Arsenal 1 Wolfsburg 0 - Five things we learned from Gunners victory
Arsenal vs Wolfsburg - Jeff Reine-Adelaide dazzles, Theo Walcott still looks at his best cutting inside and Nicklas Bendtner is still over-rated.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide is a major find
Past experience of the Emirates Cup tells us that the emergence of a promising teenager is no guarantee that they will be seen near the Arsenal first-team again that season. On this evidence, an exception might just be made for Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
Yes, he is behind numerous seasoned internationals in the battle for attacking midfield places but there was enough here to see why Arsene Wenger is so excited about a 17-year-old talent that he describes as “something special”.
Reine-Adelaide arrived this summer from the Lens academy after helping France win the European Under-17 championship. He has been fully integrated with the senior squad this summer and, with the pace and touch that helped created Theo Walcott’s winning goal today against Wolfsburg, looks like he could add a certain fearless unpredictability to Arsenal’s options.
Arsenal supporters are in a rare state of optimism
There is no telling how long it will last or what difference it will make but it is difficult to remember Arsenal entering a season since the move to the Emirates Stadium with more optimism among their fans. The giant presence of Petr Cech in goal is probably the main reason – and his every touch was greeted with a cheer today – but there is more to it than that.
The FA Cup win in May felt very different to last year. Whereas Arsenal stumbled through the door against Hull City in 2014, they dispatched Aston Villa with authority in May. They have the feel of potential winners again and the currently contented crowd sense this.
Walcott still looks at his best cutting inside
We all know that Theo Walcott longs to emulate his idol, Thierry Henry, by playing through the centre but he was also realistic enough last week to note that, in the modern game, players must increasingly interchange across the front three positions.
Walcott started through the middle here and, having missed two good chances following brilliant defence-splitting passes by Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere, was scored almost immediately after moving to the right. That might just have been a coincidence but he still looks at his absolute best when running onto chances rather than playing himself as the main attacking focal point, often with his back to goal.
Central midfield is no longer a worry to Wenger
It is strange now to think that midfield was such a worry to Wenger earlier in the year and that he was preparing to commit most of his summer transfer fund to a central holding player. There might still be a question over whether he has sufficient physical presence but it is currently the most competitive area of his squad.
Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey were the starting two on Saturday, then Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta today. Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would also like to start in one of those two positions but are currently having to be satisfied with playing out wide.
Wenger always planned to take a look at his team in pre-season before making final decisions but the fact that these players also all look in good form means that his transfer focus has turned further up the pitch.
Bendtner's vast confidence still not matched by his ability
The huge cheer for Nicklas Bendtner on his return to the Emirates Stadium confirmed two things. There is something likeable as well as preposterous about him. Bendtner, of course, finally left Arsenal last year after even Arsene Wenger lost patience with his boasts that he was one of the best strikers in the world and would soon deliver the goals to prove this.
A final tally of 47 in 171 Arsenal games was not terrible but hardly had Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo glancing anxiously over their shoulders. His 16 games last season in the Bundesliga for Wolfsburg yielded only one goal and, here today, he rarely had Arsenal’s two reserve centre-backs – Calum Chambers and Gabriel – in even the remotest difficulty.