A very good Friday to you and I hope to find you well. Pre season means that the matches could fall on any day and that’s exactly what happens today. Arsenal takes on reigning Premier League champions, Manchester City at the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing later today. This might not be exactly the 39th game but it will provide an indication of what it’s going to be like should that ever materialise. Never thought the plan for an extra league game outside of England would ever come to fruition but no harm seeing an indication of what it is going to be like.
Given that the team play again on Sunday, just 2 days after this one, I’m assuming that the team who plays today will be a merger of the two outfield sides that took to the field on either side of half time against Malaysia XI. Given the hot weather conditions of Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Hong Kong; it would be hard for the players to play 2 games in the space of 72 hours. Hence, today we might be able to see the players who started, staying longer on the field. While those who’s on the bench, will likely to start and play longer against Kitchee.
I have no problem with today’s match being just another step towards match fitness. While it will always be great to beat any current league champions, that should not be the main objective of today’s friendly. We are still in pre season and the players are not fully fit yet. Precaution has to be taken as this is the time where injuries are easily picked up if the intensity is too high. That is not say we should approach this match taking it easy and avoiding all tackles. But there should be a wariness to not over-exert themselves and risk picking up needless injury.
I’ve gone through every single article relating to Arsenal’s trip to Beijing and they have done a lot of good over there. Seeing the players interact with the locals and immerse themselves with the Chinese culture is both refreshing and very pleasing to see. For most of these players, it’s their first time in China and there’s so much to take in. I’ve never there myself but I’m not oblivious to the fact that it’s a country rich in history and varieties of cultures. To have the chance to visit the Forbidden City, a place filled with historical values, is really a wonderful thing.
These days, values are something which is taken very lightly. As you can see with the many examples in football today, it has become a forgotten character. The days of players who will stay with the club forever unless being told by the manager to leave are offer. These days, the decision is more or less dictated from the other side of the table, from the player’s side. Money is something we can’t live without but it doesn’t make it any less evil. The way the game has grown is of course in tandem with the growing influx of money into the game.
There’s no doubting that money plays a huge part in our everyday life, let alone a life of a footballer or a football club. Thomas Vermaelen mentioned as much in his interview with Matt Barlow. Money can buy success as is evident by Chelsea and City both picking up league title with the riches of their respective owners. However, it is not the be all end all of all things in football. They have not won every single trophy in all the time that they have the money. Somehow I feel that’s a dig at a certain player who is currently hogging Lukas Podolski’s squad number. A long way of saying “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”.
There is another part in that interview which is also true – “the table never lies”. We were third and we only have to look at the goals conceded column. 49 is just too many for any club aspiring to challenge for the league title. While that number have a special place in our hearts, I’m sure everyone agrees that we will never want to see it in the “A” column of the league table. We need to be more consistent in that side of the game. There cannot be any slack in concentration or poor positioning contributing to that. Ok, perhaps 1 or 2 over the course of the season is acceptable. Things like how the team didn’t close down Azmi Muslim for Malaysia’s goal, should not be allowed to happen again.
Central to those plans to reduce the number of goals conceded is Vermaelen himself and Laurent Koscielny. The latter has recently tied himself to us for a couple more years and the pair of them will be hoping to improve their partnership for the coming season. With Steve Bould in the fray and all the positive things which I’ve seen thus far, there are exciting times to look ahead to. A replica of the famous back four might not be entirely in the offing but we could certainly narrow that gap.
Enjoy the game later.
p.s. : I said that it’s a fitness building exercise but I would still love it for City to get a beating.