By Giuseppe Muro at Kingfield Stadium
Arsenal’s youngsters kicked off their pre-season programme in routine fashion with a straightforward 3-0 victory at Woking on Friday night.
In their first workout of the summer, an Arsenal XI ran out easy winners on a delightful July evening thanks to an own goal and strikes from Chuks Aneke and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
Woking defender Mark Ricketts diverted into his own net early on to put Arsenal on their way and Aneke made it two shortly before the interval. Last season’s talisman Emmanuel-Thomas added a third midway through the second half.
The side managed by Neil Banfield controlled the game virtually from start to finish and, although this outing was more about shaking off some summer cobwebs, a comfortable win is a good way to start as they slowly crank up the intensity of their preparations for the new campaign.
Optimistic locals at Kingfield Stadium harboured hopes of seeing a few senior stars but, with Arsene Wenger’s first team halfway across the world in Asia, Banfield took a youthful-looking squad to Surrey.
Emmanuel Frimpong is, as he described it, “representing the Club’s younger players” in the Far East and his void in the Arsenal engine room was filled by Oguzhan Ozyakup, fresh from signing an extended deal over the summer, and Conor Henderson.
A scattering of Gooners made the trip hoping to catch a glimpse of loanee stars from last season Benik Afobe, Kyle Bartley and Sanchez Watt. All three were named in the starting line-up.
Arsenal, sporting their new 125th anniversary home kit, took their time to settle and the opening exchanges were rather muted.
But that changed after 20 minutes when the hapless Ricketts diverted Emmanuel-Thomas’ corner into his own net to give the Premier League side the initiative.
That lead was doubled four minutes before the break when Afobe fed Aneke inside the area, who expertly spun his marker before firing low past Woking keeper Andy Little. Following the former’s loan at Huddersfield last term, the good friends with a seemingly telepathic understanding seemed delighted to renew their partnership.
It was a sign that Arsenal could pick up the pace at will.
That was pretty much that for a first period with a certain pre-season ‘feel’ about it.
Woking, who missed out in the Conference South Play-Offs last season, were full of endeavour but Arsenal were in control and untroubled.
As expected, it was all-change at half-time with five substitutions for Arsenal and two for the hosts.
Samuel Galindo, who spent last season on loan in the Spanish Second Division, was introduced in central midfield and the substitute instantly stamped his authority with neat, incisive passes.
Indeed, the Bolivian’s quick break had Arsenal queuing up to make it three after 55 minutes. Somehow Luke Freeman, Aneke and Emmanuel-Thomas failed to convert.
But Emmanuel-Thomas was not to be denied on 67 minutes when he raced onto Rhys Murphy’s defence-splitting ball before nonchalantly slotting past Little to put Arsenal out of sight.
The pace eased off - hardly surprising given the time of year - towards the end though Murphy and Freeman might have got in on the act late on.
A successful start to the summer for Arsenal’s younger players then, and they continue their pre-season agenda on the south coast against Hastings United on Tuesday.
Referee: G Horwood
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