Arsenal vs. Cologne: 6 Things We Learned from Preseason Friendly
In the team's final preseason tune-up before the real thing, Arsenal looked a confident side.
On the back of their annual training camp in Germany, the Gunners thrashed Cologne.
The game featured all three new signings in the starting lineup—Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski—and each goal was influenced by one of the new boys.
In games like these, results don't matter as much as individual performances and match-fitness, but Arsenal did not disappoint in any area.
With fans hopeful about the prospects of the new season, here are six things we learned from the match.
Robin van Persie Is Alive
We hadn't seen or heard much of Robin van Persie over the last few weeks, besides his announcement that he wanted to leave the club and the rumors surrounding his departure.
After missing out on club's Asian tour, the Dutchman finally returned to the side that he still technically captains. Van Persie made his first unofficial appearance for Arsenal this season when he came on as a second-half substitute for Lukas Podolski, wearing the armband.
Looking a bit gray and ever-so-slightly out of shape, Van Persie was moderately productive up top, and did his best to create a few half-chances.
With mounting speculation (via ESPN) that he'll stay at Arsenal, this appearance is bound to stir debate.
Santi Cazorla Is What Arsenal Have Been Missing
Arsenal were often criticized last season for being a one-man team. The fact that the squad lacked a creative hub in midfield was often cited as a major reason why.
Arsene Wenger apparently agreed, and made the right signing to make sure that isn't the case this year.
He may not be Cesc Fabregas, but Santi Cazorla looked every bit the playmaker that his countryman was for Arsenal in his heyday. Cazorla created chance after chance, passed the ball around midfield extremely well and was the main reason why Arsenal's constant probing sliced Cologne's defence apart.
With a metronome like Mikel Arteta by his side, it will be great to see what he can really do.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Will Be a Midfielder This Year
While he has hinted at it in the past, it now appears that Arsene Wenger is transitioning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into a midfield role after utilizing him in the wide positions a season ago.
This is somewhat surprising, since the youngster is still only 18-years-old, and had only one season to hone his skills on the flank. Nevertheless, his talent shone through against Cologne, and he worked well with Cazorla and Francis Coquelin to move the ball.
If he masters the art of playing in the center, Oxlade-Chamberlain will add much depth to the club's midfield options this season. He can be one of the most dynamic players at that position in the Premier League, but there will probably be some learning pains for him.
Some Old Defensive Problems Still Exist, But Are Better
Despite the fact that Arsenal kept a clean sheet and were generally very efficient in defence, there were a couple of weak spots that will need ironing out by Steve Bould in the near future.
These problems are nothing new to Gunners fans.
Cologne's best attacking moments came when the club counterattacked after an Arsenal player made a mistake in midfield to give the ball away. Defenders scrambled, and it made for some nervy moments.
At other times, the defenders seemed too apprehensive to make tackles, or they simply couldn't strip the ball from an opponent's feet.
I'm nitpicking, of course, but these are things that need to be cleaned up on the training ground in the near future.
Lukas Podolski Is Pure Class
It was evident right off the bat that Lukas Podolski is both a great man and a great player.
He exchanged pleasantries with his old teammates and coaches, and admirably showed respect for his hometown club. He went on to score a brace for Arsenal in the first half, and created many more chances for himself and others as well.
With the possible exception of Santi Cazorla, he was Arsenal's most dangerous player on the day. Whether deployed in the center or out wide, he had a profound impact on the game.
Podolski's second goal, in particular, stands out. After playing a pinpoint long ball to Kieran Gibbs, he continued his run from midfield into the box and smashed Gibbs' cutback into the back of the net.
It was the type of effort and quality that you love to see in any player.
This Team Has Legitimate Potential
It is typical of Arsenal fans to whip themselves into a frenzy over the slightest bit of promise after what has been a mostly dreary seven years of no silverware.
However, even cynics must feel the Arsenal faithful are allowed to get excited after a thoroughly dominant display that featured some of the team's best and most-hyped players.
Even without Robin van Persie on the pitch—especially without him—Arsenal played some of the best football we've seen in recent memory, even if it was just a preseason fixture.
The team-play and overwhelming quality at nearly every position on the pitch was extremely refreshing and encouraging. The team even managed to keep a clean sheet while aggressively attacking at the other end.
When everyone is fit and settled, this team could produce some very surprising results this season.
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