Arsenal brush aside Indonesian XI
Serge Gnabry and fellow youngsters dazzle in emphatic 7-0 in
Arsene Wenger had a lot of youngsters in the squad for his first match of pre-season on their tour of Asia - many of whom have a lot of expectations surrounding them but one thing is for sure - today, they did not disappoint.
88,000 supporters came out in the 28 degree heat to watch the Arsenal team take on an Indonesian XI; it is safe to say Arsenal really have a special place in the heart of Asian football fans.
Arsenal's starting 11 boasted both experience and exciting promise, with the gifted young talents of Chuba Akpom and Serge Gnabry mixing with the likes of Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker.
Both of the young stars started the game very well, as they linked up in the 6th minute as Gnabry, on his 18th birthday, played a deft through ball to 17 year old Akpom, who dragged his shot wide.
A typical Arsenal start - much of the possession but not always doing much with it. The closest they came for the better part of 20 minutes was a long range effort from Aaron Ramsey which went just wide.
In the 19th minute, Oxlade-Chamberlain pinched the ball in the middle of the park and drove powerfully at the last defender - his speed was frightening. As he got into the area the defender recovered well, but a lovely step-over managed to give the Ox time to gently play the ball into Walcott's path who surely side-footed home from just inside the box.
Once Arsenal had the first goal, the confidence increased and they started to create more and more.
Gnabry was really impressing on the ball with some delightful skills, and Akpom was making a nuisance of himself up front giving the team something to aim at.
Walcott and Jenkinson were combining terrifically down the right causing constant problems for the Indonesian Dream Team. Half way through the first 45, Jenkinson floated a lovely ball over the top for Walcott who lost his man and fired a low cross towards Akpom who couldn't quite direct it goalwards and the ball was cleared behind. From this Arsenal won a string of corners, most of which were dealt with great confidence by the punching 'keeper.
The Gunners seemed to be confident in being able to score from the right side with Jenkinson powering forward and digging out an enticing cross, but his fellow full-back Gibbs, who had found himself as the most attacking man in yellow, just failed to make contact.
Less than a minute later, Gibbs had another great chance to score a rare goal with Walcott teasing the defence and his low cross found a way to Gibbs at the back post, but a horribly mis-timed shot from the left-back bounced into the side-netting.
Arsenal were now completely dominant and when Indonesia set up a rare attack, Arsenal pounced on the counter with Ramsey spreading the ball to Akpom on the half way who stormed forward.
Walcott had drifted offside but Akpom's pass was gathered at pace by Chamberlain who took it round the keeper and with a chance to slide in a now onside Walcott, skewed his effort well over.
The hosts did have one chance however, taking advantage of some now infamous defensive hesitations, but a weak shot was gathered comfortably by Fabianski. Before the replay was even finished, Gnabry was charming again with a fearless run into the area, curling a shot with his right just round the post just before half time.
No-one would argue that the first half belonged to the young Arsenal stars with some very quiet performances from established players - Arteta being completely ineffectual, Mertesacker's name hadn't been mentioned and Ramsey was his usual self, succeeding some great play with some woeful passing
Wenger made five changes for the second half, taking off Arteta, Mertesacker, Walcott, Chamberlain and Gibbs and introducing Koscielny along with four highly-rated youngsters: Kris Olsson, Gedion Zelalem, Thomas Eisfeld & Chuks Aneke
Eisfeld saw much of the ball at the start of the second half and Gnabry carried on from where he left off. And it wasn't long until the pressure told.
Gnabry was once again involved, accepting a flick from Akpom, putting a defender on the ground before crossing low for the striker to convert with a smart finish.
In the 70th minute, more changes were made but this time, the big boys were getting ready. Gnabry deserved his applause as he made way for Tomas Rosicky, with Ramsey, Jenkinson, Akpom and Fabianski all following him to the bench, replaced by Podolski, Sagna, Giroud and Martinez.
Then the Gunners really showed their superiority. With what must have been their first touches, Sagna was released down the right and he crossed low for Giroud who finished with a lovely flick with the outside of his left, chipping the keeper.
Almost straight after, with what could quite possibly have been their second touches, Giroud played the ball to Sagna who put in another low cross, slightly behind Giroud who controlled with his right, and with his back to goal, smashed the ball in the top corner on the turn with his left foot; a brilliant finish.
Arsenal were having fun now and the youngsters were relishing playing with the current stars. Gideon Zelalem, who has been dubbed the new Fabregas, was really getting involved and Eisfeld was also excellent to watch as he got to play with his own footballing hero, Rosicky.
And the little Mozart was showing just why he has so many admirers.
Rosicky was now controlling the game and his interplay with Podolski set up the German to blast the ball in the bottom corner in the 82nd minute, making it 5-0. But the Czech wasn't done there, when two minutes later he received the ball on the corner of the penalty box and crossed the ball majestically with the outside of his right foot to the back post allowing young Olsson to get on the score sheet.
There was just enough time for Eisfeld to get in on the act, when he took down Giroud's header and thumped the ball high into the roof of the net.
The game was a fantastic exhibition of Arsenal's young talents and a wonderful showcase for the older players.
A comfortable match for Arsenal who went about their task with style; and with the two Manchester based teams losing what seemed to be easy friendlies this weekend, this win could be a warning that Arsenal can compete for the title this season.
Of course supporters will still want to see new players coming in for Arsenal, especially considering all the uncertain speculation around the club's transfers over the past few weeks, and this will really push forward a claim for a title challenge.
Putting that aside, a great start to pre-season for the Gunners. You can next see them in action in Vietnam at midday on Wednesday.