Monthly Archives: July 2013

Urawa Red Diamonds 1 Arsenal 2: Good Run-Out, Better Result

13/14: Urawa Reds 1-2 Arsenal - Lukas Podolski

Poldi opens the scoring

Arsenal’s time in Asia was coming to an end with a final fixtures against one of the J-League’s heavyweights, Urawa Red Diamonds. The hosts were without three of their key players that had joined the Japan National Team in a victory against Australia in what I believed was a qualifier.

Arsenal took to the pitch with a somewhat strong squad as Lukasz Fabianski was the custodian between the sticks with Ignasi Miquel, Per Mertesacker, a fit-again Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna providing defensive cover. In midfield, Arsene Wenger opted for the Ox to partner Mikel Arteta while Jack Wilshere had the honors of being Arsenal’s creative hub in the attacking midfield position. Serge Gnabry and Theo Walcott provided support to the red-hot Olivier Giroud.

Arsenal was quicker off the blocks with Walcott teeing up Gnabry with a quick free kick but after shimming a defender, Gnabry was robbed off the ball which paved the way for an Urawa counter attack but Koscielny was on hand to mop things up at the back. Tsukasa Umesaki was clean on goal from some distance and let one rip but Fabianski had it covered and allowed it go wide off the mark.

Urawa Red Diamonds is made up of an all-Japanese squad with a Brazilian, Marcio Richardes, being the only player with a different nationality and he almost stamped his authority on the game when he almost provided an inch-perfect through ball to a teammate but Koscielny anticipated the ball once again. Shortly afterwards, Walcott made a slalom run and beat all his markers before placing a cushioned ball past Norihiro Yamagishi in goal but the post spared the goalie’s blushes.

Miquel was opened up on the left hand side allowing Keisuke Tsuboi to drill the ball into Arsenal’s danger area. Everyone expected Fabianski to deal with the situation but he uncharacteristically spilled the ball to the path Richardes but Mertesacker did enough to make the Brazilian blast the ball over the bar from point blank range.

Jack Wilshere influence increase as the game progressed and he executed a lofted pass to Giroud but with the goalie rushing out of his line, the Frenchman lobbed the ball and it missed by a lick of paint. Some intricate interplay that began with an Ox dummy allowed Giroud to tee up Walcott with a neat through ball but the Englishman’s finish was wayward to say the least.

Wilshere won a free kick in the heart of the Urawa danger area but Giroud’s shot from the dead ball was deflected to a corner with the hapless goalie watching as he was caught out by the ball’s change of direction. The resulting corner kick was met with a dipping header from Mertesacker but Yamagushi managed to get his hands to it. The ball fell into Koscielny’s path and he unleashed a belter towards goal but Yamagushi made a second save. Gnabry won the ball and lofted it into the BFG’s path and with Mertesacker on the blind side of goal, he fashioned a chance for the Ox but his effort smashed the cross bar.

Tomoya Ugajin had a rare stint at goal and fired a finesse shot that was goal-bound but Fabianski made a top-drawer save to send the ball out for a corner. The ref’s whistle ended what I would regard as an entertaining spectacle.

As expected, Arsenal made wholesale changes in the start of the second half with Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Carl Jenkinson and homeboy, Ryo Miyaichi, coming into the fray. Interestingly, Jenko didn’t come on for Sagna but Mertesacker which saw Sagna go back to the center back  position.

Arsenal began the second half with some renewed enthusiasm and the Gunners were rewarded early in the second half. A long ball was brilliantly controlled by Rosicky in midfield before he fed the Ox that quickly teed up Ramsey on his right. The Welshman drilled the ball into Walcott’s path that unselfishly located Podolski that used his Thor’s Hammer of a left foot to blast in the match’s opener. A magnificent team goal with Arsenal written all over it.

Rosicky used his upper body strength to evade a marker before feeding Walcott with an awesome chance but the forward’s tame shot was easy pickings for Yamagushi. Within minutes, Rosicky’s through ball sent Walcott through on goal and he used his after burners to leave the defenders for dead. However, instead of placing the ball past the goalie as he always does, Walcott inexplicably chose to dribble Yamagushi but the goalie smothered the ball to safety.

With Arsenal failing to take the initiative, an attack on the left from Kunimitsu Sekiguchi saw the winger nutmeg Jenkinson before winning a free kick. Richardes fired at goal from an awkward angle but Fabianski parried the ball away for a corner. The resulting corner was headed away but it kindly fell to Yuki Abe’s path and he blasted the ball past Fabianski to level the contest.

Urawa almost made it two when Koji Noda was clean on goal but Fabianski made himself big to make a fine save to keep his side in the game. The Ox’s bad luck continued as he fired another shot that hit the post. On the other end, Nobuhisa Yamada fired a long range shot that fizzled wide. Wenger put the Ox out of his misery by replacing him with the hot prospect, Gedion Zelalem.

