MLSAS 1-2 Arsenal: a good run in the sun

I have to admit, I was worried about the Arsenal before the match yesterday.

Facing an MLS All Star starting XI which featured Drogba, David Villa, Kaka, Pirlo, Dos Santos, and some grubby dreadlocked hippy that they scrounged up off the streets of San Jose — they needed at least one USA American on the team, Arsenal started a defensive back line of 18 year old Bielik, new guy Holden, and two backup fullbacks in Gibbs and Debuchy.

Before the match I let my fear be known on Twitter, that not only would Arsenal lose but that they would get beaten badly. Though on the bright side of that, I mused, Arsenal would at least be forced to buy some players. Others responded with their fear that Arsenal would win and that would stop Wenger from buying. Thus, like American politics, Arsenal are a country deeply divided in the solution but united in our cynicism.

Seeing the lineups, I joked with my friend Sean (who was at the game) through Facebook saying “6-0 to the MLS All Stars, then” and “what minute do you think Drogba will start scoring? 10th?”

Arsenal’s newest center back, Holding, echoed my sentiments:

“I was a bit nervous coming into it. I was bound to be, but once I was on the pitch and warming up the jitters go and you are OK then. Your stomach settles and you feel good.”

And so, despite the nerves and the youth at the back, it was Arsenal who scored in the 10th minute.  Campbell was hauled down by some guy and the referee pointed to the penalty spot and Arsenal were awarded our only penalty of the season. Campbell took the penalty and then did his best impression of that Italian guy, Zaza, from Euro 2016 with a twinkle-toes run-up. The only difference between Zaza and Campbell is that Campbell smashed home the free kick.

After that, the match settled into a more predictable routine. Arsenal’s Oxlade-Chamberlain looked lively on the right and wowed the crowd with some of his ball control skills. Time and again Ox was able to beat his man and get in a good cross, right to the penalty spot. Sadly, Arsenal were playing without a forward.

Well, Theo Walcott was on the pitch and he was running around quite a bit but he was never in the right place at the right time. Ostensibly, Wenger was playing a counter attacking side but Walcott was so awful on the day that every time he got the ball it seemed like he committed a turnover.

Walcott even had what is starting to look like a “Walcott moment”. He collected the ball in his own half and with no one in front of him, tried to dribble through the opposition lines, to “do the village*”, and ended up turning around in a cul-du-sac until he found himself on his ass. It was a carbon copy of the moment against Crystal Palace, where he was dispossessed and turned to the referee for a call. In this friendly, he got the call. In real life, he will never get that call. 

If Wenger is even thinking about using Theo Walcott as a center forward this year he better have a look at that tape. Walcott has been speaking to the press about how he has been working on his game, improving speed, improving his first touch. But this is a fully rested and practiced Theo Walcott and it looked like he hasn’t done anything to improve his game and has picked up exactly where he left off last season: running to nowhere, turning the ball over, and not participating in the build-up play.

“That’s harsh Tim, it’s a pre-season friendly.” There, I said it for you. And it is a pre-season friendly. But I saw literally zero difference between his game yesterday and his games last season. Maybe he can miracle a turnaround. Though, he’s more likely to just fall over and throw his hands in the air.

If there is any hope, after the game, Wenger said that he is planning to add one more striker:

“At the moment, I do not have too many attacking options. Let’s not forget that there are still a few players at home, and that a few players didn’t play today, like Cazorla. Then of course you have Ozil and Ramsey at home, even Giroud is not here. We have options, but we still look outside to find one more.”

According to the press, Arsenal have been rejected by Cavani and Lacazette’s Lyon – with Lyon going one step further to suggest that Wenger made his final offer last week. Exactly who Wenger plans to buy is anyone’s guess. That is if he is actually planning to buy anyone or if we will find ourselves winning Arsenal transfer BINGO in September with “prices were crazy, players weren’t available, we have to buy according to our values, we can’t compete with money clubs, and we can’t just buy for buying sake.”

Wenger is aware of the time crunch to sign a player and I’m not expecting anything until the last week of the transfer window. With Wenger saying after the game;

“I’m more focused now on preparing for the season, because we are at July 29 and start on August 14. We have a very short time to prepare now, so my focus is on my players.”

