Weekend Roundup: Emirates Cup and Farewell Swiss Tony

Starting today through at least the end of this season we'll be posting a bi-weekly (Weekend Preview & Weekend Round-up) section covering the action and news surrounding English Football, and most importantly, The Arsenal. Show your love to the newest contributor here, Brett, and hopefully we'll get him motivated to write more than twice a week. So, without further adieu, here's Brett...

Bringing the Emirates Cup back home. Could this be the first of many this season? Photo: Arsenal.com

Well, it was a sight to see, watching Cesc lift the Emirates Cup. I think we've all been so starved for silverware that most of us at one point or another might look at this tournament as meaning more than it does, myself included. But I don't want anyone getting too carried away, so in the interests of staying grounded, let's look at what our mighty Arsenal accomplished this weekend, shall we?

In our first match, we also faced what one would have to admit was our first real challenge of the pre-season. Yes, Hanover 96 is a Bundesliga side, but Atletico Madrid qualified for the Champions League this season, same as we did, so it was time for the Gunners to step up to the plate. The first half was a bit uneventful… Arsenal controlled the run of play but very few chances were created. The best of these was taken by the forgotten man, the resurgent Tomas Rosicky, who took a sneaky pass from the left beyond the defenders and deftly finished into the top right corner. Classic Rosicky, and this was a glimpse of what he adds to the squad when he's healthy, and even though we do have an abundance of attacking options, Tomas' footballing intelligence and skill on the ball can be breathtaking. Personally the thought of him playing alongside Cesc and Arshavin is exciting to say the least. The defense looked solid, although continuing a worrying trend of slipping up in defending set pieces, as the shortest player in the box, Aguero, was let free by Denilson to put a header off the post and out.

In the second half, things became a bit more interesting. The introduction of 17-year-old Jack Wilshere started things moving in the right direction for the Gunners, as Jack displayed the skill, control and vision he's become known for in his brief Arsenal career, making darting runs through and around defenders and generally making a nuisance of himself to the opponent, and you can't ask fairer from the youngster than that.

Still, the match remained scoreless until the 83rd minute when, after the introduction of Cesc, Eduardo and Arshavin, the Arsenal broke the deadlock. Arshavin latched onto a brilliant flick across the box to the left-hand side and carefully shot past the keeper at the near post, something I'm sure we'll all be looking forward to seeing a lot of this season, and opponents will likewise be dreading. However, almost immediately afterward the defenders were caught off guard by a long pass to Pacheco, who snuck behind the central defense (an area I personally am a bit concerned with, but more on that later), and finished past Mannone to equalize. A bitter pill, but deserved, and it looked like Atletico would have themselves a point, when in the last minute, our little Russian Maestro struck again. A pass into the box saw Arshavin touch once, rolling the ball past the keeper and almost over the end line at the right post, and the Owly one, from his backside, somehow managed to slide the ball over the line into the net from an impossible angle. This would certainly have been a nominee for Goal of the Year if this had been the regular season. So, a full 5 points for the Arsenal, in the Emirates Cup standings, where points won per match are added with goals scored, and with Rangers defeating PSG earlier in the day, we headed into the second match with a lead in the mini-tournament.

Arshavin with what one day will be looked at as one of the finest goals in his career

Sunday's match versus Rangers started off with a bang in the opening 10 minutes. Arsenal moved the ball to the Rangers' box, Cesc passing low to the center, flicked back by Eduardo, and England's Only Hope, Jack Wilshere, finished low and to the right, a cracking goal to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal in the second minute. A few minutes later, the Gunners struck again, and this time it was Eduardo slipping past the defense to the right of the 6 yard box, and coolly finished across the face of goal and in off the post to make it 2-0 to the Arsenal. Plenty of singing to be done and good cheer to be had among the home crowd, less so among the Scots who traveled down to London.

The score remained 2-0 through half time, although Jack nearly had a second with a looping shot punched over the bar by the Rangers 'keeper. Rangers had a few brief glimpses of hope in the first half, but in all were thoroughly dominated by the boys in Red and White. Rangers weren't defeated by all means, as they showed by breaking some attacks in the second half that troubled our defense. Song made a brilliant goal-saving sliding tackle in the box to preserve the 2-goal advantage, and Almunia was forced into a couple of saves himself. It wasn't nearly enough, as Jack struck again, sealing himself Man of the Match honors in two days running, finishing a low pass across the box from Aaron Ramsey (who looked decent himself in both matches) with a darting run from the right. 3-0 to the Arsenal, and finally some silverware!

Captain Jack celebrating after his 2nd goal. Photo: TeamTalk

All in all, it was a good tune-up, and both matches seemed to have more urgency than a typical preseason match. We took on a Champions League-caliber opponent in Atletico, and the SPL champions in Rangers and emerged victorious both times. We displayed impressive, dominant attacking play, and solid, if sometimes mistake-prone defense, which is not likely to change anyone's impressions of what the team was capable of before the tournament. But I prefer to remain positive about the team. We look like we can compete with anyone, and we can certainly finish (which is more than can be said for the hapless Adebarndoor for Man Shitty). And in the coming weeks, we'll have to trust that Arsene will address our defensive frailties.

Speaking of which, all was quiet on the transfer front but for one noticeable departure. Philippe Senderos has been sold to Everton, likely paving the way for Jolean Lescott to join the millionaires' club at the Middle Eastlands. It's unfortunate for us, as I think we'd have been better served keeping Senderos as a capable deputy to Gallas, Vermaelen (who remained out injured… a bad sign for a new Wenger signing) and Djourou, who will likely handle the bulk of the work at center-half. Without Swiss Tony, we're a couple of injuries away from Silvestre starting in central defense, and nothing scares me more. Except maybe ghosts. They're pretty scary. I think we'll all be wishing big Phil good-luck in his career going forward (minus the matches he plays against us, of course). He was much-maligned in his time with the Gunners, received more than his share of criticism, but I always liked him personally, and will miss him.

Phil Celebrating in 2007. Photo: BBC

But there's plenty of time left. It does appear that the return of Patrick Vieira is gaining some traction. I don't think it addresses our major hole (defensive midfield), and I don't know how much Paddy Longlegs has left in the tank, but he'll certainly add a great deal of experience and professionalism to the team, being a returning legend. Maybe it will shut up the bleating media about "the last of the Invincibles has left Arsenal," blah blah. Anyway, it's been said elsewhere, but if it's a choice between Vieira and no one, I'll be perfectly happy to hear the dulcet tones of an Emirates crowd singing, "VIEIRA, WOOOAHHH, VIEIRA, WOOAAAOOOAAHH…"

Anelka and Vieria. Photo: DailyMail

Until next time, my goonery chums, Up the Arsenal.