This week saw Arsenal participate in their first pre-season tour of Asia, with games against a Malaysia XI and Hangzou Greentown. Here I review both games.
MalaysiaXI 0-4 Arsenal
Ramsey 5 (p)
Malaysian stroll for the gunners :
Arsenal began their tour in style with a very comfortable win against a weak Malaysia XI side. Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring on 5 minutes with a well taken penalty after a poor challenge on the charging Jack Wilshere, giving the gunners the perfect start.
The lead was doubled half an hour later courtesy of a delightful Theo Walcott lob which came thanks to a sublime ball over the top of the Malaysian defence from the impressive Ramsey. This was the type of finish that Arsenal fans have been waiting to see from the man who was widley tipped to follow in the footsteps of the great Thierry Henry, and is hopefully a sign of things to come for the forthcoming season.
Having taken a two goal lead in to the half time break Arsene Wenger rang the changes, making seven substitutions. He was completley vindicated on 57 minutes when an excellent through ball by Robin van Persie was picked up by Carlos Vela. He then beat his defender and finished the only way he knows how- with a deft chip over the keeper which is now all too familiar to Arsenal fans. It was a sweet moment from the little Mexican who spent the second half on loan at West Brom, where he struggled to make an impression. No doubt he will be hoping that this is his year.
The rout was completed in the final minute as Andrei Arshavin danced around defenders before delivering a brilliant, albeit deflected, cross right on to the head of Tomas Rosicky who could not miss from barely six yards out.
All in all the first game of a busy pre-season can only be seen as a sucess, with a comfortable display capped with plenty of goals. From here it was on to saturdays game in China against Hangzou Greentown....
Hangzou Greentown 1-1 Arsenal
Vazquez 15 Vela 45
Arsenal labour in game of two halfs
The second game of the tour of Asia was a game of contrasts. A contrast between the first half and second half, between two completley different Arsenal sides in one game and, most importantly, between the team of wednesday and between the team of today.
Arsenal entered the game bouyed by their performance against Malaysia XI and also by the fact that the last time their opposition faced an English side, they where humbled by Manchester United two years ago by a scorline of 8-2. What they came up against however was a well organised side and the same old defence frailties that have hindered them for so long.
The game began poorly for Arsenal. Unable to find any rythm on a poor pitch, they fell behind after 15 minutes due to a defensive mix up from a set play allowed Sebastian Vazquez to prod home a simple finish. It was classic Arsenal defending with players sitting too deep , unsighting keeper Vito Mannone who could only flap at the delivery, allowing for the simplest of finishes for Vazquez.
It didnt get much better from there. Arsenal continued to struggle to break down a well drilled Greentown defence, only getting the odd half chance. Samir Nasri coming closest following a classic jinking run. Passes were continually going astray, with one of the main culprits being Emannuel Frimpong, who has returned from his season long injury lay off.
However, on 45 minutes Arsenal finally made their breakthrough. A neat piece of combination play between Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin led to a beautiful ball over the top for Robin Van Persie, whose left foot volley could only be parried by the keeper, straight to the feet of Carlos Vela who is unliky to score an easier goal in his career. It was the second goal in as many games of the tour for the Mexican, who will no doubt be delighted with his performances and hoping the the manager has picked up on what he has to offer.
Arsene Wenger again made mass changes at half time, on this occasion bringing on a whole new XI. This included Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and new boy Carl Jenkinson. The substitutions changed Arsenals fortunes completley, as they dominated second half posession and made countless chances. Chamakh had a couple of decent efforts as did Keiran Gibbs, both drawing fine saves from the goalkeeper who had fast become the most emplyed player on the pitch. Walcott himself had several sights of goal yet will be very disappointed to have not hit the target on several ocassions. Jack Wilshere was running the show, the youngster showing the power, pace and vision that has quickly endeared him to Arsenal fans' hearts and was easily the most impressive player on the pitch. And Carl Jenkinson was also impressive, showing great energy and enthusiasm in running non-stop up and down the right touch line, flinging in some great crosses. No doubt Arsene Wenger will be delighted with the contribution of his young contingent.
As the game petered out to a draw, there was still time for Ryo Miyaichi to test the Greentown keeper. Having been quiet for the whole half, he recieved the ball on the left wing before cutting in on his right foot and unleashing a fizzing shot which was well saved by the finger tips.
All in all this game was classic Arsenal. Undone by set plays, dominating possesion but not scoring goals, it was a snap shot of why Arsenal have struggled over recent seasons. However there were also positives for the manager to draw upon. The second half display, the performance of the immense thomas Vermaelen and of the young English players. He will also know that he has to fnid a way to sort the classic problem of the defence. Only time will tell if he can do this.
Arsenal will now return home before again flying off, this time to Germany to face Cologne in what should be a tough match a week from today.
*Apologies for the foreign commentary on the video for Hangzou Greentown Vs Arsenal*