Hangzhou Greentown 1- 1 Arsenal – Match Report

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I don’t think you can ever read too much into team performances in early pre-season friendly’s, but the two halves of yesterday’s outing were a total contrast to each other. The starting eleven was almost the same as the team that finished the game in Malaysia on Wednesday, Mannone – Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Traore – Frimpong, Rosicky, Nasri – Arshavin, Vela, Van Persie.

It was obvious from the outset that the Chinese opposition were going to provide a much sterner test than the Malaysian team did earlier in the week. That said Arsenal’s shape and organisation in the first 20-25 was horrific. Mannone was forced into action in the opening 2 minutes, saving from Uruguayan striker Vasquez after Arsenal’s defence failed to pick up the runner. It was a routine save really, but was an early sign of our disorganised defence. Greentown then hit the post in the fourteenth minute with an effort from Pazzolano, when we found ourselves outnumbered at the back from a counter-attack.

Less than 2 minutes later the home side were in front. A free kick, given away by Frimpong, was delivered into the box and Mannaone decided the best course of action would be to try and clear the ball with his face in true Almunianski fashion. There is a chance a Greentown player may have got a very slight touch, but the Italian Mafia henchman look-a-like should have done much better. The ball deflected down to Vasquez and he slotted into the corner of the net.

Robin van Perise almost made an instant reply with a deft chip that drifted agonisingly wide of the upright.

Arsenal were trying to get their passing game going, with a lot of play going through Nasri as you would expect.

Emmanuel Frimpong was making a nuisance of himself to the Chinese outfit as he attempted to stake his claim on providing real competition to Alex Song as the withdrawn central midfielder in the Arsenal team. The English side played themselves in promising areas of the pitch without actually producing any quality in the final delivery (sound familiar?).

Arshavin and Vela were struggling to get into the game as much as (I’m sure) they would have liked.

The shape of the side got better as the half went on, but the visitors were still struggling to make any real inroads to the Greentown goal. The Chinese side worked extremely hard to ensure we didn’t get the freedom we craved (or maybe expected). Greentown are, however, mid-way through their season and are ‘battle hardy’.

Samir Nasri went close with a speculative volley from the edge of the area that just whistled past the post.

By the tail end of the first half, Arsenal were the dominant side in the match dictating much of the play and had a majority of possession, although still not creating any clear-cut chances.

Finally, as the game went into injury time in the first half, Arsenal made a breakthrough. A good interchange between RVP and Arshavin led to the goalkeeper making a decent save from the Dutchman. The ball fell into the path of Carlos Vela, and he slotted into the empty net. Knowing the Mexican, I’m surprised he didn’t get onto his knees and try and head it in! With the scores level though, the referee blew for half time.

I did spot an amusing banner in the crowd in both Mandarin and English (I presume they said the same thing, but confess I’m not fluent in the oriental language). It read ‘Barca, pay £40M to take Cesc away or go home to wank’! I suppose it shows that Arsenal supporter frustrations with the Spanish giants isn’t limited to England.

The second half (as in Malaysia) saw wholesale changes for Arsenal.

Szczesny – Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Song, Wilshere, Ramsey – Walcott, Miyaichi,
Chamakh.

We looked stronger too. Whether this was because of (what I’m sure is going to be) our first choice centre back pairing, or the more familiar midfield, the second half was dominated by Arsenal.

Tommy V looked a commanding presence at the back. Jack started pulling the strings in the midfield. Walcott always looked a danger on the wing. It still took nearly 10 minutes before our first clear-cut chance of the half. Koscielny broke down a Greentown advance with a bone-crunching tackle that set us on the counter. It concluded in a right footed Wilshere strike that was well saved by the goalkeeper. If it had fallen to his preferred left foot, I’m sure it would have been a goal.

Chances for Walcott, Gibbs and Chamakh followed as Arsenal took charge of the game, but the Chinese goalkeeper would not be beaten. It was turning into a Jan Tomaszewski…esc performance for the keeper Jim Pengziang (who had been brought on at half time) as he pulled off a string of unorthodox saves.

Walcott continued to cause problems for the Greentown defence, and he frequently linked well with Jenkinson down the right. The ex-Southampton man seemed intent on making inroads into central positions to cause problems for the opposition defence, which he had a good degree of success with. He’s made no secret of his intent on taking a more central role for the Gunners, and I’m sure he was trying to send Wenger a message.

The lions share of possession belonged to Arsenal, but no break-through could be made. Efforts from Chamakh and Miyaichi were once again foiled by the keeper. Not through want of trying from Arsenal, the last 5-10 minutes of the game fizzled out into insignificance and both side had to be content with the draw.

A decent run-out for Arsenal, and I refer to the first sentence of this report when it comes to conclusions, but I definitely think you can gauge some of Wenger’s plans from the season from pre-season. I’ve already referred to the central defence pairings, but he is also obviously giving Miyaichi (work permit depending), Jenkinson and Frimpong a chance to claim a spot in the first team squad for the upcoming season. One thing is for sure, Colonge will require a performance more in tune with the second half than the first against Greentown.

Report by Dave Taylor ( Follow Big Dave on Twitter)

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