Arsenal played a high-profile preseason fixture against those moneybags from the Etihad Stadium in China’s Bird Nest. The heavy downpour and the harsh weather conditions provided a stern test for both sides, but Arsenal did the playing...while their English counterparts did the, you know, scoring.
The game was played in a somewhat frantic pace, but it had its fair share of entertainment. For the first time since the days King Arthur ruled Camelot, Arsenal blasted in a considerable amount of shots on target. Manchester City’s goalie Costil Pantillimon had a stormer as he proved to be a hunched back colossus between the sticks, but Lukasz Fabianski was blameless for both goals conceded.
There was also that awkward moment when Thomas Vermaelen got “up close and personal” with the female assistant referee, Sian Massey. It was heat-of-the-moment stuff as the Verminator ran towards the touchline to clear the ball—but he was in full momentum, causing him to collide with Madam Massey.
Arsenal’s captain’s impact would have been enough to send her crashing into an advertising board, but the Verm turned into a superhero by grabbing her waist to save a damsel in distress.
From an Arsenal perspective, I’d like to share my thoughts on the game from the various playing positions of the squad.
Starting with the goalkeeping position, Lukasz Fabianski hardly put a wrong foot all game long—but he must be unhappy for conceding such goals from a somewhat crappy defense.
Aleksandr Kolarov got in behind Carl Jenkinson, and his drilled effort wasn’t dealt well by the Arsenal defense. Yaya Toure pounced on the ball and fed Pablo Zabaleta for a well-taken finish.
In my opinion, the second goal was offside.
The tale of Arsenal’s defense has been a much talked-about topic in recent times because of the way it has been handled. There was a point in time when Arsene Wenger managed an impregnable unit at the back, but such memories are gone with the wind. At the start of the game, Arsenal started with Thomas Vermaelen and Kyle Bartley at the heart of the defense with Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson on the flanks.
Many have been quick to criticize the full-backs, but they offered a lot in attack and were carved open defensively.
Carl Jenkinson arrived at Arsenal to understudy Bacary Sagna, but the injuries he suffered last season hampered his progress. For a considerable part of the last campaign, Arsenal used makeshift full-backs to help the team’s cause, but they didn’t really offer much in attack and weren’t that impressive defensively.
Though Jenko did look out of sorts on Friday, we should remember that he’s still in a steep learning curve. We also have to remember that Arsene Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 setup encourages a lot of movement from the full-backs to support the attacking play, and finding the balance remains an issue for youngsters like Jenkinson and Gibbs (Andre Santos as well).
Jenkinson wasn’t afraid to waltz forward and he had two splendid efforts on goal: One put Pantillimon on his toes, while the other missed by a lick of paint. On the left flank, Gibbs showed great movement on the left but like Jenko, he was found wanting when Manchester City hit Arsenal on the break.
The center-backs fared well in the heart of Arsenal’s defense—with Vermaelen on the spotlight for more reasons than one—but I was hugely impressed with Ignasi Miquel for his tenacity and persistence when he tackled the opposition. He still remains down the pecking order and he’ll have a role to play in the club this season (back up for injuries and the Capitol One cup, I presume).
Wenger and Bould must go back to the drawing board to right a few wrongs that were showcased in the match against Manchester City. Arsenal has to work on getting the balance right in regards to timing of attacks by full-backs, and cover being provided by holding midfielders when our full backs do attack.
The midfield was pretty impressive, as they dominated the proceedings all game long and fed the Arsenal attack with defense-splitting through those balls which failed to reap dividends.
Arsenal began the game with Alex Song enforcing the midfield with support from Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta while the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chuks Aneke, Francis Coquelin and Thomas Eisfeld got run-outs after the break.
Song picked up where he left off with more trademark through balls, but the attacking line wasn’t on the same wavelength as him. Arteta held the fort and kept his balance, but it was good seeing Abou Diaby complete an entire half unscathed. Arsenal fans have been reduced to rating Diaby by his ability to stay on the pitch rather than the efforts he puts on it.
After the break, the young guns caught the eye and the Ox’s screamer that hit both posts was a pleasant sight. The Ox began the second half in the position he excelled so well against AC Milan last season, but he drifted to the left when Eisfeld arrived. With Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky (injuries) and Aaron Ramsey (Olympic Games) still out, I’d love the Ox to start at the tip of the midfield in the opening games of the forthcoming season.
Francis Coquelin also put up a good performance in midfield; he showed great footwork and had nice ideas on the pitch. However, I was a bit concerned with the way that Dracula—Carlos Tevez—shoved him off when Manchester City launched a counter attack down the left. Tevez fed his compatriot, Sergio Aguero, but the forward was too casual with his finish.
Coquelin is a player with bags of potential, and he’s probably the reason why Wenger hasn’t delved into the market to get Yann M’Vila and the rest of the holding midfield lot linked with Arsenal. There are some interesting stats juxtaposing between Coquelin and M’Vila in an article written by Bleacher Report‘s Allan Jiang.
It’s worth a read.
…And the fact that Arsenal still don’t have much efficiency at the tip of the spear, Gervinho wasn’t the most clinical and Chamakh looks totally out of depths. I know Wenger has added Giroud and Podolski, but in case of anyone of these getting injured, our striker position will become extremely fragile. Afobe is not quite ready yet.
The three-man attack manned by Theo Walcott, Andre Santos and Gervinho was very toothless.
Usain Bolt Theo Walcott had made a big fuss about trying to play through the center, and he got his chance on Friday—but his only telling contribution to the game was a curling shot that went wide off the mark.
Gervinho ran at the Manchester City defense, but his output on the final third equated to zero. Marouane Chamakh was in another world of his own, but I enjoyed his back heel for Craig Eastmond that was lashed wide.
With the speculation of van Persie’s future rife, Arsenal has to ensure that they do the right things in the attack; because we can’t put our eggs in the African attacking basket, if you know what I mean.
Nonetheless, it was a good run-out against the Premier League’s defending champions, and I’m looking forward to a more routine game against Kitchee SC.