By Richard Clarke
Arsenal have regained the Emirates Cup.
Captain Cesc Fabregas lifted the trophy thanks to a 3-0 win over Rangers on Sunday.
Going into the final game, the Scottish champions were the only side who could overtake Arsène Wenger’s team in the standings. However they were blown away by Jack Wilshere’s strike after two minutes and a trademark finish from Eduardo nine minutes later. The 17-year-old midfielder also volleyed home a killer third 18 minutes from time.
The brace capped a wonderful weekend for Wilshere. He was special on Saturday and sublime today – picking Man of the Match awards on each day. The Englishman could do little more to play himself into Wenger’s side for the opening Premier League game in a fortnight’s time.
That, of course, is when the real tests begin. But this was a solid weekend of preparation and it concluded with Arsenal bringing back their home trophy after a year-long sojourn in Hamburg.
As expected, Saturday’s bench was Sunday’s team. Eight substitutes from the side that had left it so late against Atletico Madrid began this afternoon. Only Emmanuel Eboue and William Gallas kept their places while Manuel Almunia was parachuted in as keeper.
Mikael Silvestre filled in at centre back and Wilshere was on the right of the forward three. Meanwhile Fabregas and Fran Merida formed a lookalike Spanish central midfield.
Atletico’s 1-1 draw with Paris St-Germain left Arsenal on top of the Emirates Cup table with five points, one ahead of Rangers. In effect, this was a play-off for the trophy but all the home side needed was a draw.
It took them less than two minutes to get their noses in front. Wilshere’s dummy gave Fabregas space on the right. His clipped ball into the area was touched back adroitly by Arshavin for the Englishman to bury the ball in the corner from 12 yards via the faltering fingertips of Rangers keeper Allan McGregor.
Arsenal were purring already. Eduardo nutmegged David Weir to go clear for a split-second before being muscled off the ball.
In the 11th minute the Croatian doubled the hosts’ advantage with a typical finish. Arshavin nodded the ball back into the path of Merida who sprayed the ball into the path of Eduardo in the right-hand channel. The 26-year-old is one of the Premier League’s coolest marksmen when his finger is on the trigger. He chose his moment perfectly and stroked the ball home off the base of the post.
Rangers were a little shell-shocked yet commendably stuck to the game. However it was telling that the biggest threat to Almunia’s goal in the first half-hour was when Silvestre miscued a Pedro Mendes cross into the sidenetting.
Merida tried his luck from distance as Arsenal looked to kill the game before half-time. The 19-year-old tried to repeat the feat eight minutes from the break but sliced his effort horribly wide.
In truth, those early goals had done the contest no favours. Arsenal were happy in their comfort zone and Rangers were not really able to penetrate.
Madjid Bougherra did see his shot blocked at the far post by Merida after DaMarcus Beasely had nodded on a corner from Mendes.
However in the dying seconds of the half, Wilshere’s expert chip had to be hurriedly tipped over by the stretching McGregor. It was reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp at his best. If the youngster continues to develop at this pace then that will become a regular comparison.
Both sides made multiple substitutions at the break but Rangers seemed to benefit to most changes.
Five minutes in, Nacho Novo sent over a low cross from the right and Steven Naismith’s touch spun off Almunia towards the far post where Alex Song had to make a thunderous block from the onrushing Steven Davis.
However a minute later, Wilshere’s quick feet conjured himself some space just inside the area but his curling shot flew wide.
Rangers had not given up the game. Just after the hour, Naismith sent Davis racing clear on the right. The Irishman repaid a pass back to the Scotsman but Almunia saved with his legs and Silvestre’s clearance was handled by Novo.
However Arsenal put the game to bed with 18 minutes left. Substitute Sanchez Watt won the ball on byline and Ramsey crossed for the fast-approaching Wilshere to prod a volley into the top corner.
Kenny Miller fired wide in the closing minutes as Rangers began to look a little ragged. In response, substitute Ramsey stung McGregor’s hands from distance.
It had been decent entertainment and even better work-out for Arsenal.
They had also gained a little silverware too.
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