Now that the three match tour of Asia has concluded, it is time to see what we have learnt from the squad during this pre-season. Although it is still early at this stage of the squad off-season regime, the last three matches have been critically important because of the lack in friendly matches prior to the start of the new campaign. As reported, Arsenal has only the friendly against Cologne on the 12th August before the first Premiership match against Sunderland.
I watched all three matches and here is my take on the good and bad of the Arsenal team in Asia:-
1) No new injuries – given the team’s propensity to get injuries in pre-season friendly matches, there were no major injuries this time around on any of the players. Although there was a report on an ankle injury to Ryo Miyachi, I believe it isn’t very serious and the player should be back in no time.
2) Abou Diaby – I believe the French midfielder was the single most important player to Arsene Wenger during this tour. The manager played him the most in the three matches and he came out looking fairly good. There is still some way to go for this guy to get back the consistency in his game but if he can get an injury free season, then he should be a great asset to the team.
3) Thomas Eisfeld – On the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of minutes, Thomas Eisfeld was among those who played the least but he still ended up as top scorer for Arsenal with two goals in three matches. The young German is looking better and better each time he is on the field and should feature in the first team sometime this year.
4) Oxlade-Chamberlain - It is good to see that Arsene Wenger is trying out the young winger in different positions. During the tour, the Ox played mainly in central midfield and looked very comfortable. I wouldn’t be surprise to see him occupying the central midfield position in certain games during the season.
5) Defense – Nothing new here as we all know that Arsenal has major defensive issues. It started years ago and nothing has changed since. It should be better when the first team is back but I do not foresee major improvements in this department especially in the early part of the season. In order to secure wins, I guess we need to really score more than one goal per match because the defense will leak goals.
6) Maroune Chamakh – I guess it is fair to say that Chamakh will not be in the starting eleven anytime soon barring a major turn of form. He was very poor during this pre-season and it has really hurt his chances with the team and also securing him a transfer. My guess is he will languish in the reserves this year.
7) Andre Santos – Arsene Wenger is certainly trying to turn Andre Santos into a left sided midfielder to serve as protective cover for the left side much like what he did when he had Cole and Silvinho in the squad. It is a sound plan but Santos is not even half the payer Silvinho was. His defensive abilities are atrocious and offensive play mediocre. Not the best idea from the Great Professor.