Drogba provided the All-Stars with their only goal of the game, it was a scrambled junk shot which took 3 attempts at close range before scoring. Drogba targeted young Bielik throughout the first half. Using his brute strength and guile he pushed Bielik to the limit and the young Arsenal man responded exceptionally well.

I’m reading Tony Adams’ Addicted and was struck by how Adams described being a young man and going into these matchups with older former stars. People expected him to be star-struck but he wasn’t; he stood his ground and often he would get beat up by these old men. Like Adams, Bielik stood strong against Drogba, even getting a black eye for his efforts.

The second half was much more dangerous for Arsenal. With the primadonna players flying back to their clubs for a match on Saturday, the MLS All Stars like Giovinco showed serious attacking threat. Arsenal’s energy and organization levels dropped with a whole host of changes but the Gunners rode their luck to the end.

Xhaka has been praised for his game but I saw a lot of passes thumped too hard to teammates and I also noticed him traipsing back for the MLS All Stars best chance of the game — allowing Wondolowski to Wondo right by him in midfield and get off a powerful shot which missed the entire goal. Arsenal fans have huge expectations for Xhaka and I worry that if he doesn’t sparkle almost right from the start the patience will run out. He did redeem himself with a left footed blast from 35 yards. Fans love to see Arsenal players take those shots and I have no doubt Wenger will have a word with him and put an end to it.

The Jeff showed some nice touches and Iwobi showed some trickery in place of Ox. And then with almost the final kick of the game, Monreal burst down the left and played in a cross that Akpom had to score. It was the perfect end to the game.

Now, on to Monday’s match against Chivas. This will be a much more difficult test as Chivas are an actual team and not some puzzle made up of pieces from dozens of boxes.


*I’ve heard this expression used by many professional broadcasters and always thought it was a bit weird. My friends swear that it comes from that scene in Platoon where they “do the whole village”. In other words, they murder civilians. Why on earth would we say that? I prefer to think of it like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing through the whole village.


  1. So, here goes another review of the game.
    Arsenal with basically 2nd tier team to start game possessed about 38 of the 45 minutes of the ball in the 1st half. Jack, regardless on what other critics say, can pass, dribble and make things happen. The 2 kids who just put on a 1st team jersey-ever, played with composure that is beyond their years, but Bielik did give away a bad pass that led to the goal, a learning opportunity for him. Elneny is a metronome, Debuchy is a back up to Hector, Cech a goal keeping god, Ox is direct yet still wants to peel the leather off the ball, Campbell made the most of his chance, and last but not least Theo needs to go NOW!
    Watching in warm ups Theo missed an open goal on Cech from 8 yards, wide left by 4 yards. His futbol brain is slooooooooooooow, thinks about it when he should shoot, and when he shoots should pass the ball. 10 year waste of time!
    Met a lot of Gunner fans, cheered beside a bunch of MLS fans and had a blast.
    Second half much more subdued, and Gio for MLS was a real handful. The pass from Nacho was perfect for a tap in which the young runner (Akpom) did not miss, as Theo surely would not have even been there. Elnany and Xhaca both hit 2 missiles that put a smile on my face. Shoot the gd ball Arsenal!
    Hope we still sign a CB and Striker before season starts.

  2. It’s rather sad to watch Theo now. He’s not lived up to anyone’s hopes and expectations, sure, but he’s actually gotten worse since the cruciate injury. The fact he’s also gotten better-paid since then doesn’t really help the outrage coefficient.

  3. Only at Wenger’s Arsenal would a player like Walcott still be at the club. How long do you think he would have lasted under Guardiola or, dare I say it, Mourinho? We pay the price for persisting with mediocrity. And look, I appreciate that Wenger gives players more time than Mourinho would, but there’s got to be a limit. For instance, I certainly appreciated that Wenger forgave Ramsey two mediocre seasons (Mourinho would never do that), which culminated in a superb season and ended with his winning goal in the FA Cup…but I can’t understand a decade of Theo Walcott. With few exceptions, he’s been stinking up the place quite badly, and he desperately needs to rescue his career (if he can) elsewhere.

