By Richard Clarke at the RheinEnergieStadion
Lukas Podolski bagged a brace against his old side as Arsenal completed their pre-season schedule with a comfortable 4-0 win at Cologne on Sunday.
The German striker struck his side’s second and third goals in a dominant first half in which all the new signings made impressive debuts. Santi Cazorla looked an elegent, intelligent addition to the midfield and his corner allowed Thomas Vermaelen to head home the opener after just five minutes.
Olivier Giroud also caught the eye and was denied on a number of occasions by Cologne keeper Timo Horn.
After the break, a much-changed Arsenal side could not match the intensity of the first 45 minutes. But Gervinho did squeeze home a fourth goal on the hour.
This was a heartening performance for Arsène Wenger, whose side were fluent, incisive and composed in equal measure.
And the impressive adaption of those new three newcomers can only bode well for the campaign to come.
Roll on, next Saturday.
This fixture was not only the end of the pre-season fixtures, it was the culmination of a week-long training camp in Germany. While Asia had been about fans, this trip was about football. Two intense sessions per day plus a little team bonding - the foundations of the coming campaign were being set.
Wenger had brought his side over to Cologne for a similar friendly 12 months ago but, in that time, much has changed for the home team. They have been relegated from Germany’s top flight and lost the services Podolski, their talisman and leading scorer.
They were two games into their Division Two season - picking up a draw and a defeat - but a healthy crowd of 32,500 came out for the return of ‘Prince Poldi’. And a high proportion of those supporters still proudly displayed shirts bearing the name of the German frontman. It seems he has left on good terms.
Cologne manager Holger Stanislawski left some of his normal starters on the bench at the start. Wenger began with his three new signings and all of them impressed.
Arsenal were ahead before either side had settled. Francis Coquelin sent Giroud through down the left-hand channel and the Frenchman’s snap shot was pushed around the near post by Timo Horn.
Cazorla fired over the corner, Per Mertesacker nodded on and Vermaelen ghosted past Lukas Kubler to power home a header from close range.
In the 13th minute Walcott sent a chip to the far post, Giroud nodded it down invitingly for Cazorla to volley but the Spaniard’s first-time effort was blocked.
The respite for the hosts would be short. The corner went beyond the far post to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who hurdled a tackle from Daniel Royer but was felled by a second from Kevin Wimmer. Podolski took the penalty but did not celebrate its conversion.
The scoreline was lop-sided but the game was still bright and open. Kacper Przybylko weaved his way through a clutch of defenders on the edge of the area before firing wide. Midway through the first half, Oxlade-Chamberlain thundered down the right and clipped the ball back for Giroud, whose shot was saved by Horn.
A couple minutes later Carzola fed the Frenchman once more. The keeper made a flying save to prevent a third.
Horn and Giroud went on having their own personal battle. This time the keeper tipped over a powerful header from close range.
However, as half-time approached, Cologne nearly had some success of their own. Wimmer set up Royer, whose drive was fumbled on to the bar by Mannone. Then Przybylko bulldozered through and fired wide.
But Arsenal would finish the half as they started it - by scoring. From midfield, Podolski sent Gibbs scurrying down the left. The German then chased forward and was on hand with a ruthless finish when the defender cut the ball back from the byline.
Podolski was the only Arsenal player not subbed at the break and he nearly grabbed his hat-trick shortly after the restart when Gervinho gave him a glimpse of goal.
Cologne had made changes themselves at the break and one of the them, Matthias Lehmann, thundered a shot off the underside of the bar from long range just before the hour.
However, even the faintest possibility of a Cologne comeback was extinguished shortly afterwards when Gervinho found space down the left and beat two defenders before sneaking home a low shot at the near post.
Podolski was substituted in the 69th minute. He drew a rapturous reception from all four corners of the crowd and the Cologne fans sang his name for the five minutes that followed his departure. Robin van Persie was the replacement
The game was now petering out but, at the death, Gervinho and Przybylko had chances to add to the scoreline.
However Arsenal had done their work and done it well.
Pre-season is over and the new campaign is just around the corner.
- Mannone 46
- Mertesacker 46
- Yennaris 46
- Vermaelen (C) 46 Goal!
- Gibbs 46
- Oxlade-Chamberlain 46
- Cazorla 46
- Coquelin 46
- Podolski 69 Goal! Goal!
- Giroud 46
- Walcott 46
- Diaby 46
- Gervinho 46 Goal!
- Santos 46
- Arshavin 46
- Koscielny 46
- Chamakh 69
- Song 46
- Szczesny 46
- Jenkinson 46
- Persie 69
- Gnabry 69 46
- Djourou 46
- Pezzoni (C)
- Royer 46
- Schnellhardt 61
- Bisanovic 61
- Lehmann 46