NY Red Bulls 1 Arsenal 0: The Gunners Lack Cutting Edge
Red Bulls Arena (Friendly)
The pre-match proceedings was rightly dominated by Thierry Henry coming up against his old team and after a rather long wait, the match kicked off by 10pm in Nigeria. Seeing the lineup made me somewhat confused as Nacho Monreal played in the middle, Gedion Zelalem on the right and Tomas Rosicky in a false nine role. Arsenal was well represented in the Red Bulls Arena as 500 fans came all the way from the UK while the remaining 4,500 were made up of the Gooners based in USA.
Right from the onset, the Red Bulls had the chance to go one up when Henry had a free kick in a place that was his bread and butter in his Arsenal days. However, he ballooned his free kick over the bar. Arsenal responded with some neat passing that saw Kieran Gibbs close in on goal but Luis Robles parried the ball to safety.
Arsenal’s defense was carved open and Henry was one on one with Wojciech Szczesny. The crowd held its breath in anticipation of a trademark Henry-esque placed finish but Szczesny stretched to pass a superb save from the King. On the other end, Santi Cazorla was afford a half chance at goal and his curled effort missed by a whisker. It was end to end stuff as Henry teed up Bradley Wright-Phillips that sent his shot wide and within minutes, Aaron Ramsey had a half chance that went wide as well.
After soaking some pressure from the home team, Arsenal launched a swift counter attack and they were three on two but when the ball got to Cazorla, he swung a wayward pass and that great chance went begging. The match opener arrived when Henry swung a corner kick that was flicked goalwards by an unmarked Ambrose Oyongo. With the ball in the six yard box, Wright-Phillips got a foot on it before Mikel Arteta to put the home side one goal to the good.
Arsenal almost responded immediately when Jack Wilshere drifted into the box and executed a neat one-two with Zelalem but he didn’t wrap his foot around the ball to generate enough power to blast it pass Robles, thereby making the goalie to smother the ball.
At the start of the second half, Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes to the squad with Damian Martinez, Hector Bellerin, Ignasi Miquel, Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Flamini and a real striker, Chuba Akpom, coming into the fray. Akpom made his mark almost immediately by executing a deft back-heeled pass to an onrushing Cazorla but the Spaniard blasted his shot straight at Robles. Thierry Henry’s exit from the pitch was marked with a rousing ovation and it was no surprise when he went to exchange pleasantries with Wenger before joining his team in the dugout.
Akpom continued to influence the game and fashioned a chance that was brilliantly dispatched home by Diaby but the linesman’s flag spared NYRB’s blushes. Sam crossed the ball for Chris Duvall whose header went wide off the mark but the ref inexplicably chose to award the Red Bulls a fictitious corner kick.
Miquel did well to win the ball before launching a long ball that sent Akpom clean on goal but a rush of blood to the head saw the young striker miss a glorious chance. Late on, Kris Olsson had a free kick on the edge of the area but he launched his shot into orbit.
Despite the fact that it was a good run-out for the lads, it’s fair to say that the Gunners lacked cutting edge.
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