It may have been a quick turnaround between the Man City fixture and playing Kitchee, but Arsenal have been spoilt for choice when it comes to the world’s prettiest stadiums.
After the 2-0 loss to City (which I never got to see so don’t have much to offer, there) in the pristine surrounds of Beijing’s Birds Nest, we travelled to Hong Kong to play in the National Stadium. It is easily one of the most pleasant-looking grounds I’ve seen on television. Take a look at that thing. It’s pristine.
In such fine surrounds, Arsenal completed its tour of Asia with a 2-2 draw against Kitchee, with polarising winger Gervinho the undoubted highlight.
I can only speak for the second half as my sleeping patterns have been totally distorted by the London Olympics (which I have to report on for work), but I came in at half-time with Arsenal 2-1 down. From what I heard, there was the usual defensive errors which led to both Kitchee goals, before Theo Walcott briefly levelled affairs after some nice work from Abou Diaby to put the forward clear.
What I saw for the most part was a very jaded team, clearly tired from all its jet-setting. Furthermore, when you have five or six substitutions all in one go, the team takes further time to settle on the pitch. What we had was a very young Arsenal outfit, trying to fumble its way into second gear.
Gervinho, for his part, was immense. Someone’s clearly told him that the good stuff he produced in his first season came when he ran at the defence. At times he can be very difficult to read, and even when you think you know where he’s going to go (usually for the by-line), the fact that he’ll get there seems overwhelmingly inevitable.
That ability to get to the line and cut open the defence came to the fore superbly when he forced the defence to part like the Red Sea and set up Thomas Eisfeld for his second goal of the tour.
Eisfeld, for his part, looks cool as ice in front of goal and very promising. Not the ‘spectacular’ type of promising though I’d be happy to be proved wrong, there. Instead, he looks fairly solid already for such a young age.
Carl Jenkinson again showed how much his attacking play has developed as well as how much work still needs to be done on the defensive side of things, while Francis Coquelin was a beacon of composure and looks set to feature more prominently this season.
I also like what I’ve seen of young Ignasi Miquel in defence, though I missed his ‘big mistake’ in the first half, so can’t comment.
After our loss to Man City where by all accounts we pretty much took the game to them, no-one really cares how many losses or draws we picked up this tour. Apart from Spurs fans, but they’re probably more worried now about Charlie Adam doing a number on Gareth Bale. That was proper ouch.
But the real worry for Arsenal is the lack of friendlies we’ve organised in preseason. Even if the Nigeria match went ahead, a sum total of five fixtures never seemed enough to me. The players who will need the most bedding in have yet to feature and at this rate, face only one match before the first league meeting against Sunderland.
Arsene Wenger admits as much in a post-Kitchee interview:
“The players who were out here will have had enough games but some players will have only one game.
“I decided to have one game behind closed doors to try and get a good opponent but at the moment it will be behind closed doors against ourselves.
“‘I have organised a training camp in Germany ahead of the Cologne game. It is a little bit unusual for us.
‘Podolski and Giroud may take longer than expected. I cannot play them in pre-season, so I will ease them in the Premier League.”
My hope would be some added fixtures through Wenger’s Austria contacts, but at such short notice we may be royally screwed in this department.
For this reason alone I cannot see Chamakh moving on in this transfer window. He’s been the most frequently used striker in the Asia tour and if Wenger is truly planning on bedding in Giroud and Podolski over the course of the season, we will need the Moroccan to hold the line until then.
In the words of Forest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. My brain is right frazzled from the 3:00am starts thanks to the goddamn Olympics. Working myself towards an early grave and all that. I truly hope you are all faring a lot better.