Theo Walcott boosted his confidence by scoring the decisive goal for Arsenal in a 3-2 victory over Manchester City on Sunday in their final preseason warmup ahead of the new season.
Walcott made a perfect run into the box to meet Alexis Sanchez’s pass and chipped a delicate finish over the onrushing Joe Hart to make it 2-1 in the 73rd minute as the Gunners came from a goal down in the second half.
Substitute Chuba Akpom then made sure of the Gunners’ fourth straight preseason win in the 85th minute before Kelechi Iheanacho pulled one back for City.
Petr Cech still had to preserve the win by diving low to keep out Yaya Toure’s shot in the final minutes and Jesus Navas wasted another chance for an equaliser by shooting high.
However, it may have been a costly win for Arsenal as centre-back Gabriel Paulista injured his ankle in the final minutes and was clearly in severe pain, clutching his face and staying on the ground for several minutes before being carried off.
Arsenal are already facing a shortage of centre-backs with Per Mertesacker out injured, and Laurent Koscielny set to miss the start of the season.
For Walcott, though, it was a much needed goal, with Arsene Wenger having said on Saturday that the forward’s confidence took a hit after his struggles last season.
Sergio Aguero had given Man City the lead in the first half before Alex Iwobi continued his scoring streak by levelling in the 53rd.
It was only City’s third game of the preseason and Pep Guardiola’s men lacked sharpness in attack on a slippery pitch at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium. Toure also had a great chance to equalise in the 78th but skied his shot over the bar.
But Aguero showed his scoring touch when he got away from the Arsenal defence to convert Raheem Sterling’s cross with a close-range finish past Cech.
Arsenal had created the better chances before Aguero’s goal, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey all spurning good opportunities as the Gunners’ struggles in front of goal returned after the 8-0 rout of Norwegian club Viking on Friday.
Iwobi, who scored a brace against Viking, finally scored when he received the ball near the edge of the area and beat Hart with a low shot inside his far post.
Sanchez started up front with Ramsey in the No. 10 role but both looked understandably rusty in their first preseason game after only joining training on Thursday. However, Sanchez rattled Hart’s crossbar with a free kick in the second half and played a perfect pass for Walcott’s winner before being taken off in the 78th. Ramsey was substituted shortly after the hour mark.
Guardiola also had to make do with a makeshift defence, playing Fernando at centre-back alongside Aleksandar Kolarov. However, the pairing did well to cope with the Gunners speedy attack as their manager looks for solutions ahead of their league opener against Sunderland.
Both teams made mass substitutions in the second half with the managers keeping on eye on next weekend’s season premieres.
A young fan ran onto the pitch near the end and managed to take a selfie with Walcott before being gently escorted away by a security guard.