.
JET was by far the most impressive player from the second half substitutes. I was surprised to see him start as a forward but he moved around and often ended up on the wing or dropped deep. He had the ability to take on the defenders and beat them with his strength, speed, and close control. He also had a good awareness of his teammates and played some good balls in the penalty area.
Lansbury scored his goal with panache but didn’t have much else to do. Gibbs, Koscielny, Rosicky, and Szczesny had a decent outing. I was a little disappointed with Eastmond has he gave the ball away a few times. He also made some interceptions but seemed slow and indecisive.
Of the eighteen players on the pitch only 5 or 6 will be regulars when everyone is fit so we shouldn’t read too much into this game. There is room for improvement but I’ll leave those comments till after the Emirates Cup.
In case you’ve missed the game you can see the highlights on this link.