  4. Seems like we view the game similarly. Bielik and Holding were both very impressive. And Willock and Jeff as well.

    You’re right about Xhaka. He was also sliding in to tackle, but had his timing all wrong. Wenger did say that Xhaka is short of fitness, so he should get better.

    As for Theo. Not harsh at all. He’s a better winger than CF, and he’s not a better winger than Ox, who himself had a terrible season, but looks hungry to make up for it. Theo, not so much.

    On the Wenger quote on concentrating on his players. You’re being a bit naughty in how you framed it. The question was about signing young players from the MLS (as per the official site) However, I don’t disagree that it might take until the last week to get deals done. As for which striker. Ben Yedder please. I just have a feeling about him. He’s also available for cheap.

    1. He meant it exactly how he said it. He is not signing anyone (barring some kind of miracle big-name player dropping in our lap) until after the start of the season.

      I’d bet he has never signed a player between August 1st and the 14th.

      1. Eh? Sorry, I don’t get it. If the question asked of him was about signing young players from the MLS, and that was his response, then it has a different meaning than the one you gave it.

        But, again. I didn’t disagree with your…umm..position. It is the sort of thing Wenger says when he’s talking about the transfer market and not buying immediately, so I get why you read it that way. I still think, to not make it clear what his response was to, is a bit…damn my limited vocabulary…naughty is all I can come up with.

        1. He doesn’t sign players when he’s focused on his pre-season build up.

          I prove that quite convincingly in this post here:

          I understand that you and this guy Occam want to protect Wenger but these are the facts of his tenure. He knew exactly what he was saying. I’ve been around long enough to know what he was saying. He doesn’t like to buy players when he’s focused on training. Sorry that this somehow bothers you.

          1. I don’t understand this comment. Training starts in July and you speak as if Arsene is personally negotiating deals. Why does the first to the 14th of August hold any special significance in the scheme of things?

          2. Dude..Tim… I AGREE with you that there likely will not be a signing before the season starts. I think it was only a week or 10 days ago that Wenger said something about how the market is likely to pick up in the last week of the window. I also said that this is what Wenger says when he’s implying that no transfer is imminent. I agree with your conclusion.

            I just don’t agree with how you got there. That you didn’t present the question that drew this response from Wenger. Talking about training and focusing on his own players, may well be code for no transfer activity, but in this case, it was a response that said screw your MLS youth, they suck.

          3. Let me put it this way. How I think Wenger’s response came about.

            When asked about signing MLS players, he thinks how should I say I’m not interested without causing disappointment and anger that the MLS doesn’t have anything to offer Arsenal right now. So he goes to his stock transfer bingo code for ‘we’re not signing ANYONE right now’. You know, it’s nothing personal against the MLS.

            So you decoded the message correctly. And as it turns out, Arsenal probably aren’t signing anyone before the season starts. You have the what, but why that statement was used by Wenger was based on the question, which you didn’t present. And to me that is perhaps a minor distinction, but still one worth drawing.

            (I’ll add the caveat that I have only read this interview on the official site. Not watched it. (is it even there?). If you did watch it, sometimes the video can reveal more, so I’ll defer to your judgement)

          4. Sorry, just saw that you had replied. Thanks for the link. Having watched it, I think I was right that Wenger was trying to not give offense. That long exhale seemed like it was to buy a second or two to answer. And he did end with saying, and to still try to strengthen our team.

  5. I am having “hella” problems with comments passing my filter and still going to spam.

    I have deactivated a plugin to see if that helps.

  6. “Exactly who Wenger plans to buy is anyone’s guess. That is if he is actually planning to buy anyone”

    I’m bit surprised to read this on here. I haven’t visited your blog in a few months, but I did enjoy your posts last season, as well as your “By the Numbers” on Arseblog. Have you really become “that guy”? Wenger has not been vague in his comments about need to buy a forward and a defender in this window–and he has said so on multiple occasions. It hasn’t been the “if the right player becomes available…” stuff of previous seasons.

    Whether or not we bag the forward we all want, to question if he “is actually planning to buy anyone” just seems disingenuously dickish.

    1. “planning to buy someone” is different than “we want to buy but no one is available who would improve this team at a price that we can afford.”

      I have no doubt Wenger WANTS to buy, I know he has made an offer for at least two forwards and I have written about those forwards and how they would fit in this Arsenal team. Both players have rebuffed us. So, who is he planning to buy?

