(Vela 45) – (Vazquez 15)
Arsenal faced Hangzhou Greentown in our second and final game of the Asia Tour. This trip was aimed as a warm-up for next season as well a commercial scheme – I am sure that plenty of money will be made thanks to our voyage to the Far East.
At the very least, it allowed Asian fans to get a taste of the Arsenal, which may be a rare treat for many of the fans out there.
The game started with Greentown on the front foot, and midway in the second half, Hangzhou had had several shots to Arsenal’s zero. The starting eleven were a mix of first team players and fringe players:
You could argue that only two of these players will be in Arsenal’s first eleven next season: RvP and Sagna (assuming Arshavin is on the bench and Nasri leaves). However, even without such assumptions, this was a relatively weak starting eleven.
Nasri kept coming deep to receive the ball, and he did quite well in that role. It was almost as if he were trying to prove something to the fans the way he kept racing towards the ball… can’t imagine what that’s about! Rosicky looked lively but lacked end product at times. Arshavin and RvP were generally starved of the ball, but Vela wasn’t. The Mexican was very hit and miss. His first touch often let him down, but he did show some glimpses of skill. It wouldn’t be harsh to say that Vela was often the end of our attacks in the first half.
Hangzhou scored from a free kick – surprising isn’t it? The ball was whipped in and scraped the head of one of their players. The ball looked to be falling into Mannone’s arms, but for some reason our keeper chested the ball back into the danger zone. Vazquez put his foot through the ball and it rolled past our Italian shot stopper. Could Mannone be another error-prone keeper? I hope not.
As the half wore on, Arsenal grew in confidence and our flowing game started to work. Our equaliser came as Robin played a one-two with Arshavin, who’s return pass was a sumptuous flick over the opposition defence. Van Persie’s shot was saved, but Vela managed to force the ball in on the rebound.
The second half yielded a completely different team for Arsenal:
This team is far closer to what I expect Wenger to put out against Newcastle. And many of the players had a good half. The defence was solid, despite the fact that Hangzhou constantly counter attacked after spells of Arsenal pressure. The midfield was superb – Wilshere, Ramsey and Song really clicked. I am excited to see that trio next season. The front three were okay – Chamakh was tidy if not mind blowing, and Miyaichi looked skillful and lively. Walcott was a mystery – he made the right runs and controlled the ball well, but his finishing was poor. He must have had more than five decent opportunities, each of which were sent wide or saved. After his comments regarding his desire to play up front, the timing of this game could not have been more ironic. He wants to be a forward, and yet he couldn’t even score against Hangzhou Greentown, who finished fourth in the Chinese Super League last season.
The chances in the second half came thick and fast, but despite some great positions in front of goal, Arsenal failed to score the winner.
Arsenal’s pre-season kicks off at 13:45 today (GMT), in a match against Malaysia XI. This is the first of six friendlies within the space of just over 3 weeks, before the real stuff starts with a match at St James’ Park on 13th August.
The three writers at Straight Talking Gooners were actually at Newcastle’s ground yesterday, and you won’t be surprised to know that we talked about our woeful result there last season. The irony came when we entered a bar next to the stadium, and that very game was on tv. We walked out of the bar at half time.
Back to the Malaysia match – it is being held at The National Stadium at Bukit Jalil. Although the capacity is 100,000, the organisers limited it to 85,000 for the match. So far, around 48,000 tickets have been sold, but the organisers expect it to be sold. Like most Gooners, I have truly missed Arsenal in the last month or so. I hope the crowd in Malaysia is packed and they provide great support. We cannot have a repeat of the booing and jeering that was heard at the Emirates in the last few matches of last season.
I’m sure you’ll be able to find plenty of online streams for the game, but unfortunately I’ll be in a car so I won’t get to watch it. If you are an Arsenal TV Online subscriber, you can watch it on the all-new Arsenal Player, with coverage starting at 13:30 (GMT). You get commentary from Stewart Robson and Tim Peters, and a pre-match interview with Carl Jenkinson.
I expect Wenger will view this game as a chance to show his tactical intent for next season. He will probably continue with the 4-3-3, but I really hope he chooses a 4-4-2, with RvP and Theo up front. I think most people are excited to see what Ryo Miyaichi has to offer. We shouldn’t get our hopes up too much because this is his first game, and he will have plenty of time to develop. Along with our Japanese starlet, Frimpong has reiterated his desire to impress. I am hopeful that he will prove to be good competition for Song. With Fabregas pondering a move to Barcelona, I reckon Wenger will start with RamJack in central midfield. Both of our young Brits ooze quality and determination. I think they will provide a more powerful midfield than Cesc did with Flamini/Song/Gilberto etc. They both like to wander forward, but play deeper than our captain. Their tackling skills are also very important to the team.
Szczesny has said he’d like to be No.1 for fifteen years. I think I’d be happy with that – he proved last season that he has the makings of a top keeper. He needs to have a solid pre-season to remind the manager and the fans why he is better than Fabianski and Mannone.
Plenty of people will be scrutinising Nasri’s facial expressions, body language and temperament. It may reveal whether he wants to leave, but it may not. Let’s just be happy that he’s on the tour, and he’s still a Gunner.
4-1 to the Gunners, with goals from Walcott, Ramsey and RvP (2)