Red Diamonds 1 – 2 Arsenal
The last fixture of Arsenal’s Asia Tour was played in Japan, a day before The Gunners were due to fly home. They faced Urawa Red Diamonds, a side who had enjoyed plenty of domestic success over the years, and were looking to give Arsenal their biggest test of pre-season.[quote_right]“Despite Arsenal not being in complete control, they looked relatively relaxed…”[/quote_right]
Arsenal started the game with a little apprehension. The Red Diamonds were playing some silky Football in front of the Arsenal back four, holding on to possession very well across the pitch.
Evidently, the Red Diamonds were fitter than The Gunners, and unlike in previous pre-season matches, the Diamonds were taking advantage of their fitness very early in the game. However, despite Arsenal not being in complete control, they looked relatively relaxed.
The Gunners were making very good use of their counter attacks, allowing the Diamonds to come forward before launching a pacey offensive. Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry were at the heart of most Arsenal attacks, helping to relieve the pressure on the Arsenal defence.
After hitting the post early on, Theo Walcott missed a golden opportunity in the twenty-seventh minute, after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played a lovely ball through to Walcott, who went on to blast his shot well over the bar. Seconds later, another Arsenal attack saw Giroud lift the ball over the Goalkeeper from a distance, only to put the ball wide by a few yards.
Soon after, Chamberlain had an impressive effort from outside the box hammer off the cross-bar. The ball simply wouldn’t go in for Arsenal.
The second half started off more positively for Arsenal. In the forty-eighth minute, after some prying play, substitute Aaron Ramsey played the ball into Theo Walcott in the box, who gently lifted the ball in the direction of Lukas Podolski, another substitute. As usual, the German made no mistake, and drilled his left boot through the centre of the ball, driving it home.
Despite Arsenal’s emphatic start to the second half, the Red Diamonds refused to lie down. Their fast and tricky attackers were causing trouble for a relatively shaky Arsenal defence, and within ten minutes of Podolski’s opener, they equalised. [quote_left]“Gedion Zelalem in particular was impressive yet again, showing brilliant composure in some very pressurised situations.”[/quote_left]
A poorly defended corner was not cleared properly, allowing Japanese striker Abe to direct a close range volley past a helpless Fabianksi. It was shoddy from the Gunners.
However, Arsenal regained their composure gradually, coming to dominate possession as you would expect. A host of half time substitutions, supplemented by the arrival of Zelalem and Akpom, helped push The Gunners forward. Gedion Zelalem in particular was impressive yet again, showing brilliant composure in some very pressurised situations.
After several minutes of fruitless play back and forth between the two sides, Arsenal’s winner was placed on a platter for Chuba Akpom. A defensive error by the Red Diamonds saw the ball fall to the feet of Akpom just inside the area. The goal was open, but Akpom still did well to finish under some pressure.
The rest of the fixture was played out calmly by the two sides, who each decided that the result was good enough. Arsenal certainly had faced their greatest test so far this pre-season, but in the end, they did just enough.
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
Lukasz got a full ninety minutes under his belt, and deservedly so. The Pole dealt with a number of shots on goal very well, and also manged to avert danger from several testing crosses. An impressive performance.
Played the first half as a right back, and the second half as a centre back. Funnily enough, he looked far better in his central role. He helped clean up some sloppy defending in the midfield, and showed some fight to win challenges. A very worthy backup centre back.
Played the first forty-five minutes and did a good enough job. The Red Diamonds didn’t particularly cause him any individual trouble.
After picking up an injury in training, it seemed Koscielny would miss out against the Red Diamonds. However, he started, and finished the game in top form. He cut out passes, won headers and cleaned up superbly.
Ignasi played a full ninety minutes, and looked very good offensively throughout. He played in a number of useful crosses, and held firm defensively also.
Improving on his previous performances, Mikel showed some neat touches and accurate passes throughout his forty-five minutes.
Jack also only got forty-five minutes, but looked very comfortable fitness wise. He distributed play well, and short some classic turns of pace when necessary.
Alex got himself into some decent positions, and helped drive the team forward with his pace and quick passing. He is slowly growing into a more central role.
Serge did well to push the Red Diamonds back with his pace. He took part in a number of attacks in the first half, and always looked to play the ball positively.
Theo looked extremely dangerous throughout his seventy-four minutes on the pitch. He made excellent runs both on and off the ball, penetrating the Japanese defence on a number of occasions, hitting the post and having a shot headed away from goal as a result. However, his finishing at other times were not as great, and he therefore failed to get on the score sheet. However, he did well to assist Podolski.
Olivier was a welcome presence up front, as Arsenal often needed an outlet during the first half to relieve the pressure from the Red Diamonds. However, apart from a hopeful lob from outside the box, which bounced wide, Giroud made little impact in terms of attacks.
Although Carl looked as lively as ever coming forward, he looked slightly suspect defensively.
Gedion only played for twenty-five minutes, but managed to make yet another good case for himself. He showed excellent feet to dribble and pass his way out his tight situations, and looked seriously at ease in the middle of the pitch. unbelievable talent, and it’s now evident that we need to handle Gedion Zelalem with care.
Showed some very quick feet in the box and looked energetic in general. Almost got himself an assist through Theo Walcott.
A typical Lukas performance. Didn’t do too much, but he took his goal brilliantly anyway. Showed some passion when a Red Diamond player went down holding his face for no reason. Always good to see.
Chuba was only given one job to do, and he did it very well. The ball dropped t him unexpectedly, and he kept his cool enough to slot the ball home, sealing Arsenal’s win. His goal also meant that he had bagged an impressive four goals during the Asian Tour.
Worked his socks off as usual, and played a good ball in to Theo Walcott in the build up to Podolski’s goal.
Ryo worked very hard, and managed to get a few good crosses into the box. Needs to run at defenders a little more than he now does though.
Yet again, Arsenal showed that their defensive troubles are still in the mix. Yet, a solid performance overall from the defence and midfield allowed Podolski and Akpom to seal the victory.
Positives from the game include that Bacary Sagna truly is a pretty good centre back, and that Gedion Zelalem look absolutely outstanding at the age of just sixteen. His future will be extremely interesting.
However, it must be said that without Chuba Akpom’s late winner, Arsenal would have probably been quite happy with the draw. Their performance on the day was lacking polish, and The Gunners looked likely to concede at many points during the game. Having said that, a win is most definitely a win, so, cheers Chuba!
What did you think of the Urawa Red Diamonds Vs Arsenal match? Share your views in the comments section below!