About 10 minutes before he scored Arsenal’s first goal, Yaya Sanogo didn’t look to have much to offer. A little clumsy, lacking pace and his first touch looked suspect. By the end of the Emirates Cup day one, he had bagged four goals as Arsenal beat Benfica 5-1.
The Emirates Cup does not really provide much of a pointer to the way the season will shape-up, but it does allow Arsenal to unveil their new signings and direct their fans towards their merchandising outlets and pick-up their new shirt for the forthcoming campaign. The way Arsenal played will have sent them to the Gunners’ store in good heart, for not only did Sanogo suggest he’s better than many people believe, but it also highlighted Joel Campbell, Costa Rica’s World Cup star as one to watch in 2014-15.
Arsenal run their pre-season tournament well. Basically, you are watching two friendlies each day with a little edge to the Arsenal games. It’s reasonably priced at £ 35 for an East Stand upper seat per day and the participants are invariably top drawer: Arsenal, Benfica, Monaco and Valencia this time.
The first game of day one was Monaco v Valencia. Arsenal’s clever marketing department had used players from each team as a cartoon super hero to advertise the games in the media. Rademal Falcao was Monaco’s “super hero”, but we only saw 15 minutes of the great man, a little disappointing. Dimitar Berbatov, who made way for Falcao, was greeted with jeers every time he touched the ball. He had, after all, played for Spurs, and if you followed the instructions of the North Bank, you would have to “stand up if you hate Tottenham”.
The first 25 minutes were poor but the opening goal came on the half hour when a corner from Moutinho was touched on by Abdennour and Valencia’s Ruben Vezo deflected it into the net. Seven minutes later, former Jose Mourinho acolyte, Ricardo Carvalho, turned the ball into his own net to equalise for the Spanish side.
At the interval, Arsenal rolled out a couple of old boys for an interview. Terry Neill, who played and managed the Gunners (a pleasant fellow that I’ve met twice), was given a good reception – the crowd no doubt forgiving him for once managing Tottenham!
Valencia took the lead after Paco Alcacer finished from close range, but 10 minutes from time, Monaco levelled again through Lucas Ocampos. Final score 2-2. It wasn’t Champion League material, but good for a pre-season game. And although he touched the ball about four times, at least we caught a glimpse of Falcao on the pitch.
Arsenal had the good sense to have the second game just about half an hour after the first had ended. By this time, you’d had enough of Arsene Wenger telling you that the new link-up between Puma and Arsenal made both parties “stronger” and also listening to the club’s corporate social responsibility agenda. Once the action started, it was highly encouraging.
Benfica were, frankly, quite poor, especially in defence, where they made Sanogo look good. Campbell’s return to the club was greeted enthusiastically and he may solve a problem or two for Wenger. New signing Calum Chambers was promising following his defection from Southamption. Wenger also gave a run-out to Alexis Sanchez, who is this year’s – in terms of hopes and expectations – Mesut Ozil.
The way Sanogo started the game suggested he wouldn’t be much use in a Premier title bid, but then he scored in the 26th, 44th, 45th and 49th minutes. First impressions can be misleading, as they say. Campbell scored the other goal in the 40th, a superb volley. While you can’t take a first half performance like that away from Sanogo, you get the feeling he won’t be a first choice striker at the Emirates. The final score was 5-1, a great start for Arsenal.
Ten goals in two games, a full house (well, from 4pm – only around 15% of the stadium was full for the first game) and a virtuoso performance from a young French striker. Not bad for August 2.
Footnote: Arsenal like their statues – they have five around the stadium. As crowds gathered around the Thierry Henry and Denis Bergkamp likenesses, it was noticeable that poor old Herbert Chapman was totally neglected and even Tony Adams was overlooked. Arsenal play the heritage game to good effect – their stadium is adorned with the history of the club. But Chapman is well, a bit out of the way. Given his influence on the game was seismic, I think he deserves better.