Football is back! It’s the start of pre-season and the real thing is just a hop, skip and jump away. As is the norm these days, Chelsea are on a far-east tour to spread brand awareness and give the locals a chance to watch the Premier League Champions in the flesh. Arsenal were the opponents on a hot, humid night in Beijing which The Blues won 3-0, thanks to a goal from Willian and a brace from Michy Batshuayi.
Here are some of the talking points from the game:
- Antonio Conte opted to start with a slightly tweaked version of the 2016-17 Chelsea lineup, with Fabregas in place of Matic and Batshuayi spearheading the attack while Diego Costa enjoys the sun in Brazil. As expected, the players were well aware of their roles and even in pre-season, you could see it on the pitch. It remains to be seen who will make way for the new outfield signings when they join up with the group.
- Someone forgot to tell Arsenal’s goalkeeper, David Ospina, that it was just a friendly. Pedro was the recipient of Ospina’s ‘tackle’ which left him dazed, confused and probably concussed. Ospina got away with it, just like he did with the same ‘tackle’ on Oscar a while ago. Academy youngster Jeremie Boga replaced the Spaniard.
- Ah, Jeremie Boga. You might have seen photos of him holding off Azpilicueta in training or even embarrassing the boss. Today we got to see him play in a proper match against proper opponents and we liked what we saw. Boga was fast, clever and seemed to have no problems taking on players and leaving them in his wake. If Conte integrates him into the first team this season, it could be the start of something special.
- Willian scored a goal and was a menace throughout his time on the pitch. Batshuayi again showed that he could be a good option to lead the line or even partner the incoming Morata up front. All three goals were beautifully taken, giving the ‘keeper no chance.
- Wenger was unhappy with his team 2-0 down at half-time and his frustrations spilled out on the officials when they botched his substitutions, leading to bemused faces in the centre circle. Never a dull moment with Arsenal, even in pre-season.
- The referee tried to keep his cards in his pocket all night, despite some challenges crossing the line. Still, it wasn’t as bad as Elneny waving an imaginary card to pressurise the referee. It’s a pre-season friendly, man. Have some self-respect.
- Conte changed the entire starting lineup towards the end of the second half, with Loic Remy also making an appearance. His first act was getting caught offside, meaning all is well with the world.
- Some might feel the youngsters didn’t get enough time today, but let’s look at the bright side. With the game all but over at 3-0 up, the gaffer sent on the youth brigade and entrusted them with the responsibility of keeping a clean sheet under pressure. A young backline and midfield coped well with Arsenal’s attacks and even created a few opportunities of their own. The opportunities will come for the youth to stake their claim in pre-season; this is just the beginning.
All said and done, a big win over a Premier League rival is always welcome, more so when Arsenal have already played a couple more games than us and should be fitter by this point. There are tougher tests to come and pre-season results hardly matter, but it is a good start to preparations. Off to Singapore, then, with the new boys raring to go.