By Nik Brumsack at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal have won the Emirates Cup - and in some style.
Having put themselves into a commanding position with a swashbuckling victory over Lyon on Saturday afternoon, Arsène Wenger’s side produced a largely-polished performance against Wolfsburg to win the trophy for the first time since 2010.
Theo Walcott scored the decisive goal just after half-time, latching onto Jeff Reine-Adelaide’s pass and finishing clinically to secure a victory against high-class opposition who competed fiercely from the first minute until the last.
The manner of Arsenal’s performances over the course of the weekend give real cause for optimism. Just as in Singapore, Wenger's team have played with fluency, cohesion and vigour. With a week until the Community Shield and a fortnight until the big kick-off here against West Ham, Wenger’s men appear sharp, fit and raring to go.
Bring on the new season.
SETTING THE SCENE
With this Arsenal’s second match in the space of 24 hours, there was no surprise at all to see Wenger ring the changes.
Only Mesut Ozil remained from the team that had won so convincingly a day before, with Gabriel, Jack Wilshere and and Walcott among those recalled to the team. Elsewhere, Reine-Adelaide started an Arsenal match for the first time following his impressive cameo against Lyon.
There was a home debut for Petr Cech too, with the goalkeeper given a loud cheer when his name was read out.
The new goalkeeper was not alone in receiving a rapturous reception. The 59,815 Emirates crowd also gave a generous welcome to Nicklas Bendtner, who made 171 appearances and scored 47 times during the decade he spent as a Gunner.
Following Villareal’s 2-0 win over Lyon earlier on Sunday, Arsenal knew that a draw would be enough to lift the trophy.
Just as a day earlier, Arsenal fans packed into Emirates Stadium to get another look at a side enjoying a highly-convincing start to pre-season.
In the lead-up to this match, Wenger had praised Wolfsburg’s impressive 2014/15 season and the visitors started the better here. They created the first real chance too.
Andre Schurrle worked a yard of space on the right and sent over a fine, curling cross towards Bendtner. The ex-Arsenal striker found space between Calum Chambers and Gabriel but could not make substantial contact with the ball.
Wolfsburg continued to threaten and it took a brave Nacho Monreal block to divert Christian Trasch’s goal-bound shot off target after a cleverly-worked corner had created the opportunity.
As they had 24 hours before, Arsenal improved as the half wore on. They could have taken the lead after 21 minutes, when Walcott’s shot was well kept out by Diego Benaglio following fine Ozil-inspired build-up play.
The Arsenal duo linked up again shortly after but Walcott was denied once more, this time by a Timm Klose block.
In an open end to the first period, Bendtner and Klose went close for the visitors before Arsenal created the clearest opportunity of the half. Ozil - again influential after his man-of-the-match display against Lyon - was heavily involved, playing a one-two with Monreal before directing his shot inches wide of the target.
Wenger had proclaimed Reine-Adelaide to be “something special” after the Lyon victory. Within five minutes of the restart, the teenager demonstrated why.
There looked to be little danger when he received the ball just inside the Wolfsburg half. Under pressure in midfield, Reine-Adelaide managed to create a yard of space before advancing towards goal. Spotting Walcott’s run through the middle, the 17-year-old slipped a perfect pass into the England international, who waited for Benaglio to advance before slipping the ball into the far corner.
The same combination almost brought a second goal in similar fashion, though this time the Wolfsburg goalkeeper reached the ball before Walcott could.
Wolfsburg, hardworking and energetic throughout, could have drawn level just after the hour when a loose ball fell at the feet of Joshua Guilavogui. The midfielder’s 20-yard effort was hit powerfully but Cech sprung to his right to beat the ball away.
Back came Arsenal. Wenger had provided fresh impetus on the hour, introducing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey. Soon after, the former embarked on a lung-bursting run before finding his fellow substitute, who chipped just off target.
Chuba Akpom, also introduced from the bench, was next to threaten, bringing a decent low save from Benaglio, before the goalkeeper kept out Isaac Hayden’s curling strike.
With both managers continuing to make substitutes, the game petered out somewhat in the closing stages. Bendtner was given a loud cheer upon leaving the pitch with 10 minutes to play, and the Arsenal fans again rose to their feet at full-time to sound their appreciation at a fine weekend of football that promises much ahead of the new season.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.