Arsenal vs. Malaysia XI: Date, Time, Preview and More
Arsenal is getting ready to kick off its 2012 Asian tour, kicking off the festivities against Malaysia's best.
Just as they did in 2011, the Gunners will travel to Kuala Lumpur to take on Malaysia XI, a squad culled from the best players of the Malaysia Super League.
As Arsenal looks to expand their appeal abroad, the game will not be the whole story. The Gunners will look to display their dominance in a foreign market, but the narrative will focus on who is not on the pitch rather than who is.
The Gunners will likely have to look elsewhere for scoring when they begin Premier League play next month; we could get a sense of who will step up and deliver when Arsenal takes the pitch against Malaysia XI.
Where: Bukit Jalil Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When: Tuesday, July 24, 9:45 a.m. EST
We've Been Here Before
The Gunners kicked off their 2011 Asian tour in Kuala Lumpur as well, and it wasn't even close.
Arsenal marched onto Malaysia XI's home turf and showed their might, controlling the match throughout and breezing to a 4-0 victory.
Aaron Ramsey converted on a penalty kick just five minutes into the match, then tethered a beautiful center to Theo Walcott to increase the lead to two at the half. In the second, Carlos Vela chipped it over the keeper and Tomas Rosicky scored on a header in stoppage time as Arsenal cruised.
2012 should hold no lesser fortunes for the Gunners. However, like in 2011, a resounding victory will not be the top story for Arsenal.
Someone Is Missing
Last year, Samir Nasri came off the bench due to a contract dispute with the team, and Cesc Fabregas stayed in London due to a wrist injury. When Arsenal delved into their Premier League campaign, neither remained with the team.
This time around, Robin van Persie is in good health, but he has still not made the trip East with his teammates.
He might not be a Gunner for long, however. BBC Sports reports that van Persie refuses to sign a new contract with Arsenal, though the squad has declined bids from Manchester City and Juventus for the rights to the striker's services.
Regardless of what happens on the pitch in Kuala Lumpur, the absence of Arsenal's best scoring option will be the first thing on everyone's minds.
Someone Must Step Up
In Premier League play last season, van Persie netted 30 of Arsenal's 74 goals; the next highest scorer on the squad had just eight. When the Gunners take the pitch without the Dutch dynamo, the Malaysian crowd will get the first glimpse of how Arsenal plans to replace him.
Walcott would be the best bet. He was Arsenal's second-leading scorer last year, capable of stretching defenses with his speed and finishing ability. At just 23 years old, he has never gotten the opportunity to be the team's primary scoring threat. With van Persie on his way out, it would open up the field for Walcott to really thrive.
Look for Ramsey and Walcott to reconnect in this rematch against Malaysia XI. If they do it in the friendly, they will likely keep the connection going when it counts.
To the surprise of no one, Arsenal is going to take this match with ease. Van Persie hardly played in the teams' first meeting anyway, so fielding a squad without him in Kuala Lumpur will just be business as usual.
Much more interestingly, the Gunners should use this opportunity to experiment with their current group of charges. Walcott should play a larger role here than he has in the past as Arsenal showcases the future of the squad to its fans from abroad.
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