As most of you will have watched highlights or even the full Köln-Arsenal match, I won’t bore you with match details, and will stick to my personal view of the game, and a few bits of information picked up along the way!
Well it was certainly a gloriously day for a game – the sun shining and the wind, which had been gale force earlier in the day, dropped to a gentle breeze.
Köln is a very civilised place to watch a match! You can grab a beer and chillax on the grassed park outside the stadium – no police enforced drinking exclusion-zones here!
Chillaxing pre-match with a civilised beer
The local fans seemed to be in carnival spirit – I guess they were all here to see off Podolski. Interestingly, many of the new 2011-12 shirts worn by the fans have Podolski’s name on the back, even though he’s left. Put simply, he is their Thierry Henry!
The Arsenal fans in attendance were a strangely mixed crew. About half, I would guess, were your die-hard North London bunch. The rest were a mix of noisy Poles, smiley Swedes and a fair number of ex-Pats gooners from the local area happy get to see Arsenal in their adopted city for the second year running.
I normally wait to the last minute to go into the Emirates (one of the many drawbacks of being a smoker), but decided for once to have a look at which players would warm-up for the match. I certainly didn’t expect to be able to drink and smoke in my seat, which was a pleasant surprise!
And so to the action….
Before kick-off, Stevie Bould did ten or so laps of the pitch with Miquel Arteta, so he’s obviously not too far off from match fitness.
All the players looked fit and relaxed in warm-up, with Van Persie taking the central place in an extended one-touch keepy-up exercise.
At kick-off, we had ourselves a triple debut. Carzorla, Giroud and, of course, Podolski. Must be the first on this scale since Overmars, Petit and Grimandi back in 1997.
Podolski looked very sharp and I expect we will see him very early in the season (perhaps even straight away). He gets a massive reception from the Köln fans.
Giroud makes a lot of space – he’s tall and agile and looks like a very intelligent player. Strikes me as a straight-forward Chamakh upgrade.
But it’s Carzorla that really catches the eye. There’s a puzzle in the Radio Times every week with a wheel of letters and one letter in the centre, and you have to make as many words as possible, but always use that centre letter. That centre letter is the closest I can come to describing the role that Carzorla has in the first half. And even when he doesn’t touch the ball, his positioning and his runs make space for the move to progress. His two-footedness is quite a revelation, as is his balance, which seems impossible to read. Expect him to win a lot of free kicks this season from less intelligent centre-backs.
Cazorla’s link-up play with Oxlade-Chamberlain is pure poetry to watch. Fast, penetrating passes which leave the Köln midfielders dizzy.
The Arsenal defence doesn’t have much to deal with, but looks surer of itself that last season. I also believe that we can expect to see Arsenal holding possession much longer this season, and that, based on more passing options being available now, loss of possession will tend to occur lost further up the field. Both of which should help with the goals-against column.
So, three-nil at half-time:
Bouldy-style flick-on by Mertersacker converted by a Vermaelen bullet-header;
Ox wins a penalty which Podolski converts;
Podolski gets his second – a clinical finish from a low Gibbs cross.
The Köln fans sing Podolski’s name for both goals as if he had scored for them!
Half-time brings cool Kölsch beer delivered to your seat!
A beer? In view of the pitch? It’s unthinkable!
And the second half kicks of with eight or nine changes, I believe (the accumulative effect of the local ale is gradually take its toll!)
Gervinho looks more settled than last season and scores a lovely goal to make it 4-0.
From this point on the game goes into kick-about mode. It’s almost as if Peter Hill-Wood had wandered into the dressing room at half-time and said: “OK chaps, one more goal and then clam it down. Don’t forget we are guests here!”
When RVP comes on at about the hour mark, the booing commences. By two big fellas who hadn’t made a single noise up to this point. A few of the Poles join in – they are by now quite drink! Most of the Arsenal fans tell them to shut up, which they gradually do. The two fat chaps carry on booing, and seem pleased with themselves.
So it all gradually grinds to the halt of the final whistle. Vier-null to the Arsenal. Podolski is the very last to leave the pitch and spends a good ten minutes with the Köln fans saying his goodbyes. I expect he will be back here once his Arsenal days are over.
As I walk back from the ground I am accosted by a middle-age couple who wish to show me photographs on their iPhone. I am naturally quite anxious about this. However, it turns out that they had entered a half-time competition for the Köln fans, and had won the opportunity to talk and have photos with an Arsenal player straight after the final whistle. They just didn’t know who he was. The pictures shows a very happy, smiling Robin Van Persie, who the couple said was really funny and joking and talked to them for 20 minutes or so.
Is this the same RVP who was supposed to be sulking in a dark corner of the away dressing room, desperately trying to reach his agent for an immediate move to Old Trafford because he couldn’t stand the boo-boys (or at least that what The Sun would have us believe).
In any case, did we see the birth of Wenger’s Arsenal version 4.0 today? Quite possibly. We will see tougher opposition, and blind refs, and northern swamps, all of which will test this new experiment.
But it’s looking promising. Very promising. Can’t wait until Saturday!
Written through a beery haze by mjc