Ah pre-season, is there anything like it? Sifting through the endless amount of ‘transfer information’ available on twitter, refreshing Arsenal.com waiting for player announcements and of course, squinting at a blurry stream of an absolutely meaningless friendly, listening to Stewart Robson on commentary. The answer of course is no, there isn’t anything like it, but I assume having your fingernails removed one by one with a rusty spoon would probably come quite close in comparison.
All that being said, I can’t pretend I didn’t get some enjoyment out of last night’s game against Vietnam. The match was straightforward enough, with the Vietnamese not putting up much resistance for the majority of the night, Arsenal dominated possession and moved the ball quite well for the most part. There were some occasionally sloppy moments from the Gunners earlier on (Arteta and Giroud both lost the ball too easily a number of times) which led to Vietnam trying to hit us on the counter, but to no avail. It wasn’t long (5 minutes in fact) before Giroud had scored the opener with a nice finish across the face of the goal after Rosicky had sliced the defence open with a beautiful lofted through ball, the keeper got a hand to it, but couldn’t prevent the ball finding it’s way into the back of the net. What followed was about 40 minutes of possession by Arsenal, with rare counters by Vietnam when they managed to win the ball back. There were some good moments for Arsenal during that period, and the score line could have looked a lot worse for Vietnam had the Gunners finished off a number of clear cut chances. Podolski was chiefly responsible for several of these misses, both through sloppy finishing and criminal unselfishness, whilst Gnabry came very close but for some classy goalkeeping. Then, in the 44th minute, a Jenkinson cross was deflected to a waiting Giroud at the edge of the box who finished brilliantly, curling the ball into the top corner, and moments later he had a hattrick. The Ox, who is looking brilliant playing in the hole at the moment, played Giroud in brilliantly, and he coolly lifted it over the keeper to make it 3-0, a more deserving score line after Arsenal’s domination of the first 45.
The second half was a little more straightforward, and for myself, more exciting. Two of the highest rated prospects in the Arsenal Youth Set-up, Chuba Akpom and Gedion Zelalem, were once again on-show after impressive performances against Indonesia’s “Dream Team”. The half opened well enough; with Chamberlain thumping the ball into the top corner after Walcott played the ball into his path. Akpom then came very close to extending the lead to 5 after being played in by Chamberlain, taking the ball into stride well and attempting to open his body and pass it into the opposite corner, unfortunately for Akpom, the shot was far too close to the keeper. He didn’t have to wait long for a goal though, after a delightful chip over the defender from Ramsey, Akpom bought the ball back onto his right foot with a lovely piece of skill and passed the ball into the bottom corner, a well taken goal. Shotly after, Zelalem spilt the defence with one of his several brilliant through balls only for Chamberlain to rip it across the six yard box to Akpom for an easy finish, a lovely goal which featured three young starlets who could very well be crucial to Arsenal’s future. Akpom was in fact very unlucky not to walk away with a hattrick here, as Zelalem set him up inside the box with a nice cutback, only for a defender to deflect it over the bar. After a few more chances to notch up a seventh goal, Jenkinson played Eisfeld in, and the young German pulled it back to a waiting Ignasi Miquel who made the score 7-0. A nice moment for the lad, who may find himself involved in the first team picture if our current centre-back deficiency is not addressed. With 13 minutes left, Vietnam burst forward on the counter, and a fierce cross into the box was (perhaps inadvertently) chipped over Damien Martinez for a Vietnam consolation goal, the crowd and players went wild, and you couldn’t really begrudge them. The referee seemed to disagree though, booking the goal-scorer for removing his shirt, and then sending off the Vietnamese keeper after a handball outside the box with 2 minutes to go. One may have felt that in the spirit of the game he might have let it slide, but perhaps the presence of Stuart Robson on commentary made him feel as bad tempered and grouchy as I did.
I have rambled on quite a bit here about the game, but I did want to make special mention of Gedion Zelalem in this piece. The lad was absolutely brilliant and we look to have a very special talent on our hands here. His composure on the ball is brilliant for a player so young, and his vision for a pass, and technique to execute said pass, is almost the best I’ve seen in a player that age since Cesc was plying his trade at reserve level for the Gunners. It’s quite easy to see why he was invited to train with the seniors on a few occasions last season, and I think we should expect to see him get a fair few appearances in the Capital One Cup this season.
That ought to do it for now, until next time,