Arsenal 4 Singapore Select XI 0: Five things we learned from friendly
Akpom is on the rise, while Szczesny sinks further, Hodgson will get no help from Wenger over Wilshere and more from the 4-0 Asia Trophy win
1. Arsene Wenger still sees Jack Wilshere as a creative midfielder
Roy Hodgson has clearly signalled that he is ready to build his England midfield for next summer’s European Championship with a holding base of Wilshere in front of the defence.
Wilshere again performed strongly in that role at the end of last season for England but it still seems that his opportunities to further hone this position at club level will be limited.
Arsène Wenger has repeatedly said that he thinks Wilshere is at his best when he has the freedom to break forward and create. He duly played in the Mesut Ozil ‘No 10’ role here behind Chuba Akpom and helped create Arsenal’s first before scoring a penalty himself.
2. Chuba Akpom will get further chances this season
Six months ago and Akpom had reached a crossroads in his Arsenal career. He would be out of contract at the end of the season and, amid interest from clubs across Europe, only committed himself to a new deal until 2019 when he received assurances that Wenger did believe that he could have a first-team future.
He played seven games last season and also went on loan to Nottingham Forest.
Akpom has been at Arsenal since the age of six and, amid doubts over whether Arsenal have sufficient specialist back-up for Olivier Giroud in the striker’s role, should get further chances this season, especially in the domestic cup competitions.
He certainly took his three goals here well and will be hoping to prove in pre-season that, with Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo both set to leave on loan, he is worth keeping around the first-team squad next season.
3. This can be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s breakthrough season
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s progress in the early part of last season, both wide on the right and in central midfield, slipped somewhat under the radar. Injuries were to curtail his contribution as Arsenal finished so strongly but he had looked on the brink of a breakthrough.
Chelsea’s interest in including him in the Petr Cech deal was very swiftly rejected by Wenger and, with Theo Walcott likely to play more often through the middle, Oxlade-Chamberlain may well get his opportunity on the right. He started there today and certainly looked sharp.
“He was one of the regular players in our team until he got injured last season,” said Wenger. “He’s not directly in competition with Sanchez, as he normally plays more on the right. It is a good opportunity for him, he is not injured and pre-season will be a very important period for him.”
4. Emiliano Martinez has an Arsenal future
Not for the first time, there is a sense that Arsenal are not especially impressed by Wojciech Szczesny – this time it follows a story alleging that he was smoking laughing gas.
His timing could hardly have been much worse given the arrival of Petr Cech as Arsenal’s new first-choice goalkeeper and it might just have been significant yesterday that Emiliano Martinez was chosen to start in goal.
Szczesny did come on in the second-half – and Cech will almost certainly start on Saturday – but it is increasingly clear that Wenger still has a very high regard for Martinez.
Of Arsenal’s three goalkeepers last year, he is the least likely to depart following the arrival of Cech.
5. Saturday will tell us rather more about Wenger’s plans
Wenger had warned that he would start predominantly with those players who had returned earliest from pre-season training and that his internationals would be saved for the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy against Everton on Saturday.
It meant relatively little could be concluded about his plans for next season, although it is just possible that the decision to start with Mathieu Debuchy at right-back of what was predominantly a reserve-team was a good sign for Hector Bellerin.
We will learn rather more on Saturday but probably not really have a clear idea as to Wenger’s thinking until the Community Shield against Chelsea.