It really was the most Arsenal of days as the Gunners beat Manchester City 3-2 before losing centre back Gabriel to a nasty injury in their final friendly of the pre-season campaign.
It was great to see Arsene Wenger’s side outplay their big-spending opponents for long periods of the game, even if they were a little sloppy in front of goal.
But a hard-earned victory was utterly tainted as Gabriel reportedly suffered a broken leg late in the game, leaving Arsenal with a huge headache ahead of next week’s match against Liverpool.
The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, it seems, and the pressure will now be on Wenger to move swiftly in the transfer market to ensure he is not left with two inexperienced centre backs in Rob Holding and Callum Chambers for the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s men.
The opening half of the match, played in Sweden, really did have the awful stench of familiarity about it. Like the first burp when you wake up after a heavy night drinking sambucca and nail polish.
It would be unfair to say that Arsenal played poorly. Manchester City are a quality side, one which will be rightly expecting to challenge for the Premier League title, so it was pleasing to see that Arsenal were in their faces, harrying and pressing in the right areas.
The game plan was working well, tackles were being made, balls were being recovered, weak links were being exploited. The problem was, as ever, the lack of end product.
It’s a problem we have all moaned about and derided for season-after-season. It’s like a festering boil on the arse that simply will not shift, whichever way you sit on it.
The team created three excellent chances. Chances which, it is no exaggeration to say, should have ended with goals.
I’m not the sort of fan who expects a goal every time a player gets within 40 yards of the box. I’m a realist. But when I say the chances that fell to Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin should have ended in goals, I mean it.
It came therefore, as no surprise when City, with their first chance of any substance in the match, scored in painfully simple fashion. Aided and abetted by poor defending, Sergio Aguero was left with the simple task of finishing from eight yards after Raheem Sterling had whipped a very good ball in from wide on the right.
It was painful and worrying in equal measure. At the end of last season, everybody was crying out for a world class striker and a centre back of equal standing. Thus far, we have acquired neither, and the lack of both was brought into sharp focus.
After the break, Arsenal were again very solid, very organised, and genuinely played some attractive, one-touch football. They looked dangerous.
Alexis was unlucky to see his free-kick hit the bar before Alex Iwobi collected Theo Walcott’s cut back to slot past Joe Hart from the edge of the box.
The Gunners looked the more dangerous of the two sides and their hard work bore fruit midway through the half when Walcott collected Sanchez’s through ball to finish well past Hart.
Arsene Wenger’s men did superbly well to recover from being a goal down but it was never a position they should have found themselves in, whomever the opposition.
As a raft of changes were made by the two sides, the match lost a little of its flow, and chances inevitably came as both defences struggled to find their shape.
Arsenal netted a third goal through Chuba Akpom, who capitalised on a defensive error to finish from 12 yards.
But there was time enough for City to add another goal, Santi Cazorla finding himself caught in possession before the Arsenal defence was hopelessly exposed in the middle of the area for Ihenacho to head home.
To rub salt into the wound, Gabriel ruined his leg going in for a tackle late on. He was prone on the pitch for almost five minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher by the medical team.
It was so utterly and thoroughly Arsenal. Everything about the timing, the nature of the injury, it was everything that we have become so wearied by in recent years.
It’s going to create a huge selection headache for Arsene going into next week and doubles the already overwhelming need for reinforcements in defence.
That aside, it was a good workout and a decent enough win for Arsenal. It was an important stepping stone as we look to kick off the Premier League season next weekend.
But it did not serve to allay fears that many fans still harbour. This side needs a striker, a focal point in attack who convert some of the innumerate chances this Arsenal side is capable of making.
It also needs a defender of the highest calibre. As it stands, this defence is too prone to very basic errors and that puts enormous pressure on the attacking players, particularly when they are struggling to find a cutting edge. And, with injuries and absences mounting up, it means we could line-up against Liverpool with two players barely in their 20s.
What’s clear is that Arsene cannot afford to play silly buggers in the transfer window until the last week of August. He must act swiftly to fill the gaping holes in the squad or risk being left behind in the early stages of the title chase.
Watch this space.