Saturday, July 23, 2011

FC Cologne 1 Arsenal 2

A minute's silence was observed at the RheinEnergie Stadion prior to the match for the victims of the Oslo bombing and shootings. We have a few Norwegian members at Playa Flamenca Arsenal Supporters Club. Our thoughts are with the Norwegian people.

I was not quite sure if Gervinho was a right signing for Arsenal until I saw this game. He was on the pitch for 30 minutes and scored two goals. He looked dangerous and his killer instinct was just what Arsenal needed. I'd love to see more of him (even more if he changes his hair styles!).

Out Gervinho went and Ryo Miyaichi came on. He immediately made his presence felt and the timing of his run and releasing the ball showed his intelligence. A 15-minute run-out was too short to assess his quality, but he certainly seemed promising from what I have seen.

The other new signing, Carl Jenkinson had a bad day in the office. He went forward and put in some good crosses, but he was often caught out of position amid Cologne's counter-attacks. Towards the end of the first half, just when we thought he had realised the danger of that, he made a huge mistake. The own goal was  unfortunate, but it was fortunate it happened in a pre-season friendly. He had a good lesson today and will have plenty of time to learn more before he deputises the first-choice right-back, Sagna (the wait could be longer if Eboue stays at Arsenal).

The defense looked frail both in the first half and second half. Arsenal played two sets of centre-backs, but neither of the pairs looked convincing. I hope that Arsene Wenger is now even more aware of the need of an experienced new centre-back.

However, the left-back situation may be a more urgent problem to address. Kieran Gibbs looked good, when he went forward, but Vermaelen had to play a left-back half the time, which meant that the central defense was stretched thin and often got exposed susceptible to Cologne's counter-attacks.

On the more positive note, Frimpong looked efficient in breaking down Cologne attacks.  In fact, he looked better than Song in terms of passing accuracy. Rosicky played the Cesc Fabregas role very well. I thought the last season might have been his last season with Arsenal, but let's hope he will make more contribution this season. Also, the three goalkeepers did nothing wrong, which was encouraging. 
Overall, it was a good work-out with a right result, though it was a shame Conor Henderson suffered a nasty-looking injury. If Arsenal had played a set of the best eleven players for the full 90 minutes, they would have won the game more comfortably.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pre-season Match Focus

Pre-season matches have been offering excellent opportunities to assess how Arsenal's new signings fitted in the team and presenting the stage for young and upcoming players to shine. Jack Wilshre's performance attracted attention in the Emirates Cup competition two years ago, while Emmanuel Frimpong displayed his potential in the last year's pre-season matches. Unfortunately, Frimpong's knee injury at the beginning of the last season hampered further progress for the following 10 months, but we are hoping to see him continuing his progress this season. Hopefully, this season will prove to be a break-through season for him just like the last season was for Jack Wilshere.

Arsenal's travelling squad are: Wojciech Szczesny, Vito Mannone, Sebastien Squillaci, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Laurent Koscielny, Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Ryo Miyaichi, Armand Traore, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Theo Walcott, Alex Song, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Denilson, Aaron Ramsey, Emmanuel Frimpong, Samir Nasri, Carlos Vela, Robin van Persie

It now seems unlikely that we will see any big-name new signing taking part in the Asian tour as there is little time for Gervinho, whose arrival at the Emirates Stadium has just been announced, to join the travelling party. I don't think the other new signing, Carl Jenkinson, will make a big impact on the first team this season, but it is interesting to see how he plays alongside the first-team players.

Another new player for us to watch is Ryo Miyaichi who joined Arsenal in January, but was sent on loan straight away to Feyenord  for the work permit reasons. The 18 year-old Japanese is highly rated by the media and fans alike and Arsenal seem to be promoting him big time ahead of the Asian tour. Let's see if he lives up to expectations.

Also, following the departure of Gael Clichy, the pre-season matches should present an ideal opportunity to see which existing players can fill his shoes or if we have to bring in a new player. The obvious successor is Kieran Gibbs, but he seems to me not quite ready yet and too injury-prone. Armand Traore is also included in the squad, but he did not have enough playing time with Juventus last season and he still has a lot to prove. Another option for the left-back Arsene Wenger has mentioned is Tomas Vermaelen. No doubt Wenger will try this option in the forthcoming pre-season matches.

The conspicuous omission in the squad is Cesc Fabregas, who currently has a hamstring problem. Apparently, he tweeted that he would make up for his absence later for Arsenal fans in Asia, which was interpreted as a suggestion that he may stay at Arsenal.

Arsenal's pre-season will kick off with the friendly game against Malaysia XI on Wednesday at 14:45 Spanish time.