Another chapter on Arsenal’s adventure in Malaysia closes as the journey continues to Beijing. Yesterday saw Arsenal defeating a Malaysia XI side, coming back from a goal down to salvage a win in the closing phase of the second half. Lots of happy fans and lots of happy sponsors. But more importantly, if not the workout, the heat alone would help the players shed a few extra stones picked up in the off season.
Let’s not hide behind the bush. This is a pre season friendly and the first for many of the players on show yesterday. It’s hard to be overly critical of any aspect of their performance when this match was more for stamina and fitness building. The Malaysian side is almost the full national squad who are in the prime condition, considering that they are 80% through with their season.
Lots of younger players got their time on the pitch and we’ll probably not even see the backline of Yennaris-Bartley-Eastmond-Miquel in the Capital One Cup. It was a mixture of first teamers and the reserves, a stuttering performance like this wasn’t totally unexpected. Complete outfielders used for each half also did not help – no enough time to grow into the game if Arsenal started slow. And that was exactly what happened.
All the fitness building part being said, it was an individual error that caused Arsenal to go behind. Failing to pressure the man on the ball, or purely underestimation on their part. Or perhaps none of the surrounding players thought that Azmi Muslim had it in him to hit the net from that distance. I’m sure Steve Bould would be in their ears over that. While it was a good shot, I felt that Vito Mannone was reacting a tad too slow for my liking.
As for the Malaysian side, their sharpness was the telling factor. This was a much improved performance compared to last year. Though, the opposition’s quality has been reduced somewhat as well. That should not take away the credit that the “Harimau Malaya” should get out of this game. They were moving the ball around at a better tempo and got the hang of a very poor pitch. Arsenal found it hard to cope on a pitch that was ready to break open any time and much too sandy for a game of proper football.
The comeback came about because Arsenal started to overload on the attack, by having the full backs pushing further up the field. No surprise that each flank provided a goal. Yennaris’ neat cut back afforded Eisfeld the equaliser while Miquel’s charge was finished off by Aneke, albeit via a deflection. It was and undeserved win for Arsenal and undeserved loss for Malaysia, if one were to summarise it from a performance standpoint.
Unlike last year, Arsenal didn’t stayed too long after the match ended to thank/salute the fans because they were on a tight schedule. Only 2 hours stood between their flight to Beijing and the end of the match, hence the subdued and almost dull wave goodbye from them. Hey, at least I get to watch Arsenal lift another trophy. Always good by my books, that. They weren’t the only one subdued either. The crowd was significantly less than last year.
The reasons for it can be easily identified. The match was on a working day and at 9:45pm to respect the Muslims who are fasting (this being a Ramadhan month). Many didn’t want to come because they wanted to break fast with their respective families. Others didn’t want to come because by the time it finishes, it would be close to 12am and that is not preferred by working adults nor parents with school-going children. Apart from that, I think the novelty is lost somewhat as the team was here 12 months ago as well.
On the overall scheme of things, this has been another very successful tour. Commercial aspects were met and sponsors were happy. Fans and supporters from around the region manage to catch their favourite team, though minus a lot of more recognisable names. The team made a lot of young children/students very happy, with the promotional events. It’s hard for something to be perfect, but this one is not far from it either.
As the team lands in Beijing and moves into their new hotel rooms (as I type this, the players are tweeting about that), they will continue to build their fitness for the upcoming season. They will also spend time with fans, in continuation of the relationship that they have built last year.
The last 3 days have been hectic but I’ve enjoyed it as much as the next person. Hope you find it interesting and to the local fans, hopefully the information has led you to be able to meet your heroes. Of course, all this is not possible without the wonderful organisation of the event by the Shekinah PR as well as the people from Pro Events management group. Thanks for bringing Arsenal here again.
Till the next time. (photos to be add later today, when I’m back from work)