2013 Asia Tour: 10 Things We’ve Learned From the Far East Campaign
The 2013 Asia Tour was a major success both on and off the pitch.
There were also some emotional moments like Ryo Miyaichi return to his motherland, the passionate Asian fans, some breathtaking football and the whole nine yards.
Arsenal began the Asia Tour with a resounding victory over Indonesia before replicating the same goal count against Vietnam. When Arsene Wenger and his Red and White Army ventured into the shores of Japan, things got a lot more difficult and it was heartwarming seeing Le Professeur coming up against a player who is now coach of the team he managed before coming to Arsenal.
The Asia Tour ended with a tough clash against a side with the match winner for Arsenal reminiscent of the debacle against the 2011 Carling Cup final in Wembley.
Without further ado, here are 10 things learned from the Asia Tour.
Gedion Zelalem is Absolutely Brilliant
At an age no different from when Cesc Fabregas got a shot in the spotlight, Gedion Zelalem has shown in the Asia Tour that he can become a force to be reckoned with in the foreseeable future. His technique on the ball is exemplary, he dictates the tempo at the heart of midfield and he has an eagle-eyed vision, which was proven by his inch-perfect assists.
The folks at Highbury House believe that he is even better than Fabregas when he was 16. Be the judge of that…
Tomas Rosicky has Gotten his Sharpness Back
He came on as a substitute on two occasions and started two games as well but one thing was certain in all Rosicky’s outings – he has gotten his sharpness back.
His elegant movement on an off the ball was pleasing on the eye and his dinked assist to Olivier Giroud for his opening goal against Vietnam was a pleasurable sight.
At the tail end of last season, Rosicky deputized in Jack Wilshere’s absence and his renaissance was important in Arsenal’s surge for a fourth place finish. Rosicky has stated that he’s hungrier than ever and he wants to end his time at Arsenal was a flourish.
The aging Czech maestro had a decent Asia Tour campaign and we can only hope that he would contribute to Arsenal’s cause as the season progresses.
Bacary Sagna can Play as a Center Back
With Johan Djourou loaned out to Hamburg, Sebastien Squillaci sent into oblivion and Ignasi Miquel not fully ready, Arsenal’s miseries at the center back positions were compounded when Thomas Vermaelen suffered a back injury that would sideline him for three months. This ultimately meant that Arsenal had only two recognized center backs in the forms of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
If things weren’t bad enough, Koscielny suffered a knock before the Nagoya Grampus game and as expected, all Hell broke loose. Arsenal has been linked with a move for Swansea’s captain, Ashley Williams, but the wily old fox had something up his sleeves when he fielded Sagna as a center back against Indonesia.
With Koscielny out for the game against Nagoya Grampus, Wenger fielded Sagna in the unfamiliar center position and to be fair, he has excelled in the role, which ultimately means that Arsenal might not invest in a center back.
The writing was on the wall though, Wenger has always fancied Sagna as a center back after his 5-star performance against Sunderland in February.
Aaron Ramsey is a Workhorse
Since his introduction in one of the holding midfield roles last season, Aaron Ramsey has shone like a bright star as he simplified his game, improved his passing range and showed off his unbelievable work rate. To everyone’s delight, Ramsey has picked up where he left off and his performances in the Asia Tour are no different from the standards he set at the tail end of last season.
Ramsey has covered every blade of grass in every game he played and of course, who can forget this…
Olivier Giroud’s Finishing has Vastly Improved
He came off the bench to score a brace against Indonesia and used his wand off a left foot to score a hat-trick against Vietnam. The first was a first time volley from a Rosicky lofted pass, the second was a brilliantly curled effort that left the goalie for dead and the hat-trick was an intelligent chip over the onrushing goalie to crown a perfect first half for the Frenchman. He scored his sixth goal in the Asia Tour with a thumping header against Nagoya Grampus.
With Arsenal missing out on Gonzalo Higuain and the Luis Suarez transfer saga taking different twists and turns, it’s high time we lay all our eggs on a Giroud basket with the hope that the likes of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski come to the fold.
