MLS All-Stars 1-2 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Upon first inspection, Arsenal’s friendly versus the creme of the top flight in the USA on Friday morning (or Thursday night, dependent on location), could be overlooked as a money-spinning exercise, or as an elaborate parade to garner more fans across the globe. 

At the very least, it was a vital warm-up for our players as they slowly ascend the gears and shake off summer excesses, in a bid to fine tune their bodies for another slog of a season. For the competition this coming campaign will be fiercer than ever, so every measure must be taken to ensure optimisation of every asset.

This match represented a notch up from the previous friendly game – the 1-1 draw versus RC Lens last week – so our squad, or at least the men selected to travel across the pond, could see where they needed to work a little harder before ceremonies begin on the 14th August against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

It may be quite difficult to take anything of note from the game, other than our players are being put through their paces – but with a keen eye, there is plenty for us Gooners to suckle upon until we again take to the pitch on Monday the 1st August versus Chivas de Guadalajara. 

So, here at The Hot Stepanovs, we thought we would provide you with a bite-size, handy article which points out what will give Arsene Wenger food for thought, and what us fans can use to soothe us during the traumatic transfer window….

Theo still has low confidence – but there are signs of life.

Theo once again was given the benefit of the doubt –  that heaving, dark doubt that shrouds the majority of fans thinking – and given the sole striker slot. He had three opportunities, and two were off target, with the other drawing a smart save from All-Stars keeper Andre Blake. 

Theo may have failed to register a goal, but he was in the right place to take the chance. His positioning is improving. His runs are being found – and all this without the King of Assists in the team. This isn’t a declaration that Walcott must start, or that he is the striker we need – far from it. 

Just that he shouldn’t be written off. Not at full fitness, in a team that was far removed from what we will field for our season opener, this display was a subtle signal that he has something to offer.

Don’t get carried away with Rob Holding

The boy only completed his move last week, and before he knows what is happening, he is jetted away to San Jose, California, to play the best that Major League Soccer has to offer. 

For such a whirlwind week, Holding did well – and that is the problem. He will either be the next Martin Keown, or consigned to the scrapheap as soon as the smallest mistake rears its ugly head. It is never grey, only black or white.

Holding played well, but it is far too early to gauge where he stands in regard to being able to fill in where necessary in the heart of our defence. Holding must be treated like a goldfish you have just won from the fair – keep it in the bag as you gradually intorduce him to the new water in the shiny tank you’ve bought him. Patience is key, but he did his no prospects no harm.

Holding surprised most of us with his display, especially as he was tasked with some contrasting styles to combat. The guile of David Villa, the trickery of Sebastian Giovinco, and……

Didier Drogba continues to haunt our consciousness

The Ivorian ruined our defence repeatedly whilst plying his trade for Chelsea. He even ruined a few careers too (we remember a Philippe Senderos before Drogba was unleashed upon him). 

The facts spell it out quite clearly. Prior to kickoff in this game, Drogba had plundered fifteen goals in fifteen games against us.

Provided a chance thanks to Sacha Kljestan of NY Red Bulls, he took a few attempts to put it past Petr Cech and Holding, but he did just that. 

That makes it 16 in 16. If Didier Drogba runs a business into his fifties, there can be no guarantee that they will be the ruination of our football club. Everyone needs a nemesis, and Drogba’s campaign to elect himself ours is quite frightening.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is hungry

Against Lens last week, and during the seventy minutes he played in this game, The Ox and his direct manner stood out against the large sedate sections of the game. He took people on, as is his wont, but his end product and composure looked a little more fine tuned. 

Whether it is practice drills, just a flash in the pan, or a little experience seeping through? Who knows. When in full flow though, The Ox provides entertainment. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

Krystian Bielik has been schooled well, it seems.

Much like Dr Dre accuses us of, we forgot about him. Not the good Doctor, no, but Bielik. His time for the reserves has sauteed his talents though, added the spices and taste that he needed. He was alongside Rob Holding at the start of the game, and Bielik looked like he had been playing for many a year. 

Will he even gain a place on the bench? Surely a loan beckons for this young man though, as it is now time where the only thing that can aid his career further is gametime. One thing is for sure, it looks like whatever club is the recipient, they stand to receive a very promising player. 

There were many more pointers that warrant mentioning. The MLS talent pool is quite clearly burgeoning, and the healthy flow of cash can only help attract more to the league. It was a very competitive fixture, and thanks to a few MLS defenders and Francis Coquelin, it meant that the winning mentality was on show from both sides. 

This MLS All-Star team played tottenham this time last year – and won 2-1. Our victory can be written off, but seeing our backup players given a chance to shine – which they duly accepted – and a confidence boosting win in the bag, can only be taken as a positive. 

Joel was again impressive. Akpom scored the winner and Jack managed forty five minutes. All plusses. 

A big thank you to Jeanne. You kept me in the loop until I could get home and glean as much as I could. I doff my cap to you madam!

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