An exciting finish to day one of the Emirates Cup saw Andrey Arshavin score two late goals to move Arsenal to the top of the competition’s standings with a 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
The Russian looked to have won the match with a strike in the 86th minute (off a Cesc Fabregas feed), but the Spanish side equalized two minutes later. With a draw looking the certain result, Arshavin then swooped in to intercept a Madrid backpass and nudge the ball away from the keeper to then convert from a near-impossible angle and give the Gunners the victory.
The win and two goals give Arsenal five points in the Emirates Cup — the annual preseason tournament it hosts — one point more than Sunday opponent Rangers, who opened this year’s competition with a 1-0 decision over Paris Saint-Germain.
That opening match and the first half of Arsenal’s win were not particularly thrilling. And while Arsene Wenger’s side had the better of the chances during its match, it wasn’t until second-half substitutes Jack Wilshire, Fabregas and Arshavin came on that things livened up considerably.
The teenage Wilshire was named Man of the Match after tantalizing the Madrid defense after the break, providing scoring chances for teammates Nicklas Bendtner, Fran Merida and Aaron Ramsey, who all were denied to keep the game scoreless until the late-game flurry of goals.
Tomas Rosicky did find the back of the net early in the match but was ruled offside by the linesman on the play. Still, the Czech midfielder’s first match at the Emirates Stadium after being out for a year-and-a-half was one of the highlights of the day for Arsenal supporters.
Addressing Rosicky’s return in his post-match comments, Wenger said, “I am pleased, but cautious. He has not played for 18 months so I am not a dreamer. If he gets through the next two months without set-backs, then we have won the battle, but it is not won yet.”
The manager was also pleased with Wilshire’s play and impact, telling reporters that the young Englishman has matured, “and compared to one year ago he has more power to take people on. That shows there is big potential there and makes him much more dangerous … When he starts to go past people in the final 20 yards, you can always say there is something special there.”
Wenger believed that Arsenal “had some good combination play and overall I think we deserved to win the game. The substitutions made a difference because of their quality and because when your legs get heavier and you have that quality coming on it has a big impact.
“Today shows we have plenty of offensive players and strikers. Don’t forget today we were also without Theo Walcott,” continued the Frenchman. “If you consider the number of offensive options we have, it is quite decent. We have Arshavin, we have Walcott, we have Eduardo, we have Van Persie, Bendtner and we have Carlos Vela.
“To play with Arshavin, Fabregas and Walcott and find the balance is very difficult. Our target is to now find a good balance with the offensive players we have, and that is why we could afford to let a striker go,” added Wenger.
With rumors emerging Saturday that Philippe Senderos might be off to Everton — making him the third Gunner to leave the club this summer — Wenger was asked about the possibility of additional incoming transfers, commenting that he “will be looking at all the options we have during the week, and then we close (the pre-season). I believe we have quite a strong squad now. If we can add one or two players, we will do it, but not more.”