Arsenal concluded their pre-season preparations with a largely positive performance and a 3-1 victory over Premier League rivals Manchester City in Finland this afternoon, with manager Arsene Wenger also providing two young players with their first outings for the senior side.
Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and substitute Olivier Giroud scored the goals for Arsenal, and, although City capitalised on some disappointing defending to pull a goal back late on through Alvaro Negredo, Arsenal will be largely satisfied with their work out, even if the need for new signings remains as pressing as ever.
With the start of the Premier League season just seven days away, Wenger’s line-up had a senior feel to it, with only three non-first-team players included in the match-day squad. Gedion Zelalem was named on the bench again, and it is a testament to his ability that he has remained with the first-team throughout the entirety of pre-season, whilst Colombian trialist Sebastian Perez and young professional Isaac Hayden were also amongst the substitutes.
All three players received run-outs in the second-half, and, although Hayden only featured for the final two minutes, the versatile youngster will be pleased to know that he is highly regarded by the manager. Just a week ago Hayden was featuring as an unorthodox playmaker as the U21s lost 7-0 to Luton.
Perez, meanwhile, came on for the final 20 minutes after replacing Mikel Arteta. The 20 year old, who currently plays for Atletico Nacional in his homeland, slotted into the defensive-midfield position and was comfortable in possession, although he did receive a yellow card for a late challenge. It remains to be seen whether he will sign on a permanent basis, but his inclusion in the squad was at least an indication that he has impressed in training this week.
Zelalem did not receive much of the ball, but will still have learnt much from featuring, albeit for just 20 minutes, against one of the Premier League’s strongest sides. Damian Martinez, Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpom, however, were all left at home, with Akpom featuring and scoring as Arsenal U18s drew 2-2 with Tottenham Hotspur and won 2-0 against Chelsea in a pre-season tournament.
Back in Finland, despite the fact that City had the majority of possession in the first half it was Arsenal who took the lead with 10 minutes on the clock when Ramsey, continuing his impressive pre-season form, found Walcott, who finished calmly past Joe Hart to open the scoring.
City continued to see more of the ball thereafter, with both James Milner and Negredo coming close, but Arsenal rattled the post through a rare effort from Bacary Sagna and eventually extended their lead after the break when Walcott returned the favour for Ramsey by finding the Welshman, who made no mistake in making it 2-0.
The contest was settled not long afterwards when Giroud looped the ball into the back of the net, and Walcott was heavily involved again, with the winger playing a superb ball into the path of the former Montpellier man.
Negredo pounced to reduce the deficit late on after slotting the ball past substitute goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, but Arsenal had already done more than enough to secure victory in their final pre-season fixture.