Arsenal: Preseason legends
Last season, calls for Arsene Wenger’s job reached new heights. Though he did win the FA Cup again, that couldn’t overshadow the fact that Arsenal finished fifth and outside of Champions League qualification for the first time in 21 years. Still, Wenger was given a two-year contract extension at the end of May and it was clear that he would have to justify what seemed to be nothing more than a gift of sentimentality and a fear of the unknown.
Certainly no one predicted that Wenger would immediately achieve history.
First, Arsenal beat Bayern Munich—the club that embarrassed them with an aggregate score of 10-2 in the Champions League round of 16 last season—on penalties to win the Audi Football Summit at the International Champions Cup in China, which is exactly like the Champions League, but during the preseason and only required Arsenal to play one match.
Ten days later, Arsenal faced a stiffer test in the Emirates Cup—the most prestigious of the summer corporate nonsense tournaments—where they were required to play two matches. Thy thumped mighty Benfica 5-2, then narrowly lost to Sevilla 2-1. Sevilla won both of their matches, but Arsenal still took the trophy because of Wenger’s superior strategizing within the competition’s unique points system.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) July 30, 2017
Finally, Arsenal would face Chelsea in the Community Shield—a rematch of last season’s FA Cup final. When Victor Moses gave Chelsea a 1-0 lead just after halftime, it looked like Arsenal would have to settle for a proud preseason double. But the referee had other ideas. In the 85th minute, Pedro, wearing a mask after Arsenal keeper David Ospina punched him in the face to fracture it in several places, was shown a straight red card for a tackle from behind on Mohamed Elneny. Sead Kolasnic then equalized to send the match to penalties. The new ABBA confused Chelsea to the point where they had goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois take their second, which he mistook for a goal kick. New signing Alvaro Morata then missed his, as well. Arsenal made all four of theirs to complete the preseason treble.
When presented with their first trophy of the new campaign, goalkeeper Petr Cech told his teammates, “This is not the trophy we lift. Let’s lift the big one at the end of the season. Not this one.” So he didn’t lift it.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) July 20, 2017
At the time, it was assumed he was referring to the Premier League trophy. But now it’s clear that he was actually talking about the big one at the end of the preseason. The Community Shield.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 6, 2017
— Petr Cech (@PetrCech) August 6, 2017
With the preseason treble now secured, anything that happens from here on out is a bonus for Arsenal. Wenger has fully justified his contract extension and should probably be given another extension, for as long as he likes, in the coming days. Alexis Sanchez can now leave the club having achieved everything he could have ever dreamed of and supporters can spend the coming months flying celebratory plane banners over the Emirates as suddenly irrelevant Premier League matches are played. Yes, for Arsenal it simply cannot get better than this.