Arsenal kicked off the new season with the first friendly against Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur. Wenger started with a youthful side that included Ryo Miyaichi and Carl Jenkinson alongside established young guns Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Gibbs, and Szczesny.
Chamakh, Song, Koscielny, and Vermaelen were the only experienced pros in a starting eleven that dominated the first half in the now standard 4-3-3.
The opening goal came from a rookie mistake by the defender as he brought down Wilshere inside the box. Ramsey put the spot-kick away with ease after establishing his right to do so with Wilshere who also looked eager to kick-start his season with a goal.
It could have been two soon after when Wilshere found Walcott in space just inside the right corner of the box. The goalkeeper closed the angle well but was lucky not to concede a penalty as Theo slammed it over.
After that the game settled down a bit as the home sided defended better while the Gunners didn’t really show any urgency, rightfully so.
Walcott scored the second in the 37th minute to cap a well-timed run and a delightful pass with a deft finish.
There isn’t much to analyze in such a game but the noteworthy aspects of the first half were
- Miyaichi’s impressive skills on the ball and his willingness to chase the opponents tirelessly
- Jenkinson’s ability to close down his man to prevent crosses and his ability to deliver some measured balls into the box
- Wilshere looking as if he’s picked up from where he left off
- Walcott to carry his scoring touch forward, touchwood!
On the flip side, I thought Ramsey still looked a bit rusty and needs more games but his class shone through fleetingly.
Arsene made eight changes at the start of the second half as Jenkinson, Miyaichi, and Ramsey were the only ones to keep their place.
It was a surprise to see Denilson playing in a deeper role behind Frimpong who looked bigger than last time I saw him (could be my eyes or mind playing games).
Rosicky started on the right but took a free role and was creatively involved in a number of moves. One such led to the third goal, another sublime chip from Vela. Perhaps he has taken the Lays slogan too sincerely? On a serious note it was good to see Vela get on the ball more often. His movement and touch was wonderful as was his vision when he set up Ramsey and Rosicky, both of whom blasted over when well placed in sight of goal. Nevertheless, he did display a tendency to overcook shooting chances. Arsene has to find a way of eliminating this habbit. If the Mexican has to succeed he needs to know the corners of the goal and has to put his foot through the ball on occasion instead of searching for a cute finish.
Sagna, Nasri, RvP, and Arshavin came on for the final half hour or so as the three starters from the first half and Denilson made way.
The game lacked cohesion even though Nasri got on the ball quite often in a central attacking midfield role. Van Persie played a couple of defence splitting balls but that was it.
Arsenal did manage a fourth in the final minutes when Rosicky headed home a deflected Arshavin cross. That must be a collector’s item.
Even in such a game the defence didn’t look very convincing. I don’t want to read too much into this but two aspects need urgent improvement. Arsene has to find a way of reducing the number of times opponents are able to move from their box to the Arsenal defensive third within seconds. He also needs to sort out the off-side line. Some might also say the central defenders need to do a lot better with their heading, especially Djourou and Squillaci. I am convinced Arsenal will struggle without a key addition to the coaching staff but don’t want to bang on that tired old drum at this stage.
There was an incident in the game that deserves special mention. In the second half, the ref penalized Mannone for holding on to the ball for too long. I don’t think the Italian took more than second or two over the allotted six but the ref seemed a stickler for rules, at least that one in particular. It could just be that he wanted his moment in the spotlight and a chance for the home side or that he hasn’t been spoilt by commentators blaming such decisions for spoiling the game. In all honesty, I’d love to see a lot more of such calls in the Premiership and the Champions League.
On a related note, I want to share the pain of logging into Arsenal Player this morning. I am sure many of you must have been frustrated by a server that quite simply was incapable of handling the demand. Did they really underestimate the fan interest or was this just another technical blooper? Hope they sort it out before the next game. I did watch the second half on Arsenal Player and the quality was impressive even though the stream jumped a few seconds occasionally.
And now for something completely different. The following isn’t related to Arsenal or football but it isn’t often that I fall out of my chair laughing, so thought it was worth sharing,
Source: Uncyclopedia entry on Che Guevara.