19 July 2015

Čech books his place in the pantheon of Arsenal legends...

Everton were offering only the most dilatory attempts testing our newly signed keeper until 'round about the 40th minute, when Everton got a free kick way out by the touch-line, and Garbutt sent in an in-swinging cross, almost perfectly placed to the penalty spot—far enough from the goal line to prevent Čech coming off his line to claim it, close enough to allow his teammate to seize it—and sure enough, Naismith, that infuriating albino, latched onto it with a glancing header. Had it been Ospina or Szczęsny, we'd have witnessed the equaliser and a very different second half. However, Čech, falling backwards, got fingertips to it enough to deflect it off the crossbar, almost instantaneously earning himself a spot as best Arsenal keeper since Seaman.

Okay, so Naismith was flagged for being offside and so the save amounts to little more than highlight-reel folderol. Then again, the save did accomplish a few ends:
  1. showed that Čech is more than capable of making a game-saving save.
  2. demoralised Everton at a moment when they had to feel they'd equalised.
  3. motivated the lads to play with greater confidence and calm.
However, Čech wasn't quite done. Shortly after half-time, it was again Garbutt who would challenge him, this time with a daring shot from about thirty yards out, but Čech parried it expertly, not merely making the save but sending the rebound well-wide of the goal, denying Everton any chance at a second chance. Not bad for his Arsenal debut, even if it was a friendly pre-season jaunt. If he keeps up like this, he'll be elevated to legendary status post-haste. 

Speaking after the match, Čech was upbeat and optimistic:
It’s great to win a game. The main importance was to get fit and to play well, to get ready for the Premier League and the early competitions. I’m happy—my first game and my first trophy. If it can continue like this I will be delighted. We had two very positive games, and we can go back home to London happy and glad with what we achieved here. 
It might be a bit much to expect Čech to win a trophy in every appearance he makes, but early returns are enough to inspire a bit of optimism. His signing might not be as sexy as those of Özil or Alexis; after all, a keeper doesn't deliver stats so much as deny them. That Čech couldn't keep a clean sheet is no dishonour as Barkley got off a cracking shot from 25 yards that no keeper could have kept out; instead, it reminds us that Oxlade-Chamberlain, for all of his potential as an attacker, is still too willing to give the ball away carelessly. At least he did so while we were up 3-0 in a friendly instead of doing so in the first leg of a Champions League knockout-round.

Heck, if we had seen some better finishing, it wouldn't have mattered who was minding then net. Giroud was especially guilty, but so too were Ramsey and Walcott. We might have won this one 8-0, but that's how it goes when you play two matches in three days in the kind of temperature and humidity that Singapore offers this time of year.

It might be a bit early to anoint Čech as any kind of saviour after just one match, espeically under these conditions, but the early returns suggest that he could in fact deliver us a handful of points in the Prem and Champions League and might, almost single-handedly (he does after all use both hands) elevate us to contenders for the Prem title.

Taking a broader view, here are a few quick take-aways:
  • Is there a more-dangerous deep-lying playmaker than Cazorla? The diminutive Spaniard had a hand or foot in each of our three goals and might have delivered more had his teammates been a bit better at finishing.
  • We filled the stadium with fans, proving at another level how powerful a draw Arsenal can be.
  • Theo staked another claim to playing through the middle, scoring one goal and threatening on numerous occasions.
  • Chambers played very well at CB, showing maturity and confidence.
  • Bellerín delivered some golden moments going forward and in defense.
  • Um, Alexis didn't play and we still put three past Everton.
  • Our fitness was much, much better than Everton's.
All in all, then, without overstating things, it's got to feel good. We battered and bullied a Prem opponent, won a trophy, and built a fanbase. Not bad. Not bad at all...

Enough from me, though. What'd you think of the performance—and just how far can we extrapolate from it? Share your thoughts below the fold...