Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia kicks-off this afternoon with what should be an interesting game against Malaysia XI. Despite the cool name, Malaysia XI is pretty much exactly the same as the regular Malaysia national team – in other words, it contains no players that anybody reading this article would have heard of (unless you are Malaysian, in which case I apologise!). The only time that you might have come across these players would be in the same fixture this time last year.
A pre-season friendly against Malaysia is hardly enough to make definitive judgments about the state of the team, but in my opinion this match represents the perfect opportunity to finally look at how Abou Diaby is coping after his injuries and allows Arsenal fans to get excited about some of the up-and-coming players like Ryo Miyaichi, Thomas Eisfeld and Benik Afobe. There are also a few more familiar players included in the squad, with the likes of Vermaelen (tour captain), Song, Arteta, Walcott and Gervinho all included in the squad. Of course, Robin van Persie did not travel to Asia. Don’t be silly. Why would he bother doing a pre-season tour with a team he doesn’t care about anymore?
Last year we saw a convincing 4-0 win in this fuxture, with Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Carlos Vela and Tomas Rosicky all on the scoresheet. Needless to say, most Arsenal fans are expecting a similar scoreline this afternoon, if only because Malaysia are ranked 157th in the world and we came 3rd in the Premier League.
The starting XI almost isn’t worth predicting. The managers will be allowed to make as many substitutions as they want and Wenger will probably opt to switch virtually the entire side at half time just to ensure that almost everybody gets a good run-around. The match kicks off at 2.45pm BST, which means that a lot of fans won’t be able to watch because they will be at work, and is apparently being shown on both Arsenal player or ESPN, with highlights available on Arsenal player shortly after.
I know it is not the most testing opposition and that the match doesn’t count for anything, but I am still excited about seeing Arsenal back in action. The summer months are so boring without football!