The Emirates Stadium filled up this afternoon with fans desperate to see a world-class South American striker settle Arsenal’s friendly with Monaco. That is what they got, but not courtesy of the man they were hoping would shine.
Alexis Sanchez was impressive on his first start for Arsenal, though it was not the £35m Chilean but Monaco’s £50m Colombian who won the match. Radamel Falcao was starting his first game since he ruptured knee ligaments in a French cup game in January but looked sharp and intelligent, winning the match with a free header in the first half. He celebrated emotionally, naturally delighted to be fit and scoring again. Apart from anything else, Real Madrid will buy him only if he can play.
The result meant that Valencia, who had earlier beaten Benfica 3-1, won the Emirates Cup. Arsenal will not be too disappointed, even if their drought in this particular competition now extends to four years. The club and the fans got what they wanted: an enjoyable 73 minutes from their latest marquee signing.
The afternoon was only going to be about one man. This was Sanchez’s first start for Arsenal, the day after his quiet 17-minute cameo against Benfica. His was the name on most new replica kits at the Emirates and the name cheered more loudly than any other before kick-off.
Sanchez played the first half on the right wing and what would have made the strongest early impression on his new fans was his strength and tenacity. Sanchez’s bullish build is similar to Carlos Tevez or Sergio Aguero, and he showed the same physicality with his first touch, holding off the imposing left-back Elderson Echiejile.
Video: Wenger discusses recent signings
While Sanchez’s initial few touches were slightly rusty, he improved as the first half went on, beautifully controlling a ball down the line from Mathieu Debuchy with his outstretched right foot, and later evading Lucas Ocampos with an inventive back-heel.
Trust takes time to build, though, and Arsenal’s attacking play was understandably short on fluency. Their manager, Arsène Wenger, described the first-half performance as “static, lethargic and not convincing at all”. Olivier Giroud was ineffective – Wenger said he was “not ready at all” – and their best opportunity came when Andrea Raggi nearly turned Debuchy’s cross into an own goal.
Monaco had less of the ball but were more dangerous. Yannick Carrasco and Ocampos were incisive on the wings, and Joao Moutinho should have converted Ocampos’s first-half cross. It was Moutinho who made the goal after Jack Wilshere’s recklessly late tackle on Nabil Dirar. The Portuguese midfielder curled a free-kick into the box and Falcao evaded his markers to head home. Just before the break, Debuchy had to stop Falcao from adding a second from Dirar’s flick.
Possible Arsenal starting XI for the Community Shield v Manchester City
Possible Arsenal starting XI for the Community Shield v Manchester City
1/9 Mathieu Debuchy
Debuchy arrived as the replacement for the departed-Bacary Sagna, who joined Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the season. Despite being favoured by France coach Didier Deschamps at the World Cup, many Arsenal fans felt Sagna enjoyed one of his best season’s before his exit, and Debuchy will have a lot to live up to if he is to justify his £12m move to the Gunners.
2/9 Calum Chambers
Despite signing for the club this summer, Chambers looks set to start the Community Shield given that Per Mertesacker is yet to return to the club. The 19-year-old impressed during the Emirates Cup, but the Premier League champions will pose a major threat to the young English talent.
3/9 Laurent Koscielny
The Frenchman formed a consistent partnership with Mertesacker last season, but his ability to play alongside Vermaelen still remains in the balance are a string of less than convincing showings over the past two years. Nevertheless, he has developed in to one of the key players among the current Arsenal squad, and has shown an eye for a goal when he is allowed to get in the box at set-pieces.
4/9 Kieran Gibbs
Gibbs overcame a number of long-term injuries to solidify his place as Arsenal’s first-choice left-back, seeing off the challenge of first Andre Santos and now Nacho Monreal. Hopwever, he is yet to reach the performances of his predecessors Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy, although at 24 years old he still has time to nurture his talent and rival Luke Shaw for the England left-back berth in the years to come. He brings a calmness to the Arsenal left flank, which tends to look rather exposed when he is absent.
5/9 Jack Wilshere
Arsenal’s golden boy has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons this summer, and he faces a potentially career defining season ahead of him that could determine his Arsenal future. With Aaron Ramsey enjoying his best season to date last year that saw him win the club’s player of the season award, Wilshere needs to push on or face being replaced in the first team. A number of injuries have not helped his cause, but a good start to the season could really help him cement his place for both club and country.
6/9 Alexis Sanchez
Much like Özil, a lot will be expected to come from Sanchez on the basis that the Gunners shelled out – by their standards – a significant fee to sign him from Barcelona. Sanchez is blessed with speed and his natural instincts in front of goal should help him settle quicker than Özil, but he will be judged on his number of goals. Wenger could look to start him through the middle, although the absence of the injured Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s recovery from injury is likely to see Sanchez start his Arsenal career on the right wing.
7/9 Aaron Ramsey
The Gunners will be hopeful that Ramsey can maintain his level of performance from last season after appearing to overcome the thigh injury that kept him out for nearly four months last term. The Welshman was a prominent figure in the Gunners title challenge, and there is no reason why they can’t win further silverware next season with a fit Ramsey in the side. The confidence he should gain from scoring the winning goal in an FA Cup final should see him push on even further.
8/9 Santi Cazorla
The Spanish magician is a wanted man with interest coming from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid, but Arsenal fans will not want him to leave after showing moments of genius since arriving at the Emirates. He has the tendency to blow hot or cold, as he tends to go missing when he’s not at his best, but his best is a joy to watch. Faces a much bigger fight to keep his place this season following the arrival of Sanchez which could see the attacking midfield trio rejigged to accommodate the Chile star.
9/9 Olivier Giroud
Despite calls for him to be replaced – or at least given support – Giroud is likely to continue as Arsenal’s lead striker, at least until the return to fitness of Walcott. Sanchez could take his place through the middle should he start the season slowly, but after showing more last season than he did in his first year with the club, there is an expectation that Giroud can push on further. If he can cut out his habit to miss clear-cut opportunities time and again, he could well contest the league’s top scorer award.
At the interval, Wenger withdrew Giroud for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, moving Sanchez from the right to play as a No 9. Arsenal suddenly looked brisker and sharper, Sanchez’s movement in the box far better than Giroud’s. Their best chance fell to Wilshere, five minutes into the second half, as he raced on to Santi Cazorla’s pass, only for his powerful shot to be saved by Danijel Subasic.
Sanchez sliced a shot wide – his last contribution before he was replaced – but it was two substitute youngsters who nearly earned Arsenal a point. Gedion Zelalem played a delightful through pass to Chuba Akpom, who ran in behind the Monaco defence. He was tripped in the box by Subasic but the assistant referee Akane Yagi wrongly ruled that it was a free-kick rather than a penalty. Aaron Ramsey could only hit the wall.
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