by Mosope Ominiyi
Arsenal recorded yet another pre-season victory, this time with a narrow one-goal win over Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg courtesy of Theo Walcott’s second-half strike.
After their emphatic 6-0 thrashing over Ligue 1 side Lyon just 24 hours earlier, it was to be expected that Arséne Wenger would rotate the squad with another tough opponent coming his side’s way. Wenger made ten changes to the starting eleven; only Mesut Özil, started for the second day in a row.
A draw would be enough or Arsenal to win the Emirates Cup. Knowing they already managed nine points from the day before, and after Villarreal’s 2-0 win over Lyon earlier in the day, Arsenal were set to win the two-day tournament.
Nicklas Bendtner, who spent a total of ten years with the Gunners, was greeted with a standing ovation on his return to the Emirates. The 27-year-old striker came close to scoring in the first-half, and will have been cursing his luck as his chances went begging whilst Theo Walcott and Ozil also came close in the first 45.4
Wolfsburg enjoyed a few spells of possession and neatly passed their way through midfield as Daniel Caligiuri and rumoured Manchester City target Kevin de Bruyne pulled the strings, attempting to create chances and frustrating the solid Gunners backline in the process.
Gabriel and Calum Chambers were the centre-back pairing, and they kept a clean sheet, along with new signing Petr Cech on his home debut with the north Londoners. The 33-year-old, who signed from rivals Chelsea last month, was called into action to make a few saves throughout and was efficient in dealing with the threats posed towards his goal.
As the second-half began, the intensity rose from the hosts. Just five minutes after the interval, the Gunners broke the deadlock at the end of a well-worked team move. Mikel Arteta looked up in space and found talented 17-year-old youngster Jeff Reine-Adelaide ahead of him. The silky wonderkid weaved his way past two players within a flash before unselfishly spotting the run of Walcott on the edge of the box, who latched onto the perfectly-weighted pass and had no trouble slotting home past Diego Benaglio in the Wolfsburg goal.
A loud roar reverberated around the Emirates with the home supporters celebrating as their side took the lead, just minutes after upping the ante from a rather even first period. Wolfsburg were eager to avoid the same fate as Lyon in conceding goals in quick succession, so immediately went on the attack; André Schürrle and Joshua Guilavogui had efforts goalwards but Cech was equal to them, much to the pleasure of his new fans who have new-found confidence in one of the league’s best ever goalkeepers.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came on midway through the second-half, was a pest to defend against for the Wolves backline as his electric pace and quick feet were too much to handle. Galloping down the right flank with his flair and mazy dribbling, it was a joy to watch from a talented youngster who desperately needs a clean bill of health and fitness if he is to establish himself as a first-team regular ahead of the new campaign and beyond. Based on his display today alone, there’s no reason why he won’t
Despite Wolfsburg’s efforts, the score stayed 1-0 to the Arsenal. It was a step up in competition from Lyon, definitely. But ultimately, the Gunners saw off another competitive opponent with the season’s curtain-raiser gradually on the horizons.
Arséne will be pleased with his side’s display, especially in the second-half as an energetic performance all-round was exciting to watch from a neutral perspective.
Next up Arsenal face last season’s Premier League winners Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday. It will undoubtedly be the Gunners’ biggest test yet.