3 down, 1 to go. Arsenal headed to Norway looking to further increase both fitness and confidence levels, with a 8-0 thrashing likely to have done no harm to this quest. Arsenal started the game with a team consisting of Ospina; Debuchy, Bielik, Gabriel, Gibbs; Coquelin, Elneny; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Campbell; Walcott.
Arsenal got off to a typically Arsenal start, intricate football in and around the opposition penalty area, however this time with speed and penetration. A deft flick from Oxlade-Chamberlain played in Debuchy who consequently was brought down in the box. Up stepped captain of the day, Santi Cazorla, who had his penalty expertly saved by Austbo, who was a thorn in Arsenal’s side for much of the first half, producing numerous saves to agitate the Arsenal forward line.
However, Arsenal did in fact in fact break down the Viking FK rearguard, that said, the defending from the Norwegian outfit was sub par to say the least. A Cazorla corner was headed on by a free Mohamed ElNeny, who found Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican had an easy tap in. In a season that could be decisive for his career, Campbell has done no harm to his Arsenal chances this pre-season.
A worry for Arsenal will be Theo Walcott’s inability to find form. The Englishman looks completely deprived of confidence, slowing down Arsenal attacks and struggling to make his make upon the game. A notable example of this being on the 42nd minute when the away team looked to counter, which would have been utilising the 27 year old best asset, yet the Arsenal number 14 proceeded to poorly control the pass into him, followed by what can only be described as meagre, leaving Arsenal’s player of pre-season Oxlade-Chamberlain rightly fuming.
The second half Arsenal turned on the style, with the substitutions (Jeff, Holding and Iwobi) playing a part in the guile and trickery that possessed the Gunners (who sported their fashionable away shirt) in the second 45 minutes at the Viking Stadion. A reinvigorated Walcott walked onto the pitch, first assisting a Santi Cazorla screamer on the 49th minute, before himself getting on the score sheet with a classy outside of the boot finish.
Viking FK at 3-0 down, 7 minutes into the second half, had the wind taken out of their sails, and the Gunners ran riot. Santi Cazorla staked his claim to start next to Granit Xhaka once the season commences, and it was the Spaniard who executed a pin perfect pass into Campbell, who played it across the face of goal, for a Viking FK defender to convert into his own net. 4 minutes later the Costa Rican went from architect to converter, emphatically finishing Jeff Reine-Adelaide’s back-hell with a rocket off the underside of the crossbar.
Another sea of changes occurred on the 69th minute, with Bellerin, Monreal, Akpom, Willock and Zelalem replacing Debuchy, Gibbs, Theo, Campbell and ElNeny. Nigerian international Alex Iwobi made an immediate impact in just a minute of his introduction, converting a perfectly weighted from Santi Cazorla (again). It was Iwobi again who got himself in on the action, this time drilling an effort against the inside of the post from a Reine-Adelaide pass. Chuba Akpom, having scored in his previous two appearances, wasn’t going to be subdued, showing great movement to follow up Hector Bellerin’s 25 yard strike.
With the opening day of the season less than 9 days away, a slaughtering of Viking is unlikely to be an accurate portrayal of what’s to come, however, signs are positive. With a couple of additions, this may well be Arsenal’s year.
Player Ratings: Ospina (5), Debuchy (6), Bielik (6), Gabriel (5), Gibbs (6), Coquelin (5.5), ElNeny (6.5), Chamberlain (6), Cazorla (8.5), Campbell (7),Walcott (6),
Subs: Holding (6), Reine-Adelaide (7), Iwobi (8), Bellerin (6), Monreal (6), Willock (5.5), Chuba (6.5), Zelalem (6.5)