      I’m not any “type” of guy. I’m not at all being disingenuous. This is a blog. This is an informal conversation between me and my readers where I put my ideas out there for consumption and people respond to me and to each other. Clearly, you haven’t been reading me daily so you don’t know me. And since you’re new around here maybe you should ask questions instead of assuming that you know what I’m all about.

      Just an idea.

      1. I don’t claim to know you. I have read the majority of your posts over the past season (not during the off-season) and have formed an opinion of what to expect from them, rightly or wrongly.

        To pull the Wenger quote about focusing on his players and preparation, and to use that as a basis for suggesting he (or the club) is not focused on signing someone right now is disingenuous imo. If you don’t think we’ll sign someone, that’s cool. Just don’t use this quote to “buttress your junks.” 🙂 (Sorry, couldn’t help myself)

        Wenger was responding to this question: “I know you are good at training young players, and there are many young players in MLS. Do you have a plan to take young players abroad to Arsenal?”

        Wenger’s response, which you partially quoted, is: “No, at the moment I haven’t planned to take any players back. I’m more focused now on preparing for the season, because we are at July 29 and start on August 14. We have a very short time to prepare now, so my focus is on my players. and I still try to strengthen our team.”

        I am assuming you watched the post-match presser and know this. Perhaps I am wrong.

        1. You are just trying to find something to nit-pick about. I was pretty clear to say that he’s not signing anyone during the two weeks run-up to the start of the season. That was based on the evidence from the last 12 years where Wenger made just three signings in that period, all of which had clearly been worked out before.

          The “butress my junks” is an apt metaphor because if you remember that guy was complaining that I use facts to support my arguments. So, yes, I was buttressing my junks with facts.

          What’s interesting is that Wenger said today that he’s going to sign a defender in the next few days. Again, this follows a pattern with him: if the deal has been mostly worked out beforehand we will sign that player during the two weeks prior to the start of the season. If not, then we wait until after the season has started.

          I feel like there is some hostility here towards me. I’m not the one NOT signing players.

  7. The “gang substitution” in the second half changed the game for Arsenal. Akbom and co. upped the tempo of the team strung passes together and put the latest rota of the MLS team on their back foot for long stretches. A huge amount of positive was on show. Gideon was a slight disappointment for a couple of turnovers but I liked what I saw and what they were trying to do- here’s quote from old “Play the Arsenal Way”

    When I look at Theo I get frustrated by the half effort I perceive. To be compared with the young hunger just described. He doesn’t use his assets. He is not a close control player but a streak of lightning and yet fails to use his strength and play to his own weakness.

    I loved the shots on goal. I think they change a game and pull a defense out. I disagree about Wenger coaching this out of players, I think in fact he has been looking for players who can play the role and has purchased for the purpose.

    Pleasantly surprised by the youth at the middle of the backline. I think they generally held up well. but it was the turn of pace and team effort after that substitution which made this game and which you under emphasize. Everyone wants Arsenal to buy and history has shown we often grow talent very well. I think we will be pleasantly surprised by who steps up from the academy this year to wow us.

  8. wow you don’t expect much do you? what a joke of an article
    your already running down the team
    it was a friendly the teams second match what did you expect?
    lol at having a go at xhaka it was his first runout so what did you expect should he have run full tilt to get back and pull a hamstring
    the team performed better then you write what an idiot you are Arsenal doesn’t need fans like you why don’t you piss off and support another team

    1. I think it fantastic we have such high expectations for our club. We are truly lucky. We are in fact competitive every year. Maybe been a bridesmaid longer than i like to but certainly we’re there.
      Most fans only see the transfer market as the way to improve but historically clubs grew talent then worked hard to keep it.
      It was a fine first runout which showed a degree of depth which was impressive. No epl club has beaten mls all stars until now and that is big.
      I think people really don5 know what they are looking at and high dollar/pound rebuilds are not the only answer and often miss the mark.
      L city winning last year proves my point.

      Arsenal is a big tent and no need to oush anyone out. This coming from a 50 year fan who has seen alot. I think we will all be surprised by the gifts under the tree xmas morning.

    2. I see we have already started with the “fuck off and support another team” garbage.

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