Arsenal did well in pretty much all phases of the game Saturday, and beat Manchester City in the final friendly of the season in Helsinki. They looked good in possession and defensively, though not quite imperious, so at least there's something to work on between now and the Premier League opener against Aston Villa next week.
The match started well, with Arsenal opening up the scoring with less than ten minutes gone. Arsenal were building play around the City box, and Aaron Ramsey played a diagonal through ball to Theo Walcott, cutting in from his rightful place on the right wing. Theo did what he often does with things like that, and handled the pass well before chipping it over and past Joe Hart. 1-0, and we're off and running.
Throughout the first half especially but throughout the match, Arsenal did well coming down the right flank, which frankly shouldn't shock anyone because Gael Clichy was playing on City's left. Walcott was prolific, as the midfield was searching for him, they were finding him, and he was doing things with the ball.
In the 17th minute Wojciech Szczesny did a thing. There was a long ball played forward and he came out near the top of the box to try to punch it away. He lost out and the ball was headed toward the goal, which was, of course, open. Luckily Laurent Koscielny tends to be less reckless than most, and was there to clear it off the line. Koscielny was good all game, and looks like he's used this preseason to get himself ensconced in Legend Mode. It's a good sign for the early Premier League season.
At the half Arsenal led 1-0 and was pretty well in control of the game, but as we all know, that can change quickly. Thankfully not a lot did change in the second half - Arsenal were less fluid, and Manchester City continued to create chances, but Arsenal still looked the better team even after a few changes - Cazorla, Giroud, and Fabianski for Wilshere, Podolski, and Szczesny - and City failed to finish for defense, and for luck.
After an hour, Arsenal were in again. Ramsey and Walcott played a one-two that resulted in Ramsey being released on goal. Giroud was also clear, but in a moment of clarity, he knew he was offside (which he definitely was) and froze, and Ramsey also saw it and broke through. He threw off the shackles of the "Ramsey can't finish" narrative, rounded Hart, and coolly put the ball in the old onion sack. Ramsey was really good, probably the best player on the park, and it's starting to look like he's going to take further steps past where he was last year. That was a pretty good year for him, so this could be exciting if it holds.
And seemingly immediately Arsenal had another, and again Theo Walcott was the provider. He played about a 50-yard long ball forward to Olivier Giroud, and Vincent Kompany misplayed the situation slightly which allowed Giroud to get through. Giroud lobbed poor Joe Hart, and it was 3-0 Arsenal.
Alvaro Negredo scored a late goal to console City's fans, but really 3-0 would have been a more accurate scoreline. Arsenal were good, and the game was so well in hand that against last season's Premier League runners-up, at the end we had 18-year-old youth player Issac Hayden, 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem, and 20-year-old trialist Sebastian Perez on the field. And we won.
It's a preseason game, so like with the draw against Napoli and the loss against Galatasaray, there's not too much to be put into it. It doesn't mean we're going to win the league any more than losing the Emirates Cup meant we're going to be mid-table. But there were good things here. The offense was fluid, with clear synergy between players who knew where they were supposed to be and where their teammates would be. This is what it looks like when you have the means to keep a skilled young core together. It won't look like this every week, but it's a really good sign.
So now we have a week to wait, and then Aston Villa. Hopefully between now and then there will be pictures of at least one guy we don't know very well holding an Arsenal shirt next to Arsene Wenger, or something.