27 July 2015

A post that is 99% free of Jeff Reine-Adelaide...

Arsenal won the Emirates Cup for the first time since 2010, becoming the first club to win the esteemed competition for an unprecedented fourth time and—ah, who are we kidding? We all know that this preseason tournament is little more than a glorified friendly, and all involved should be careful not to draw too many conclusions from the proceedings. Is Lacazette utter shite after he (and OL) failed to score a single goal? Probably not. Is Jeff the second coming of Vieira? A quick internet search suggests he is, but, again, the answer is probably not. After thrashing Lyon 6-0 on Saturday, Sunday's 1-0 squeaker over Wolfsburg might feel anticlimactic, even if it did secure a second trophy in as many tournaments.

From the get-go against Lyon, the match felt like one in which the outcome was predetermined. After dominating possession for much of the first half, we banged in four goals inside of ten minutes—from Giroud, Ox, Iwobi, and Ramsey—and the onslaught was, well, on. Add in second-half goals from Özil and Cazorla, and it's starting to look and feel like we're ready to win the Prem.

Enter Wolfsburg. Setting aside any wisecracks about Lord Bendtner, who did do his level-best to remind us of why he's no longer a Gunner, this is a squad that finished second in the Bundesliga, just ten points behind the behemoth that is Bayern (yes, yes, I know that Lyon did something similar in finishing eight points behind PSG, but none of us has the time to get into a point-by-point dissection of the Bundesliga versus Ligue 1 or the dominations thereof by Bayern or PSG. Suffice it to say that finishing second in the Bundesliga these days is a bit more of an accomplishment than doing the same in Ligue 1).

From the outset, they not only offered much more defensive cohesion than did Lyon, they also got forward with more confidence if not competence. In fact, had it not been for Bendtner being Bendtner, Wolfsburg might have claimed an early 0-1 lead, enough to open the door to Villareal winning the competition. Then again, Bendtner is and always will be Bendtner (unless, I suppose, he pulls a Jenner...).

The larger point is that we might have convinced ourselves to expect a cakewalk, a coronation, as we waltz past Wolfsburg in a fashion similar to how we lacerated Lyon. To then slog through a somewhat more-dour 1-0 win might dispirit us just a touch until we remind ourselves that we had made ten changes from Saturday's win (Özil being the only mainstay...) and that we were facing a more-stalwart opponent, one that had, among other feats, battered Bayern 4-1, the first time that those flat-track bullies had conceded more than three goals in league play since Werder Bremen hung five on them in 2008...when none other than Özil was there. Illoominati confirmed, apparently).

More seriously, this tune-up against the Teutons augurs well for the coming campaign. Aside from our ability to eventually break down a well-organised defensive side, our fitness and depth have to attract attention. Playing without Alexis and Ramsey, the two Energizer bunnies, we still harassed and discombobulated Wolfsburg's defense while trying out a backline of Monreal, Chambers, Gabriel and Bellerín, with Arteta and Cazorla "shielding" them, Reine-Adelaide making his first start, and with Walcott played through the middle. That line-up might not quite cut it against Chelsea or Man City, but it speaks to a fair amount of depth, enough to stave off the injury-crises that have plagued us season after season. That depth—that competition—might matter a bit more than any single signing ever would. I'm not saying we won't see any more signings. It's not even August.

There's still work to be done, but there's still time to do it.

Fine, You want Reine-Aldelaide, here's Reine-Aldelaide.