The manager has already stated that Arsenal can compete for major honors with or without signings. Call me a pessimist but I have a hunch that there may not be signings, which ultimately means that Giroud has to come up with the goods on a regular basis or else it’s curtains.
I certainly hope that he will carry his goalscoring Asia Tour form to the forthcoming campaign because they’ll be needed. At least, Rosicky believes so.
Jack Wilshere Looks 100 Percent Fit
When Jack Wilshere broke into the scene following a loan move at Bolton, the 2010/11 campaign was widely regarded as his breakthrough season as his outstanding performances on the pitch won him the Young Player of the Year award. When Wilshere hoped to build on his exploits in the start of the 2011/12 campaign, injury struck and he was out for the best part of 15 months.
Wilshere made his long awaited comeback against Queens Park Rangers in October 2012 and his road to full fitness hit a few blocks as the campaign progressed. After suffering another injury in the tail end of last season, Wilshere’s return to the pitch was marred with rash displays and he was replaced by Tomas Rosicky in the final games of the season.
Wilshere wasn’t fit enough to play against Indonesia, came off the bench against Vietnam and Nagoya Grampus but he was fit enough to start against Urawa Red Diamonds. The midfielder has expressed his delight in his return to full fitness and he hopes to play for 90 minutes in the Emirates Cup.
Wilshere is an indispensable player to the club and his fitness will be key as the season progresses.
Lukas Podolski Needs his Own TV Show
We all know that he was more or less the most substituted player last season, has a left foot no different from Thor’s Hammer and carried niggling ankle injuries throughout the season. As expected, he was part of the squad that traveled to the Asia Tour and on the pitch, he got on the scoring act against Indonesia and Urawa Red Diamonds.
Chuba Akpom is a Loan Move Away From his Breakthrough
He was one of the standout performers in last season’s NextGen series and Arsene Wenger afforded him an opportunity to roll with the big boys in the Asia Tour. Akpom hasn’t disappointed with well-taken goals against Indonesia, Vietnam and the match winner against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Akpom can look back that the Asia Tour with a keen sense of pride and he has even stated that the tour has given him some motivation for the forthcoming campaign. He has been at the club since the age of seven and he scored an impressive 18 goals for the Under-21’s last season.
In my honest opinion, Akpom needs to go on loan to a team that would give him the much-needed exposure to first team football, which will improve him and do wonders to his confidence.
Laurent Koscielny Doesn’t Know What a “Friendly Game” is
When Bleacher Report’s James McNicholas published an article about casting Arsenal players as Hollywood characters, he likened Laurent Koscielny to a velociraptor,
They both have short arms with claw-like hands. They’re both rapid across the ground, and can be deadly at close range.
The similarities between Laurent Koscielny and a velociraptor are undeniable.
The velociraptor made its name stalking kitchens in Jurassic Park. Koscielny has made his name patrolling the heart of the Arsenal defence. Have you ever seen them in the same room?
He came off the bench against Indonesia, started against Vietnam, missed out on the Nagoya Grampus game because of injury and made his return against Urawa Red Diamonds. In all these games, Koscielny was at his brilliant best with his trademark interceptions, aggressive defending and he was a standout performer throughout the Far East campaign.
It will take some stuffing from Thomas Vermaelen to displace Kos the Boss from the team when he returns to full fitness.
The Only Thing Arsenal is Smoking is a Victory Cigar
Seven goals against Indonesia, seven goals against Vietnam, three against Nagoya Grampus and two against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Arsenal may have conceded three goals in the Far East, but Arsene Wenger’s side scored an astonishing 19 goals. To make things more special, the goals were evenly distributed among nine players with Giroud scoring six, Akpom scoring four, Podolski and Walcott scored two each while the others had a goal apiece.
With four wins from four games in Asia, Arsenal can look back on their Far East campaign as a benchmark for the season ahead.
The Emirates Cup comes up next and we can only hope for a great spectacle.
Thanks for the inspiration Bobby.
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