By Richard Clarke in Hannover
Having said ‘auf wiedersehen’ to Austria, Arsenal made a stopover in Hannover on the way home and picked up another welcome pre-season win.
Wednesday’s 1-0 victory at the Bundesliga side came courtesy of a gorgeous goal from Cesc Fabregas in the ninth minute.
This was the toughest and closest game of Arsenal’s early campaign in season 2009/10 but Arsène Wenger’s side were always in control.
They got the early goal and then seemed happy to play neat, tidy but slightly constrained football. It was more than enough on the night.
Still, the win capped off a busy and productive training camp near Graz. The squad now fly back to England and their immediate target is to try and regain the Emirates Cup this weekend.
The news before kick-off was not about Wenger’s team selection but the much-anticipated transfer of Kolo Toure to Manchester City.
The Ivorian’s departure leaves William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen as the most likely first-choice centre back pairing. Therefore perhaps it was indicative that these two started tonight’s game in tandem.
Interestingly, Wenger – who, for some reason, was given an armchair to watch the game from at pitchside - began with a 4-3-3 formation. Fabregas, Denilson and Alex Song were strung across the midfield. Robin van Persie was the central point of a wide front three with Andrey Arshavin left and Nicklas Bendtner right.
Hannover’s impressive AMD Arena was just under two-thirds full on a sweltering night in northern Germany. The Reds had been a mid-table Bundesliga side since winning promotion to the top flight six years ago.
Supposedly there was a little more optimism around this season and, given that Dieter Hecking’s side kick-off their campaign at Hertha Berlin next Saturday, you would have expected them to be a little sharper than Arsenal this evening. However that was not the case early on.
Hannover had the first real chance in the seventh minute when Jan Rosenthal reached the byline and cut the ball back to Nelson Cuevas just outside the area. The Paraguayan’s first-time effort sailed horribly high over the bar.
Arsenal would reply in exquisite fashion a couple of minutes later. Van Persie spotted Fabregas darting into the area and found him with the most perceptive of reverse passes. Once the Spaniard had nudged the ball away from the onrushing keeper all he had to do was gather himself and tuck a shot inside the near post.
Arshavin should have doubled the advantage shortly afterwards but his angled shot was beaten away by keeper Robert Enke. Hannover threatened from set-pieces after that but would muster nothing of consequence for the remainder of the half.
Armand Traore made way for Mikael Silvestre in the 33rd minute. The younger Frenchman had presumably picked up a knock but nothing was obvious.
In truth this was becoming pretty listless pre-season fare. Arsenal were the superior technical side but seemed happy playing in third gear. They upped the rev count shortly before the interval and were nearly rewarded with a second goal.
In the 43rd minute, Van Persie’s drive was blocked by the sliding Cuevas at the near post. Bendtner met the resultant corner with a firm header but Jacek Krzynowek booted the ball off the line. The clearance was fed back to Van Persie on the right however his low cross was diverted wide by Enke.
Hannover nearly got back on level terms in the opening seconds. Rosenthal whipped in a cross from the right and Ramsey’s clearing header flew a few feet wide of his own goal.
Just past the hour, Mike Henke broke clear for a second before being caught and smothered by a swathe of white shirts. Vermaelen took his tackling a little too far and gave away a free-kick 30 yards out. Sergio Pinto sent it just wide.
Eduardo replaced Van Persie midway through the second half. It was a surprise given that the Croatian had not been named on the pre-match team-sheet.
Szczesny was tested a couple of times after that. Firstly he batted aside a long-range drive then he held Pinto’s cross at the second attempt.
However Hannover's direct approach was effectively neutralised by the Arsenal back four.
This was a straight-forward performance and straight-forward win.
Now Arsenal are heading back to Emirates Stadium.
- Mannone 46
- Traore 34
- Gallas 46
- Fabregas (C) 46 Goal!
- Bendtner 46 Yellow Card
- Persie 69 Yellow Card
- Sagna 46 Yellow Card
- Silvestre 34
- Djourou 46
- Szczesny 46
- Ramsey 46
- Eduardo 69
- Enke (C)
- Cherundolo 74
- Balitsch Yellow Card
- Krzynowek 62
- Cuevas 46
- Haggui Yellow Card
- Stajner 46
- Schmiedebach 62 62
- Tarnat 74
- Forssel 62