On the left, Miyaichi attempted a couple of step overs before executing a neat one-two with Podolski. The young Jap sent a ball into the danger area but nobody was there to make any good use of the ball. Theo Walcott was replaced by Chuba Akpom shortly afterwards.

Aaron Ramsey dallied on the ball before locating Miquel with a neat pass. The Spaniard fired a cross that was met by Podolski on his favourite left boot but the disappointing finish didn’t match the buildup. There was also a bit of controversy when Podolski clashed with Richardes, and even the German’s foot hit the Brazilian on his hand, the cheating bloke fell with his hands on his face, much to Podolski’s disgust. After some heated exchanges, Richardes fired his free kick straight at Fabianski.

The match winner finally arrived when Ramsey lofted a diagonal ball towards Akpom’s direction. In a quick moment of madness no different from Arsenal’s late debacle against Birmingham in Wembley, Yamagushi and his defender were involved in a horrible mix-up allowing Akpom to blast the ball into an unguarded net.

In the dying moments, Rosicky teed up a ball for Ramsey that blasted wide but Sagna staked his claim for a center back berth when he made a last-ditch tackle to keep the score line intact.

In Arsene Wenger’s post-match conference, he spoke about the competitive nature of the game as well as the performances of Ryo Miyaichi and Serge Gnabry.

In summary, it was a good run-out and a better result to match.

The Asia Tour is over, see you at the Emirates Cup.


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Urawa Red Diamonds Preview: Time to Leave Asia on a High


Off the field of the play, the Luis Suarez transfer shenanigans have taken center stage and like the Gonzalo Higuain protracted saga, it will become boring at some point. Who knows if after Arsenal spends more time courting Suarez, Real Madrid will come up with some audacious offer Liverpool can’t refuse and we will start the campaign with just Olivier Giroud and maybe Marouane Chamakh, Park Ju Young and the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner.

In the world we live today, the transfer market has been very inflated but if you want a player, put your money where your mouth is and just sign him up! We don’t need all his relatives coming to the Press to say how he’s going to come and all that crap. Everyone in Higuain’s family talked about how he was closing in on a move to Arsenal, Napoli sells Edinson Cavani for £55m and sign his replacement, an Arsenal target, with £30m.

When money talks bullsh*t works.

I’ll save my ranting for another post because today’s article is centered on Arsenal’s final game in the Asia Tour against Urawa Red Diamonds for the Saitama Cup (yaaaaay, a trophy!). I must say that it has been an enjoyable time watching the Gunners strut their stuff in Asia and one can only hope for better things ahead. In three games, albeit weaker opposition, the Gunners blasted in 13 goals and conceded just two.

Some youngsters like Chuba Akpom and Gideon Zelalem (oh my!) have come to the fold and showed what they are made of. The young striker spoke about how his exposure to the first team has made him crave for more but he has to understand that he’s not fully ready to eat with the big fish yet. A loan move or two would do wonders to his confidence.

However, there is a striker that has been on a hot streak in the preseason tour and his first half hat-trick against Vietnam was a damn pleasurable sight. With Giroud firing all cylinders in the Asia Tour, his teammate, Tomas Rosicky, believes that he’ll get even better,

“When you come to England it can be difficult in the first season because you have to settle and get used to it.

“So I expect him to have a better season than he did last year, and I believe he can score more than he did then. If he continues with how he has played in pre-season, then why not?”

The quality of Giroud’s goals, even though they were scored against weaker goalies, have been outstanding to say the least and one can only hope that he would replicate the same form in the forthcoming season. With a potential big-name striker like Suarez on Arsenal’s radar, one might have expected Giroud to be perturbed but he has continued to do his business on the pitch, giving his manager things to ponder about.

Training 25/07/2013

Gunners training in Saitama

To team news, there are doubts over the fitness of Wojciech Szczesny, the Ox and Laurent Koscielny. With the Premier League curtain raiser against Aston Villa barely weeks away, Arsenal’s defensive rearguard has been badly depleted to its bare minimums.

With Andre Santos shipped back to Brazil and Nacho Monreal suffering a back injury that would sideline him for a couple of weeks, Arsenal is beginning the season with one left back in the form of Kieran Gibbs that has been in and out of Arsenal’s treatment in recent times. Beyond Gibbs, Arsene Wenger can only summon the services of Ignasi Miquel and one would wonder if he’s finally ready to make that step up.

Things aren’t looking good either in the center back positions with club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, and key defender, Laurent Koscielny, still nursing injuries. With Per Mertesacker flying the flag as the only experienced center back that’s still fit, Arsene Wenger has decided to optimize his squad by drafting Bacary Sagna to an unfamiliar center back position, which ultimately allows Carl Jenkinson to do his thing on the right.

With the Gibbs-Mertesacker-Sagna-Jenkinson combo looking like Arsenal’s defensive selection ahead of the new campaign, one can only wish that the injury gods would have mercy on the fit defenders in the club, because the Gunners are one defensive injury away from another crisis.

