Arsenal begin their preparations for the incoming season in comfortable style with an easy 2-0 win against A-League Champions Sydney FC in front of a crowd of more than 80,000 at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Marquee signing Alexandre Lacazette sealed the Gunners’ victory with an 83rd-minute strike after Per Mertesacker had put them ahead early in the opening half.
Not a few people would have predicted the Gunners dominating and the match exhibited quite rightly so. Even before kickoff, the sea of red at the stands suggested rather emphatically. Arsenal enjoy a large following in Australia, and though technically, it was a neutral venue as Sydney FC play their home matches at the Allianz Stadium, it looked as if the teams may well have been playing at the Emirates.
— ANZ Stadium (@ANZStadium) July 13, 2017
Not that it crossed Danny Welbeck’s mind. The 26-year-old striker wasted no time in keeping Andrew Redmayne honest with a long-range effort. But if the striker introduced himself in a kind that bordered on contempt, Mertesacker certainly had no time for pleasantries.
From a Mesut Ozil cross that was not cleared properly, the German defender hooked the ball in from up close and into the back of the net. As the visitors took the lead in the third minute, Sydney FC, already expecting to have a long night ahead, had their work cut out for them.
— Danny Welbeck (@WelBeast) July 13, 2017
Arsenal click into gear
Youngsters Reiss Nelson and Cohen Bramall provided width as wingbacks in Arsene Wenger’s now preferred 3-4-3, system. And with Ozil enjoying a lot of space with the ball in the middle, Arsenal clicked into gear. Welbeck and his fellow forward Theo Walcott immediately came to task to try and double the Arsenal lead but Sydney FC almost drew level in their first sniff on goal.
Joshua Brillante caught the ball on the right and embarked on a run before trying to shoot across Petr Cech who got a hand to it. The ball trickled invitingly for the oncoming Matt Simon at the opposite post but his follow-up strike could only hit the post. It was one of the very few moments where the Arsenal custodian actually had to do something but the same cannot be said of his Sydney FC counterpart.
Redmayne’s proper workout
Redmayne, second choice at the club last season, put in an outstanding display between the sticks. The 28-year-old keeper, who was the only player to play the full 90 minutes of the match, got a proper workout. Arsenal excelled in playing slick through balls and cutbacks in the first half but could not get past the stopper, who made a double save against Walcott and Francis Coquelin.
Nearing halftime, Joseph Willock, another Arsenal youngster, burst through the middle and unleashed a low strike only for Redmayne to charge and collect the ball again. Theo Walcott’s wayward strike ended the Gunners’ siege in the first half. Sydney FC, thoroughly dominated as they were, found themselves only a goal down at the break.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) July 13, 2017
To start the second half, Walcott struck a chance, sending it way over the bar this time. At the break, Cech went off for Emiliano Martinez, who was called to action early. He responded well, however, as he collected a Chris Zuvela grounder comfortably. The second half may not have been as smooth as it was during the first half, but plenty of chances still came, mostly from the Gunners.
Arsenal’s best chance to go two goals up came in rather controversial circumstances. The referee blew for a spot kick as he looked to have called a handball against Seb Ryall from a Walcott strike, though replays showed that the ball actually hit the defender’s back.
A few of the Sydney FC players tried to talk their way into Welbeck, about to take the penalty, to miss it, but the Arsenal forward seemed to give the impression he had none of it. His penalty kick was pedestrian, however, allowing Redmayne to make another crucial save and keep the score at 1-0.
Nelson initially fashioning chances
Nelson stayed wily in the second half for the Gunners. After initially fashioning chances for his teammates, towards the end of his 70-minute appearance he had a crack on goal himself. The chance was straight to the welcome arms of Redmayne again but the teenager definitely made a good account of himself in the game. Ozil, who recently stated his intention to stay at the club, remained Arsenal’s creative spark and again set up Walcott with a low cross only for the Sydney FC stopper to intervene again.
Arsenal played more directly by now. The Sky Blues have been as timid as they have been. However, as Sead Kolasinac missed a clearance, the hosts showed they could create problems for the visitors. Even if they didn’t create a clear-cut chance, they were able to occupy promising positions in and around the Arsenal box.
Great chance for Sydney FC to draw
This was an improvement on Sydney FC’s part and in the next sequence, they had their best opportunity to draw level yet. DR Congo’s Charles Lokolingoy found space at the edge of the box and sent a strike on goal. It took a deflection, taking the sting out of the shot, but Martinez still needed to be alert as the ball came on the bounce.
By this time, Wenger proceeded to replace all ten of his outfield players, including the much-anticipated introduction of Lacazette. The club’s most expensive signing ever did not disappoint in a 20-minute cameo. He often dropped deep to receive the ball and link up play with his teammates. Defensively, he also putt in a superb work-rate.
At 70 minutes in, Arsenal have been on top but having a one-goal advantage was certainly not enough. Alex Iwobi’s and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s efforts on goal could not get past Redmayne. Edward Nketiah managed to beat the Sydney FC keeper, but he could only hit the post. The Gunners’ finally got their second goal, however, from who else but Lacazette. Iwobi’s well-worked run down the right set him up to square the ball to an on-running Lacazette who sidefooted home.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) July 13, 2017
Arsenal finally heaved a sigh of relief from an ultimately comfortable win at the end. The Gunners continue their trip to Australia against the Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.