Arsenal completed its three-game mini-tour of friendlies while based in its Austria training camp with a 1-0 victory over Hannover 96 at the German club’s AWD Arena on Wednesday.
Captain Cesc Fabregas saw his first action of the preseason and was the lone goalscorer in the match, running on to a lovely through-ball from Robin van Persie and sliding the ball home after rounding the Hannover keeper.
The goal came just ten minutes into the game, during a first half in which the Gunners dominated play and looked impressive against a team that will open its season next week.
Manager Arsene Wenger opted for three men up front for Arsenal, with Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin employed wide with van Persie playing the central role. While the Russian had a quiet game, Bendtner put in an effective performance from the right forward position, and from this observer it seems that the Gunners have looked most impressive this summer when the Big Dane is on the pitch.
Another lively performer thus far this preseason has been Armand Traore, who again looked solid at left back showing his speed in both attacking runs and getting back in defense.
Traore was substituted after just 35 minutes (by Mikael Silvestre) in what must have been an injury concern, but there was noticeable sign of any problem before the change — and no mention of any injury by Wenger or the club after the match.
More substitutions followed at the break, with Johan Djourou, Bacary Sagna and Aaron Ramsey taking over for the likes of William Gallas, Bendtner and Fabregas. But the personnel and formational changes seemed to slow down the Arsenal attack, and play turned a bit sloppy and scrappy for the second 45 minutes.
“It was an interesting game, with for me two different halves,” said Wenger, talking with arsenal.com’s Chris Harris after the match. “In the first half we showed good movement and cohesion. We showed good technical skill and always seemed to be in control.
“In the second half, it was different. We were not mobile and we had heavy legs,” continued the manager. “We were not mobile because we had worked very hard during the camp. We had to hang on a little bit. It was a good challenge from Hannover and it was a good physical game for us.”
With the transfer of Kolo Toure to Manchester City officially announced by the club just prior to the Hannover friendly, the Gunners have seen a second player leave this off-season. But Wenger is confident that team remains strong in quality and numbers.
“The position of the squad is very good,” he said. “If you look at the players who did not play today there was Clichy, Rosicky and Diaby. Walcott and Gibbs have not played yet (in pre-season). I believe the squad is strong.”
While that might be true, the departures have some supporters clamoring for another signing to join Thomas Vermaelen as Arsenal additions. And there might be another player leaving soon, as Emmanuel Eboue — a rumoured target of Italian club Fiorentina — was seen tossing his jersey and boots into the crowd while waving to Gunners’ fans after the Hannover match.
With Arsenal set to host Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Glasgow Rangers in the Emirates Cup this weekend, might we be seeing the club return home from Austria minus all three of its African first-teamers?