Arsenal Formation: 4-5-1: Emiliano Martinez (Wojciech Szczesny 46’), Mathieu Debuchy (Hector Bellerin 73’), Per Mertesacker (C), Gabriel Paulista, Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Flamini (Chris Willock 64’), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Gedion Zelalem 64’), Jack Wilshere (Dan Crowley 64’), Alex Iwobi (Jon Toral 73’), Chuba Akpom.
The underlined players are the ones that did not feature in my starting line-up: I was 3 players wrong wow!
The game started strongly, with both sides playing fantastic football. The foreign Singapore Select XI players were impressive, while the local players, still in their Ramadan fasting month – meaning they did not have any lunch – were good in the first half; but, all had their tyres punctured (local lingo) in the second half.
Fast flowing football was the first half. Second half was more about Arsenal keeping the ball, as both teams were tired: Arsenal from the heat, Singapore team from the fasting month.
Players who showed that they are good, include: Nicolas Velez, Izwan (Izwan is his given name, Mahbud is his father’s given name), Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana, Faris Ramli (he did well when he came on and managed to get the only shorts on goal) and Sirina Camara from Singapore team. Iwobi, Akpom, the all-conquering defence, Ox, and Mathieu played well for Arsenal. Ox showed us how fast he can be, and, together with the trickeries from other players from both teams, this made the game an entertaining one. Pity that Shaiful Esah, the left back from Singapore, went off injured as his pace and left foot is on a par with Monreal.
Zelalem came on late in the second half and had a decent game, with his known pin-point passes, speed and trickery. When Bellerin came on to play at right wing, the game became faster for a short while; but after that, the game became a training and walking game with occasional bursts of speed.
Overall, the atmosphere was quite electric in the first half, and quiet by the last 15 minutes, with more than half the stadium filled (about 30,000 spectators watched the match live in a 50,000-seater stadium). We had occasional Arsenal chants and the Kallang Wave, which is similar to the Mexican wave.
As a Singaporean I am proud of how the Singapore team played attractive football in the first half; and as an Arsenal fan, I am proud to see the lads play exciting football just a week back in training.
Arsenal 4 – 1 Newcastle United: The dawn of a new era?
I don’t always watch an Arsenal game twice, but this time it was worth it. During the first round I was influenced by alcohol intake, but the second watching was entirely sober. After the first watching I wondered how we had shaped ourselves, especially from an attacking point of view. I also wanted to know whether we are playing more of a 4-1-2-3, or indeed a 4-1-5 at the moment.
I always feel we need to play with one holding DM, who sits back and protects the back-four. The BFG is a great defender but we need to play to his strengths, which is organisation and controlling the defence. For that he needs fast players around him, and a strong, classic DM in front of him, and not to have to push up too much. I thought Flamini did quietly a great job in protecting the back four on Saturday. He stayed back and allowed both Ox and Santi to attack; yet, the more attack minded central midfielders were also disciplined in helping Flam out if and when the Magpies ventured forward.
So, it looked like we played 4-1-2-3 with the ‘2’ being asked to help out in defence and keep their discipline as much as was deemed necessary: and Ox and Santi handled this very well throughout the game. It is too early to say whether this is a shift in formation and style of play, but from what we saw on yesterday it offers at least an interesting alternative.
There was a very good balance to our team and tactically it worked a treat. The Chav-Slayers were set up to sit back and absorb pressure, but with five pressing and continuously moving players up-front – Giroud, Alexis, Ox, Welbeck, Santi – and two eager and dynamic FBs, the Barcodes were never able to settle – a big difference from their previous game where they took control after some initial pressure by the Southern Oilers. Our attacks in the first half often lacked cohesion and focus and as a result we were only one up at half time, but they also had thoroughly knackered out the Newcastle team with their sheer unpredictability and continuous pressure.
In the second half, we used Giroud much more as our attacking pivot, which gave us a bit more shape and structure. In the first half, after a great interception by Hector-Vector, Giroud had received the ball in the prototypical way: with his back towards goal in the middle of the opponent’s half. He found Sanchez with a quick, sharp pass and was back in a flash to tower home like a giraffe the Chilean’s superbly placed cross: a very good, classical goal.
But, we did not use him as our pivot often enough during the first 45 minutes imo.
On the other hand, Welbeck and Alexis were a constant menace and Ox and Santi provided both thrust and ingenuity. There were a few dimensions to our attack and Danny was very unfortunate not to be given his goal, after the slightest of touches had brought Janmaat tumbling down like a crashing aeroplane, and the weakest of referees, Lee Mason, had ruled it, pathetically, a foul. I could say so much about Mason, but it is best to concentrate on the game…
2-0 at half time would have been a fair reflexion of our dominance, although we have to thank Szczesny wholeheartedly for a superb double safe of Williamson and Papiss Cisse’s efforts, from Colback’s fine free-kick (who really impressed me throughout the entire game: possible the best all-round midfielder on the pitch).
However, I feel we attacked better in the second half: there was more focus and directness, and using Giroud as our pivot, as well as the initially impressive Coloccini starting to wane, played a key role. The second goal saw Alexis produce unselfishly his second assist of the game; but most of the credit should go to Santi, who took the ball well past a defender, managed to stay on his feet and then tricked the goalie with a sublime piece of skill of Bergkampesque quality. To score a goal like that on your 30th birthday is of course bliss, and it set the scene for more cheekiness.
It was soon 3-0: Bellerin had made a great run to the by-line and delivered a cool and measured low cross to the well-positioned (Danny take note) Giroud. The towering Girouffe had to work his feet for this one, and as he is left footed and the angle was very tight, he decided to use his left foot to redirect – pinball – the ball towards goal, leaving Alnwick utterly bamboozled and no time to respond. Cheeky – Cheeky 🙂
The Magpies got one back from a clever free kick by their MOTM and a well placed header by (also impressive) Perez, but of course, we should have defended that one much, much better. However, credit goes to the team for not changing their shape and keep believing in their (at least on the night) superior qualities. At this stage, the trio of BFG-Debuchy-Flamini stood strong with fine blogs and interceptions, and above all, keeping it tight (with help of others of course). We gave away too many free-kicks though – the only way they were ever going to score against us was from set-pieces, so should have known better – as the likes of Bellerin, and especially the experienced Giroud, should have spotted that Mason was apparently desperate to give the Barcodes preferential treatment at every occasion.
However, it took another 25 minutes to fully settle the match once and forever. I reckon Danny is a work in progress and there are a few areas he will have to improve in, if he is to make it at Arsenal long term as a first-eleven player, but two of his unquestionable strengths are his athleticism and stamina. Dummett had had a decent game until the 88th minute, but sheer fatigue by him let to his foul of Duracell-Danny, and up steps birthday-boy Santi to take the pen.
We all know how he took it: cheeky – cheeky – cheeky: totally taking the Papiss 😀 I am not a big fan of the ‘dinked penalty’, but given the score and the special occasion for Santi, and of course the fact that he got away with it, I forgive him. 4-1 to the good guys, some very good football, three points in the bag and the perfect preparation for a tough test against the Dippers next weekend: Bring it on!
So it is Monaco in the CL. For once the draw is a happy one not just for the favourites (just look at Munich and Real draws….) but also for the Gunners. Wenger will know a lot about this club and we should have a good chance to go through as long as we don’t underestimate them.