New York Red Bulls v Arsenal: Things Arsene Wenger Learned from Preseason Tour
The result really does not matter, however, and Arsene Wenger will be satisfied with his players gaining fitness and avoiding injuries ahead of the new campaign, which is just a few weeks away. He also got a good look at many young fringe players who are fighting for a mere place in the manager's memory.
As Arsenal conclude their brief North American tour and jet back to Europe for their traditional Alpine training camp before the Emirates Cup, let's look back at several things Wenger learned from the experience.
Arsenal Are Not Spain
He should have double-checked FIFA's regulations, because Arsenal were woeful without a man up top.
Spain got away with not playing a striker during the 2012 European Championship, but this Arsenal side of unfit first-teamers and youngsters simply could not break down a resolute and dogged Red Bulls side without a central focal point.
There's no problem with experimenting when the games don't count, but Wenger should learn his lesson now.
Jack Wilshere Is Here to Fight
Bleacher Report's James McNicholas recently wrote for ESPN FC that Jack Wilshere is one of the Arsenal players who is under the most pressure to impress Wenger ahead of a crucial season for him. Right he is: Wilshere underwhelmed last year and has not yet made good on his immense talent.
But he was undeniably Arsenal's best player against the Red Bulls, pushing forward by himself and distributing the ball when the entire rest of the team was staid and could not find a way through the MLS side's defense.
Wilshere is at his best when he combines unusual dribbling ability with the ability to pick a pass, and he showed—even more than Aaron Ramsey—that he is capable of doing that again.
Abou Diaby Can Be Like a New Signing
Wilshere was probably Arsenal's best outlet, but Diaby took over the game when he was brought on at halftime. We saw several flashes of the vintage Diaby that everyone loves: easily holding off opponents and finding just the right pass.
While he did not play any killer through balls against the Red Bulls, he succeeded in his box-to-box role by holding the ball up with expert physicality and precision against a midfield that was constantly pressing and harrying Arsenal.
Diaby was obviously the pivot, distributor and attacking midfielder wrapped into one—and he can be all of those on his best day. While the opposition was not elite and the younger players around him looked to him for support, any of these types of performances from Diaby are hugely encouraging.
Arsenal Waited Far Too Long to Come to America
I understand that there are billions of people in Asia. And perhaps I am biased, as an American Gooner. But the atmosphere in and around Red Bull Arena before and during the game was incredible and unique.
Never had so many Arsenal fans gathered in one place in America before. The entire stadium was painted red (with a smattering of yellow), and fans passionately sang famous Arsenal chants throughout the day. We were reminded what everyone thinks of Tottenham, cried "Ooh to be a Gooner" and "We love you Arsenal"—even with British accents!
(The accents, I discovered, are natural. It just seems sacrilege to adore Arsenal in any other way.)
There were Gooners from Florida and California. Arsenal are a truly enormous deal in the United States now, and it would not surprise me in the slightest if they return soon for another tour—one likely longer than a single game.