In midfield, it’s a different ball game entirely as Arsene Wenger gets headaches due to the plethora of options at his disposal. While Mikel Arteta continues to stamp his authority with his unrivaled influence, Aaron Ramsey’s performances have been a class act and it’s heartwarming to see him picking up where he left off last season. With Santi Cazorla still recharging his batteries in Spain, his position will be contested by Jack Wilshere and the evergreen Rosicky, which will be a nice prospect if you ask me.

Finally, it’s more than likely for the fans to welcome the lethal Podolski-Giroud-Walcott triumvirate but I would like to see Ryo Miyaichi and Chuba Akpom get run-outs and I believe they will.


A memorable moment for Miyaichi

Unlike the thumping of Indonesia and Vietnam, I would expect today’s game to be in the same mold with the outing against Nagoya Grampus, with an inevitable Arsenal victory. The Gunners will be at their own peril if they expect a stroll in the park against Urawa Red Diamonds.

They won the J-League in 2006 and finished last season in third place. They certainly won’t be pushovers.


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Latest Updates on the Luis Suarez Transfer Saga

Suarez in anguish afer a vicious attack from Szczesny. Shame

It all began with a nice bite on the arm of a fellow professional.

The world watched in shock as an incredibly talented footballer, no doubt, put himself on the back pages for all the wrong reasons, as if the diving, cheating and racial abuse on another professional weren’t enough. Oh wait, he had bitten another footballer before.

At the end of last season, Luis Suarez publicly declared his intentions to leave England because the Press have been intruding into his private life which meant that the writing was on the wall regarding his imminent exit. It was only a matter of time.

As the days turned to weeks, Suarez was heavily linked with a big money move to Real Madrid but he turned his focus to business on the field, as the Conferedations Cup beckoned. He managed to surpass Diego Forlan’s record to become his nation’s highest ever goalscorer but with the tournament reaching its climax with a Brazil win over Spain, off the field shenanigans became even stronger.

Arsenal were touted as sure-fire favourites to swoop for Real Madrid’s goal poacher, Gonzalo Higuain, but it’s sad to know that things haven’t quite gone according to plan – putting it mildly.

Out of the blue, the Telegraph reported that Arsenal made an audacious £30m bid, that was rebuffed by Liverpool.

It didn’t quite add up if the situation was judged from a neutral perspective. Despite the fact that the Arsenal hierarchy had blew their trumpet about how much money was in the bank, the club’s record signing still remains a Russian hobbit that cost £15m, which meant that the bid for Suarez was two times the record fee.

Then there was the excess baggage as well, and with Arsene Wenger known to be a very disciplined man, many were bewildered and perplexed to know that he would sanction a bid for a “despicable” player like Suarez. Some would say that Tony Adams, Paul Merson and even Robin van Persie (in his Feyernoord days) weren’t as holy as thou, but they didn’t revert to such extreme measures as racism and cannibalism.

Leading Arsenal blogs like Arseblog, Gunnerblog and 7am Kick Off shared their views on signing Suarez. I even published a post revealing the pros and cons going for the hothead. As expected, this brought mixed opinions among Arsenal fans as one faction believed that just his undoubted talent was more than enough for the club to battle hard for him while others believed that his excess baggage would be a real issue if he joins.

Liverpool gaffer, Brendan Rodgers, stated that he’s going to remain a Liverpool player unless something drastic happens. Days later, the Mirror’s John Cross stated that Wenger had sanctioned an improved offer for the Uruguayan. The improved offer turned out to be £40,000,001 which has also been rejected by the Merseyside outfit, however, that bid triggered a clause which states that Liverpool have to inform Suarez about the offer, like he doesn’t read the papers or something.

In the wake of the new bid for Liverpool’s prized asset, the club’s owner, John Henry, used his Twitter account to openly mock Arsenal’s improved bid,

As bizarre as that sounded, it clearly indicated that the Anfield outfit are willing to go all out to hold onto their prized asset. However, BBC Sport has reported that the forward has spoken about his desire to hold talks with Arsenal. This is coming from a player that stated how he wanted to leave the shores of England, except if he believes that London is another country on its own. Footballers can be that smart you know.

To make things more spicy, Wayne Veysey of tweeted that the forward is preparing a transfer request to force a move to Arsenal.

Suarez returned to the field of play in Liverpool’s recent win over Australia’s Melbourne Victory. Late in the game, Suarez showed off his brilliance by leaving some defenders for dead before setting up newbie, Iago Aspas, for a goal but his celebration was somewhat subdued, which probably sends a message that he believes he’s living on borrowed time at Liverpool.

The Gunners are still in the Far East to play their final Asia Tour game against Urawa Red Diamonds before Arsene Wenger and his men jet back to London for the Emirates Cup.

As awkward as this may sound, Gonzalo Higuain will play against Arsenal when the Gunners take on Napoli on the 3rd of August. Who knows if Luis Suarez will be donning the sacred Red and White on that fateful day.


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