ARSENE Wenger said he was surprised by Sydney FC’s intelligence and defending in their clash with Arsenal.
The Gunners dominated the Sky Blues in front of over 80,000 fans at ANZ Stadium, but only managed to score two goals.
Captain Per Mertesacker opened the scoring within four minutes, before substitute and Arsenal record signing Alexandre Lacazette doubled the lead.
Arsenal had numerous golden chances to kill off the game completely, which included a controversially awarded spot-kick that was taken by Danny Welbeck and saved by Andrew Redmayne.
After the match the Arsenal manager said he was impressed by Sydney’s ability to hang on.
“They didn’t die physically and the quality of their organisation,” said Wenger in the post-match press conference.
“Overall, I think, they played in an intelligent way for the whole game.
“You could see that we had the physical superiority in the pace, power and for them not to pay a heavy price for that; they were intelligent.”
Alexandre Lacazette made his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt after his club record move from Lyon. Despite not starting the match, the striker didn’t disappoint after getting his name on the scoresheet following a blistering run and assist from Alex Iwobi.
“It’s important he gets that off his shoulders because you’re expected to score as a striker,” said Wenger.
“But what we look for is basically to play at a good pace... and for long periods in the game that was quite good for us and a game with a tough opposition and they did fight for every ball.”
Lacazette may have stolen the spotlight, but Sydney goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne put in one of the performances of his life.
Redmayne, who once trialled for Arsenal, pulled off save after save to keep the game to just two goals. Wenger didn’t know he had once trialled with the Gunners, but was upset they had let him go.
Redmayne was forced to save a Danny Welbeck penalty to keep the score at 1-0, but Wenger said the spot-kick shouldn’t been awarded.
Welbeck was played through on goal, but crossed to an open teammate, whose shot hit Seb Ryall’s back. However, the referee thought it hit the Sky Blues’ hand, and awarded a penalty. Wenger said it was another reason to introduce video refereeing.
“We should’ve given them the ball back,” said Wenger. “It’s always difficult to know how to behave, but I think we should’ve just thrown the ball back.
“I don’t know if Danny Welbeck saw it on video, but it was obvious it was no penalty.
“I think Per [Mertesacker] went to tell him to give the ball back, but I don’t know what happened.”
Lacazette was the Gooner everyone wanted to see, but two unknown starlets - Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson - made massive impressions.
“First half with Nelson and Joe Willock, I think they put in a very strong performance,” said Wenger.
He added: “You have something at 18 years of age, or you haven’t got it.
“Some of the players I had in my career, they turn on at 18 years of age, they move on the pitch and its natural.
“They have no doubt, they have just, ‘let’s play’. He behaves like that.”
“When you look at the results of the youth teams over the summer and the players you saw tonight, the future is much more positive than people expected in England,” said Wenger.
Wenger said: “Pre-season is there for that. For me to understand how close they are. It’s the first game, it’s a bit early, but what they showed tonight is that they have the chance to be very, very close.”
“Thank you to the crowd for 80,000 people turning up to a game like that,” said Wenger. “We are very, very thankful and of course it shows how incredible sport is in Australia and how incredible the support we have here is.
“We haven’t come here for 40 years so at least…. we saw what kind of support we have in Australia.”