Valencia 2 Arsenal 0 (Highlights + Hodgson Interviews)

Arsenal finished their preseason campaign with disheartening 2-nil defeat at the Estadio Mestalla in Valencia last night. Valencia came out the stronger side in the pouring rain but as the weather improved slightly so did Arsenal. The first half finished scoreless. Almost wholesale changes to the lineup saw Arsenal start the second half much better. But Valencia took the lead in the 75th minute when Michel fired home a rebound inside the box past Lukasz Fabianksi, who had previously saved a dubiously awarded penalty from David Villa. Arsenal’s central defense of Djourou and Silvestre was caught numerous times with runs between them and David Villa finished the match off in the 90th minute taking advantage of this persistent Arsenal weakness.

It really must make one wonder why Arsene would schedule a trip to Spain only a week before the opening match at Everton. Following a grueling two-a-day training schedule, a trip to Austria, Hungary, and Germany, and two matches in two days the previous weekend, wouldn’t the players have been served better by a match against a lesser opponent closer to home?

Arsene Wenger What will Arsene take from this match? It is hard to say. He should be able to see that another central defender is absolutely necessary especially considering that Senderos’s absence from the team indicated his move to Everton may be imminent. Wenger must know, as we all do, that Silvestre is no centre back and to consider him one of your first four center backs is sheer lunacy. He makes our already glaring weakness even weaker. Chelsea’s sole tactical goal in last year’s FA Cup semifinal was to attack and expose Silvestre’s lack of pace by pumping balls over the top for Drogba to run on to. The only surprise was that it took him so long to finally exploit Silvestre in that match.

It seems to me that Hangeland is the ideal solution to our defensive deficiencies. He’s tall and strong in the air and no one is saying that he has to step in as one of the first two choices. However, he would give us options at the back and would give us that bit of force in the air that we have lacked against bigger and stronger teams with the Gallas-Toure partnership over the last few years. Obviously, Roy Hodgson desperately wants to hold on to Hangeland but he seems to be becoming increasingly resigned to the fact that his hand may be forced on the issue. Here is what he has had to say over the last week:

5 August:

7 August: