Vietnam 1 Arsenal 7: Giroud Throws Down the Gauntlet
Vietnam is currently ranked 145th in the latest FIFA world rankings.
When they took to the pitch against a European juggernaut like Arsenal, the final result was going to be inevitable. An Arsenal landslide win.
Arsene Wenger fielded a relatively strong side with Wojceich Szczesny between the sticks while he had Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson in the fullback positions. The center back pairing was composed of Laurent Koscielny and in a somewhat unfamiliar role, Bacary Sagna. With Thomas Vermaelen out injured and Arsenal not anywhere close in sealing a deal for any center back, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you that Wenger is harboring plans to play Sagna as a make-shift center back when the need arises.
In midfield, captain of the day, Mikel Arteta was supported by the Ox with Tomas Rosicky playing as the creative hub of the team. In attack, Olivier Giroud was at the forefront while receiving support from Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry.
The home side got the game underway and every touch of the ball was met with roars from the Vietnam fans. With Arsenal’s first meaningful attack of the game, Rosicky dinked a pass to Giroud’s path and the French forward fired a first-time clean volley at goal, which ricocheted off the goalie before deflecting into the net after smashing the inside of the post.
Vietnam also responded immediately by attempting to catch Arsenal on the back foot but the over the top ball by Le Tan Tai was intercepted by Szczesny.
That early goal certainly gave Giroud some confidence and after receiving a pass from Podolski, the Frenchman blasted a shot wide from almost 30 yards out. Gnabry got involved from the right hand side running at the defense but with the young German closing in on goal, the Ox popped up and stole the ball from him with a tame shot that was easily saved by Duong Hong Son. Gnabry made mince meat of a defender on the byline before lofting a cross that was nodded over by Podolski.
Podolski continued to impose himself on the game but there was an awkward moment where the German left many defenders for dead and was left with a gaping goal but he inexplicably chose to square the ball for a Giroud that wasn’t in the same wavelength and that great chance went begging. Koscielny committed a clumsy free kick on the edge of the box but the dangerous cross into the box was cleared to safety by Sagna.
Podolski almost doubled Arsenal’s lead when his thunderbolt of a shot rifled off the post after beating the goalie hands down but Gnabry’s follow up was cleared off the line. However, the second goal arrived when Jenkinson’s punt into the box was blocked by a defender which fell into Giroud’s path and the Frenchman used his magic wand of a left boot to curl a delicious effort past Duong Hong Son.
To crown a perfect day at the office, Giroud timed his run to perfection to receive an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pass to lob the ball past an onrushing Duong Hong Son. A scintillating hat-trick with all goals scored with that lethal left foot of his.
As expected, Arsene Wenger made a plethora of changes at the start of the second half with Ryo Miyaichi, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Chuba Akpom, Ignasi Miquel and Per Mertesacker getting run-outs.
Within seconds on the restart, Arsenal went four up when the Ox swerved his shot past the goalie after a perfectly-cushioned pass from Walcott. The Ox was on fire and he teed up Akpom that was one on one with the goalie but the young striker’s shot was poor to say the least. However, Akpom atoned for his earlier miss with a neat finish after receiving a pass from Ramsey. Within minutes, Akpom tucked the ball into an open goal when Zelalem’s inch-perfect pass was guided to Akpom by the Ox.
Wenger brought in more reinforcements in the forms of Jack Wilshere, Damian Martinez, Chuks Aneke, Kris Olsson and Thomas Eisfeld. Eisfeld was the quickest to stamp his authority when he teed up Miquel for a drilled effort to make it seven. Wilshere was having fun in midfield before creating a chance for Walcott that was saved by substitute goalie, Tran Buu Ngoc.
The home side finally had their moment of elation when Tran Manh Dung’s effort looped over Martinez. The crowd were incessant and they were in their own version of utopia. Tran Manh Dung took off his jersey in acknowledgement of his feat and he was brandished a yellow card for his troubles.
There was heavy downpour towards the end of the game and the last noteworthy highlight came when Tran Buu Ngoc handled the ball way outside his box in his attempt to challenge Wilshere. The ref wasted no time in giving the substitute goalie his marching orders and an outfield player took his gloves to be the stand-in goalie for the remainder of the game. Walcott’s free kick killed a bird in the sky though.
At the end, it was an entertaining masterpiece and I was deeply impressed with Giroud and Akpom that have been in great form since the preseason campaign began. In his debut season with the club, Giroud scored 17 goals but he had his fair share of misses and ineffectual performances but with the striker taking his chances as they come, you can only hope for great things when the season begins in earnest.
Arsenal has been increasingly linked with moves for center forwards like Stevan Jovetic, Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain but the chances of getting these players as slim to none. Jovetic is closing in on a move to Manchester City, Liverpool recently rejected a bid for Suarez and according to ESPN, Napoli has set their sights on Higuain, as a natural replacement for the departed Cavani.
Arsene Wenger clearly has high hopes for Giroud this season and five goals in two games, albeit against a weaker opposition, has certainly thrown down the gauntlet.
Many may blab about the goals coming against weaklings but the technique at which they were converted are worth commending the forward. If seen many Premier League goalies concede from first-time volleys and his second goal was reminiscent of Andy Johnson’s sweet finish for Sunderland against Newcastle. The third was a cheeky lob and I’ve seen many Premier League goalie fall for that as well.
I want Arsenal to buy a center forward that would challenge Giroud but if the Arsenal hierarchy fails to purchase that marquee signing we expected, we have to make do with what we have.
Next stop, Japan!
Arsenal’s stay in Vietnam has been a great experience (according to Arsene Wenger) but this video makes me proud to be a Gooner…
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