This friendly seemed to take forever to arrive. I wanted to see how Podolski and Giroud fit into the line up, how good Cazorla really is in an Arsenal shirt, if RvP plays, and if so, does he wear the arm band, and what influence has Bould had on the team, and if we really are going to play 4-4-2. This friendly would answer all of those questions, at least somewhat. We all know what happened, so need for descriptions of the 4 goals we scored, but here’s 5 interesting things I noticed.
1. Our defensive shape was very much a 4-4-1-1. Yes, we pressed, but when Koln were firmly in possession, we sat back in two banks of four. We tend to defend this way usually in European games so it is certainly interesting that this might be our default shape from now on. It hints at a more cautious defensive approach. Aside from that, there was no real change in our tactics. No sign of that 4-4-2 that everyone seemed to be predicting. Podolski and Giroud both started, but we very much had just one striker up front.
2. Podolski played left wing in the first half. My hope was that Poldi would start on the right, and Theo on the left. Or they would at least switch flanks at regular intervals. Just to see them cut onto their stronger feet. They did switch at one point, but most of the time they stayed in their original positions. Poldi started quietly, with most of our attacks finding Theo’s runs in behind, but he slowly grew into the game. And unlike when we played for Germany at the Euros, he cut inside regularly and played more like a midfielder than a forward. His second goal showed his complete range of skills. The great pass, then the well timed run, and the powerful finish. In the second half, he played up front, and again he got involved with the midfield and his link up play was excellent. If RvP leaves, Poldi seems to be the replacement that resembles him most.
3. Giroud is a different type of striker. More of an out and out striker than Poldi or RvP. When our midfield had the ball he liked to stay up, always trying to make the run that would get him a chance to score. He did get a few chances, and he did put them on target, only for Horn to deny him. Even though he didn’t score, he looks a goalscorer.
4. Cazorla was immense. Our starting midfield was a bit unbalanced, neither Coquelin nor Chamberlain looking perfectly comfortable with the defensive side of things. But overall we kept the ball really well, and found the runs of Giroud and Walcott really well. Cazorla wa a joy to watch in possession. Never giving the ball away, playing long balls with both feet, dribbling out of trouble with ease. It is exciting to think of him and Wilshere together in midfield. Along with Arteta, we would never lose the ball.
5. We didn’t seem to miss RvP. Last season we were a one man team. Well, not really, but he was the only one who could be relied upon to score goals. Against Cologne, the whole team looked up for it. Podolski, Giroud, Walcott, Cazorla – all looked like legitimate goal threats. And then even Gervinho got himself a wondergoal.
So as it stands it looks like we have a pretty good team. Yes, I know, I know, can’t judge too much from a friendly, but the initial signs are good. The only downside at the moment is the fact that we aren’t physically 100% fit to start to the season. But Sunderland at home isn’t the toughest test so hopefully our super awesome team can pull off the 3 points, with or without RvP.