10 August 2013

Preseason friendly preview: Arsenal vs. Arsenal Jr. (er, Man City)

A quick tidbit of distraction is on offer Saturday as we travel to Helsinki to face Arsenal Jr. Man City in one final tune-up before the Prem League season begins in earnest on 17 August vs. Aston Villa. Ordinarily, I could care less about such a friendly, but it increasingly looks like we will go into the upcoming season under one of three approaches:
  1. Sign Suarez and no one else of note.
  2. Sign a few players of varying degrees of quality.
  3. Sign no one.
Of the three, I'm not sure which one appeals to me the most. It's more a question of which one disappoints me least. On that level, option #2 wins by a nose, if only because we have more than one area that needs strengthening. However, given that the match with Man City looms less than 12 hours away (as of my writing these very words), I daresay we'll go into the match with a batch of very familiar names, minus one Ignasi
Miquel, who for some reason has completed a season-long loan to Leicester. We apparently have a plethora of defenders, making Miquel entirely expendable. 

In all seriousness, this is on one hand a preseason friendly that offers all of the intensity of chamomile tea served at room temperature; on the other, it's one more chance for Arsène to suggest, if only to the Gooner faithful, that we are serious contenders for a Prem League title, if not a top-four finish. There was, after all, a point during last season's run-in when it looked like we might overtake Man City, but that hope faded. Instead, we have to look at the possibility that a revamped Man City squad under new management might be ripe for a drubbing. 

After all, we've lost (or lost out on) a few players to them over the years, whether it's Clichy or Nasri or Jovetic, and as such, part of what we'll see on Saturday will feel a bit like looking in the mirror. How much more confident might we feel if Clichy were available to play left-back? Would Jovetic have been a solution to our center-forward dilemma? Pellegrini continues to size up his options, so we'll probably see a fair number of unfamiliar faces as well, whether this be Jovetic or Fernandinho or Negredo. Put simply, the contrast between Man City and Arsenal has been stark, as they've managed a number of high-profile signings (Jovetic, Negredo, Fernandinho, Navas)  against our one (Yaya Sanogo). They've also shed a few key players (Tevez, Toure, Maicon) to match our clear-out (Squillaci, Arshavin, etc.)

With these factors in mind, the outcome of the match itself matters a little less to this correspondent than does the difference in approaches. While I'm not clamoring for a deep-pocketed sponsor to simply bankroll the club to glory, it is worth noting that Man City have shown ambition and acumen in the transfer-window, signing not one but two center-forwards for somewhere in the realm of £45m while we at Arsenal flounder on in hopes of signing one center-forward at a price still to be determined (and at a value still in contention).

Therefore, without making too much of a mountain out of this molehill of a match, I do hope we see our first-team players run circles around theirs, if only to temporarily suggest if not prove that we can compete for a top-four finish. For Man City, this is one last tune-up to see how new players can coalesce with the old guard. 

For Arsenal, this is more of a toss-up. Some have suggested that an embarrassing loss might shake Arsène and the board into some last-minute signings. Others have proposed that we have enough quality, don't need to sign anyone, and just need a bit of seasoning to see the current squad realize its potential. I tend to lean towards the latter camp, if only because I feel like I have to. We'll see what happens while reminding ourselves that (should we fall behind) it's just a friendly or that (should we stake an early lead) this is for all the marbles. It's a win-win situation. Isn't it?