Everton were outclassed 3 goals to 1 by their Premier League counterparts Arsenal in front of a record crowd of 52,107 at Singapore’s Sports Hub in the Barclays Asia Trophy final. After a rather scrappy start, Arsenal took the lead in the 22nd minute. Theo Walcott latched onto Santi Cazorla’s beautiful chipped pass from the halfway line and finished into the bottom right hand corner.
The Gunners’ new goalkeeper Petr Cech then popped up with 2 vital saves – first tipping Steven Naismith’s header onto the bar, then reacting well to Luke Garbutt’s long-range attempt shortly after the break.
And that was as good as it got for Everton.
On the hour mark, German maestro Mesut Özil played a short corner to Santi Cazorla and the Spaniard turned the Everton defence inside out with some nifty footwork before finishing delightfully past a hapless Joel Robles.
4 minutes later, the duo combined again when Cazorla put Özil through on goal, and Arsenal’s record signing calmly put the game out of Everton’s reach. The Toffees did give their local fans something to cheer about when Ross Barkley’s powerful shot went in beyond Cech’s reach 15 minutes before the end. It was however, a mere consolation for a side chasing shadows for most of the second half.
With the Barclays Asia Trophy now done and dusted, champions Arsenal have given us plenty to ponder about their upcoming season, with many tipping Arsene Wenger and his team for the title. Could they live up to those lofty expectations? After all, the once Invincibles team have been pretty close in recent seasons, except to falter at the final hurdle. UrbanWire assesses their chances and identifies 3 key lessons about them in this tournament.
The Future Is Bright
Wenger’s reliance and belief in his younger players is something that the footballing world is aware of. While the final against Everton saw Arsenal play their first-11, Wenger gave some of his younger players a run out in the 4-0 win against the Singapore Selection XI on Wednesday. Striker Chuba Akpom impressed with his finishing as he scored a hat-trick and kept senior defender Baihakki Kaizan on his toes throughout the match.
Wenger did state during his post-match press conference last Wednesday that Chuba Akpom is in his plans for the upcoming campaign. “I sent him out on loan last season because he needed it. He will get his chance this season but it’s ultimately all down to performance and attitude, and I believe he is a big talent.”
Alex Iwobi was another one who surprised the crowd with his blistering pace and skillful dribbling. Midfielders Jon Toral and Dan Crowley were given run out towards the end of the match too.
With Wenger’s history of successfully moulding Arsenal’s youth into vital first team players (read: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs), who’s to say that these few young talents can’t cement a permanent place in the first team squad 1 day?
A player they can take inspiration from is Hector Bellerin, who played against Everton in the final and cemented his place as Arsenal’s first choice right back in the absence of injured senior defender Mathieu Debuchy last season. A product of Barcelona’s youth system, the 20-year-old made 28 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions last season, playing an integral role in the team’s FA cup triumph and commendable 3rd place finish.
Injury-Free and Hitting the Right Levels
Arsenal have been plagued with injury problems for the past few seasons and that has arguably hindered them from hitting their full potential. Arsene Wenger described the trip to Singapore as ‘perfect’ in his press conference after the Everton match. “It’s unusual to have all 27 players fit but, touch wood, I hope it can last because we have the Emirates Cup and Community Shield coming up soon.”
If the emphatic win against Everton is anything to go by, then Arsenal are well ahead of their preparations for the upcoming season.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a constant menace for the Everton defence with his eye-catching take-ons, while Özil and Cazorla interchanged and performed really well from midfield. The duo stood out on the night with their rapport going forward. At the back, Laurent Koscielny was rarely troubled and Petr Cech showed just why he is the experienced keeper the Gunners have needed for many seasons.
As a team, Arsenal were sharp both on and off the ball and looked on another level to their opponents. Everton manager Roberto Martinez touched on this in the post-match press conference.
“We didn’t get many opportunities against the strongest Arsenal side. They were clinical, took their chances well and were worthy winners.”
If the Gunners can keep their star players fit for the upcoming season, there is every chance they can challenge for the Premier League title, which they last won in 2004.
Goal Scoring Options A-Plenty
Every player in Arsenal’s 27-man squad was given a chance to play in the Barclays Asia Trophy and this gave us a chance to have a thorough look at the various options the Gunners have in their amour.
Much has been made about the need for Arsenal to purchase a world class striker but Theo Walcott showed that he can fill in up front if main striker Olivier Giroud is having an off day.
Against Everton, Theo was constantly interchanging from his natural position on the right wing and moving up front. He not only created for others but found himself in dangerous positions on many occasions. Let’s not forget that the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck didn’t travel for this competition as well. What was more pleasing for the Arsenal fans was to see their midfielders chip in with goals throughout this tournament too.
Whilst there’s plenty of transfer talk of Karim Benzema joining Arsenal, their present scoring options give them an added asset towards the upcoming season, as they look to add on to last season’s FA cup triumph.
Arsenal will kick off their Premier League campaign against West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on the 9th of August, 8.30pm Singapore time.
Photos courtesy of Ngau Kai Yan