If Arsenal could be described as stumbling through their first trio of friendlies in the Far East this preseason, then in comparison, today's 4-0 victory over Cologne was the exact opposite. Two goals from Cologne's beloved Lukas Podolski and one apiece from skipper Thomas Vermaelen and Gervinho put paid to any hopes of a shock victory for the Billy Goats.
And while neither of Arsenal's new faces for the 2012-13 season—Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla—managed to grab a goal themselves, both were impressive in the midst of the RheinEnergieStadion for their first outing in Arsenal colours.
True to the occasion of his homecoming, Podolski's brace was mighty impressive in familiar territory in Cologne. The first goal, a penalty: a casual side-footed strike, deceiving Cologne's goalkeeper Timo Horn and sending him the wrong way.
His second, and Arsenal's third, was another simple effort but a true centre-forward's goal, meeting Kieran Gibbs' cross in the 18-yard box to slot the ball home. The fact he set Gibbs on his path to begin with, making him in a way the architect of his own success, only goes to show the excellent work Podolski can produce for the Gunners in future fixtures.
Wearing the No. 9 shirt usually reserved for Park Ju-Young, Podolski's celebrations were particularly muted in front of the Cologne faithful, remaining gracious in victory. A real touch of class from the German international, showing the sort of humility one former Arsenal man failed to give towards his previous club.
Richard Wright of Arsenal.com described quite well how Podolski was received at his former home:
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"Podolski was substituted in the 69th minute. He drew a rapturous reception from all four corners of the crowd and the Cologne fans sang his name for the five minutes that followed his departure."
All things considered, a fitting sign-off for Prinz Poldi.
Despite only featuring for the first 45 minutes of the encounter, Giroud and Cazorla both left a notable impression on Arsenal aficionados in their first time with Arsenal's crest upon their shirts, both individually and linking up on occasion to threaten Horn's goal.
Cazorla, whose cross was the catalyst for Arsenal's opener, threatened with balls played into Giroud and shots of his own. Giroud, who was set up for shots on goal by Cazorla as well as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on occasion, often troubled Cologne's stopper but couldn't add to the Gunners' tally. While their appearances were only brief, they were also encouraging—and Arsenal's faithful cannot be disappointed with the glimpses of quality the two men displayed in Cologne.
Despite the impressive scoreline and dominant performance, two things must not be forgotten. One, this was a preseason friendly; two, Cologne, a much weaker side than their opponents, belong to Germany's second tier of football, 2. Bundesliga. As such, all of this should really be taken with a decent pinch of salt.
Nevertheless, a victory in Arsenal's final preseason game before the season opener against Sunderland this coming Saturday (the 18th) is the perfect preparation for Arsene Wenger's men. It will surely provide a real boost in morale—especially for Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla, all three of whom will surely take positives from this victory and help them settle into Arsenal Football Club a little more swiftly.
Arsenal's three newest Gunners will be prepared for when the Black Cats come to the Emirates Stadium. That much is undeniable.