Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Arsenal Preseason Part 1, Asia Tour & FC Cologne

Arsenal FC have just concluded a fine summer preseason that featured some fascinating match-ups and plenty of great football.  In the next two posts, I'll give a brief recap of the games, some analysis, and what to look for in the upcoming season.

Rosicky nets in stoppage time

Malaysia XI  0-4  Arsenal 
In their first preseason fixture of 2011 and first visit to Asia in over a decade, the Gunners received a warm welcome from a crowd of nearly 70,000 fans.  The first half was entertaining but it took both sides several minutes to find their rhythm.  After five minutes of play, Jack Wilshere was dropped in the box and Aaron Ramsey stepped up to slot home a good penalty kick.  For a good spell, it was Malaysia who were looking dangerous making quick flanking runs and precise crosses.  That momentum would be quashed in the 37th as Ramsey linked a through ball to Walcott, who escaped the defense and lifted a shot past the keeper.  It was 2-0 and the Arsenal were cruising at half-time as the crowd went wild.  Wenger made wholesale changes to his side at the break and only three starters remained on field.  In minute 57, Mexican striker Carlos Vela was released by Rosicky and chipped the keeper with style.  Arsenal kicked on and barraged the Malaysia back line.  In the dying seconds of the friendly match, Rosicky headed goalwards to make it 4-0 Arsenal.  The North London boys waved good bye to the raucous crowd in the muggy Kuala Lumpur heat, relishing their weeklong stay and thanking their loyal fans from the Southern Hemisphere.

Goals:  5 Ramsey, 37 Walcott, 58 Vela, 90 Rosicky

Hangzhou Greentown  1-1  Arsenal
With cheering fans still ringing in their ears, the Arsenal next visited Chinese Super League side Hangzhou Greentown.  In a welcoming gesture, the Gunners were presented jersey with their names transposed into Chinese script.  Greentown was off like a shot, testing the defense early on.  In fifteen minutes they had found a breakthrough.  A free kick ricocheted from keeper Manone's chest and fell to Hangzhou's Vazquez who tapped in from close range.  Arsenal responded well, settling in and getting to work.  A deluge had soaked the pitch two hours before the game and it was evident as the players slogged through the first half.  Just before the whistle, Robin van Persie juked through defenders to fire a shot.  The keeper parried but it was Vela again who snapped up the ball, placing it firmly in the back of the net.  Arsenal had several efforts in the second half and Walcott looked particularly threatening.  In the end, the home side held on for a well deserved draw.

Goals:  15 Vazquez, 45 Vela

FC Cologne  1-2  Arsenal FC
Bidding farewell to their swelling Asian fanbase, the English side visited the Bundesliga's FC Cologne.  New signing Gervinho made his presence felt immediately, bagging a brace with goals in the 7th and 15th minutes.  To their credit, the hosts put up a lively fight as the match would prove an open and exciting exhibition.  In first half stoppage time, a bizarre clearance by Arsenal's Jenkinson sent the ball into the wrong net, and Cologne were bolstered by the own goal.  With plenty of back and forth in the second half, Arsenal were happy to finish the friendly on top, undefeated in the preseason so far.

Goals:  7, 15 Gervinho, 45 (og) Jenkinson

Young Guns challenge FC Cologne

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