So yesterday was the chance to wrap up our pre-season preparations in style, with a match against Fabianski’s former club, Legia Warsaw, in Poland. The friendly was the first game at their stadium, and I bet it’s one they won’t be forgetting in a while. Or maybe they will, seeing as they lost in the end, but then, 11 goals being scored in one game doesn’t happen too often, so maybe they won’t forget! Anyways, that’s very irrelevant, I know.
The starting XI was:
Sagna Vermaelen Koscielny Clichy
Rosicky Nasri Wilshere Walcott
(Apologies if I got the formation wrong, as I didn’t actually watch the game and had to made do with highlights)
I’m sure I’m not the only one who expected this to be a walk in the park, or close, but clearly Legia had no intentions of following the script, as they took the lead in stunning style with a rocket-like effort from outside the box which left Fabianski with no chance about 16 minutes in. He picked up the ball near the halfway line and with no one closing him down, he had all the time and space in the world to pick his spot, and we were 1-0 down. Quality goal, but he should have been closed down months earlier!
Anyways, just 1-0 down, no need to panic. But then, corner to Legia, Fabianski comes for it, ball ends up in the net. 2-0 down, 33 minutes gone. What on earth happened there!? Well it seemed Fabianski came for the ball and tripped over Vermaelen instead. The corner went to the far post, hit a combination of a Legia and an Arsenal player, bounced to Koscielny in the 6-yard box, who then kicked it into the net. Comical.
Few minutes later, another Legia goal! Short corner, Legia ping ball in the box, then a rifled shot into the net. No chance for Fabianski really, but we didn’t react well enough to the short corner, no one read the danger. But 2 minutes later, we pulled one back through Chamakh; a brave header from a Samir Nasri cross, after neat footwork from Chamakh.
So 3-1 at half-time. Couldn’t watch the game as I was out, but I was following it on twitter every so often. I knew when Legia scored the first, so when I saw 3-1, I initially thought we’d turned it around and were leading! Yeah, right. But I did think we’d turn it around in the second half, though.
Arsene made four changes at half-time, Szczesny replacing Fabianski; Eboue, Gibbs and Vela replacing Frimpong, Rosicky and Theo, and they turned out to be very effective substitutions. Legia were looking to increase their advantage early on, and Szczesny had to make 2 quick saves about 3 minutes into the half. But our comeback was on, and 7 minutes into the half, we pulled anotheer goal back through Eboue! Free-kick from the right by Vela near the edge of the box, met with a flying header at the far post by Eboue, 3-2! And it was Eboue again (playing on the right wing) who made it 3-3, pouncing on sloppy defending by Legia close to the box, and with only the ‘keeper to beat, kept his composure and finished very well. Great goal. 60 minutes gone.
More woeful defending by Legia 3 minutes later, Vela nicking the ball easily and finding Gibbs on the left wing in acres of space with a lovely ball. Really good finish by Gibbs just inside the box, and the ‘keeper had no chance. 7 goals scored, and we were finally ahead! And with over 25 minutes to go, there were likely to be more goals. I thought it’d be Arsenal getting the next one, but it was Legia! A hooked ball back towards goal when our players were pushing out caught us out of position and put Legia one on one with Szczesny, and a fine first-time finish made it 4-4. Clever play. And after all that hardwork, the scores were level with 15 minutes to go!
Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas had been brought on for Jack Wilshere and Chamakh just before Legia’s fourth, and Arsene made another change shortly after, Nordtveit for Sagna. 10 minutes to go, but still times for 3 more goals. The first came through Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, very similar to Gibbs’. Flick on by Vela put him through, and he also finished really well, riding the Legia player’s challenge. 5-4. It became 6-4 a couple of minutes later, this time through a Nasri free-kick just outside the box. The ‘keeper really should have done better as it was straight at him, down the middle, but it simply went through him. As suggested on twitter, we shouldn’t be getting any more goalkeepers from Legia!
It seemed like game, set, match at 6-4, but Legia were not done yet and made it 6-5. Poor defending really as our attempted clearance turned out to be a lovely set-up for an easy tap-in, but Legia deserved the goal for their efforts. Full-time.
I know it’s pre-season and you shouldn’t read much into score-lines, but this particular one summed us up perfectly. Awesome going forward, rubbish at the back. Can we really survive the new season and say we have real designs on the title, if our approach seems to be to score more than the other team? Not saying that’s what we do all the time, but we’ve done it so many times in the past, that it wasn’t really surprising that that was what happened yesterday. Conceding 5 goals in one game is awful, and we shouldn’t let the fact that we won the game cloud that fact. The types of goals we conceded were all goals we conceded at one point or the other last season. Failed clearances, no closing down, ping-ball in the box, ‘keeper coming and getting nowhere… Does that mean we didn’t learn any lessons defensively from last season? I don’t know, or maybe we’re just getting them out of our system before the real thing starts!
But it’s not the ideal way to end pre-season, as it only makes our opponents know that they always have a chance of scoring against us. We play Liverpool next Sunday and I’m sure Liverpool will look at that performance and it’d probably give them some confidence that they can score against us. But having said that though, it is good know that we are capable or scoring goals in games. If only we can sort out our knack of conceding silly goals, and we’d be genuine title contenders. We know we can score goals. Our attack in my opinion is second to none in the League, we just have to be tighter at the back. I hope it’s something we’re really working on in training. We’d be world-beaters if only we learn how to make it difficult for the opposition to score.
But anyways, like I said, it’s only pre-season so no need to panic just yet. We might yet make one or two signings, one defender and a goalkeeper, so fingers crossed. But we won’t know until we kick-off at Anfield, whether the lessons from last season have been learnt. I’d like to think that’s the case…
I’m really looking forward to starting the season at Anfield on Sunday, and a win would be the perfect start. It won’t be an easy game, but hey, we’ve got Arshavin! Come on Arsenal!!!