Arsenal continued their strong preseason with a 2-1 friendly win over Urawa Red Diamonds.
This win will have felt earned for the Gunners. Arsenal have been able to run through most of their friendly opponents with relative ease. As the preseason has gone on, the quality of opponent has improved. Arseblog felt this was the toughest test for Arsenal so far.
Urawa Reds much better than any of the other teams we've played so far this pre-season— arseblog (@arseblog) July 26, 2013
It was a statement that would prove very true.
Urawa Red Diamonds were looking very strong in the attack. That left them a bit exposed at the back, though, which was none more apparent than when Arsenal's Theo Walcott almost scored in the eighth minute. Walcott used his speed and dribbling ability to weave through the Urawa defence. His run was something to behold. Unfortunately for Walcott, his shot hit the left post.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a long-range effort carom off the crossbar. It was a frenzied moment in the 35th minute when the ball was bouncing around in the box off a corner, but the Gunners couldn't score.
Tomoya Ugajin almost put Urawa up in the 44th minute. He cut in from the right and unleashed a great left-footed curler, but Lukasz Fabianski leapt to make the save. It was easily Urawa's best chance to score up to that point in the game.
Although there weren't any goals in the first half, it was a pretty entertaining 45 minutes. This match looked less like a friendly and more like a genuine league match, given the way both sides were going back and forth.
It was only a matter of time before the Gunners got on the board, though. They were the better side in the first half and would have fresh players on in the second.
One of those fresh players got Arsenal's first goal. In the 49th minute, Lukas Podolski fired it home from close range to put his club up, 1-0. Give credit to Walcott for holding the ball up for a second or two after receiving a pass from Aaron Ramsey and laying it off to Podolski.
Urawa found the equalizer just 10 minutes later. The J. League club had a corner in the 59th minute. Arsenal failed to clear it, and the ball fell to Yuki Abe. The centre-back had just enough time and space to place his shot well into the top left corner.
As Arsenal's Twitter feed pointed out, it's a goal the Gunners will be kicking themselves over. It was poor marking and defending on the corner.
Oxlade-Chamberlain nearly put Arsenal ahead again, but his shot went off the post.
Chuba Akpom was able to put the Gunners in the lead with a goal in the 82nd minute. Urawa failed to deal with a long ball into the box. That left Akpom with a relatively easy finish. You don't get style points, so it counted all the same.
That was how the match ended. It wasn't a great performance from Arsenal. Urawa had some very good chances to score. You don't learn much from 8-0 thrashings, though, so Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger should be heartened by seeing his players have to work for this victory.
The final win didn't come easily, but the Gunners finished off their Asian tour well. Supporters will have liked what they've seen from Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Gedion Zelalem especially. Those three have really stood out so far.
Key Player Grades
Theo Walcott: B+
It was a very good showing from Theo Walcott. He created what were most of Arsenal's best chances to score in the first half. It's a shame he didn't score in the eighth minute because his run on goal deserved to end the right way.
Aside from his assist on the Podolski goal, Walcott had nothing but bad luck for most of this match. His shots were hitting the woodwork, and his promising attacking runs amounted to nothing.
Olivier Giroud: C+
Olivier Giroud didn't perform badly. He just failed to make a major impact. Giroud has had a great summer so far. It's clear Arsenal could use another forward, but with Giroud, you wonder how much he'll improve this coming season.
The 26-year-old scored 11 goals last season. As he's gotten a year in the Premier League under his belt, Giroud should be even better in 2013-14.
Yuki Abe: B+
Yuki Abe is a name some English football fans will be familiar with. The 31-year-old made 51 league appearances from 2010-12 with Leicester City.
Abe was composed on his goal. He could have easily sent it over the bar. Instead, he remained calm and placed his shot well.
Arsenal Player Grades
|Per Mertesacker (off '46)||C+|
|Mikel Arteta (off '46)||B-|
|Jack Wilshere (off '46)||B|
|Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (off '65)||B|
|Serge Gnabry (off '46)||C+|
|Theo Walcott (off '75)||B+|
|Olivier Giroud (off '46)||C+|
Urawa Red Diamonds Starting XI Grades