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Arsenal v. Vietnam: Preseason Preview

Smells like victory!

Robertus Pudyanto

I have been watching sports for a long time. Baseball is the sport I cut my teeth on; I've been watching baseball since about 1979, and paying way too much attention to it since about 1983. What was once true in baseball, and presumably in other sports, is that spring training/preseason (which in baseball is a month long) used to be a time when players would show up fat and out of shape after their off-seasons of drinking, smoking, working day jobs (in some cases) and not exercising, and would then spend the next month working themselves into game shape so they'd be ready to go by opening day.

Modern athletes, of course, are now expected to be in shape year-round, so in soccer, pre-season is spent doing two things: working your general fitness into match-intensity shape, and working on tactics and systems for the upcoming season. A few years back, English clubs decided to match up their desire to get their teams into shape with their desire to hoover up as much money as humanly possible, and thus the preseason tour was born!

Arsenal came late to the party - they used to train in relative seclusion in Austria while your Manchester Uniteds, your Chelseas, and your Barcelonas tarted themselves about, flaunting their wares to whoever would wave a lot of local currency units in their direction. Then one day, Arsenal decided they wanted local currency units too, so Ivan Gazidis pulled out a map, thought "East Asia - nobody's been there yet!", and rang his travel agent.

So, just like that, Arsenal were off, fanny packs all secured around waists and cameras around necks, to see the world. I'm sure by now you've all seen this, but it's pretty awesome - a Vietnamese Arsenal fan ran alongside Arsenal's bus the other day for about five kilometers, and finally the Arsenal bus stopped and let him on board to meet his heroes. I am as cynical, dark-hearted, and skeptical about sports as anyone you'll ever meet, but I do love that story - someone who loves something that much deserves to get a reward like that, and I hope he remembers it and doesn't just go OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD any time someone asks him about it.

But anyway, that's not what we're here to talk about - there's a game tomorrow! Arsenal play Vietnam - I assume the national team, not the whole country - at 1PM London time, which is 5AM Portland time, 8AM East Coast time. This is normally the space where we would give a short summary of Arsenal's season so far, recent playing trends, injury worries, and the like, and offer up some sort of view of Arsenal's opponent, but we're still in preseason shape too, and this is a glorified exhibition, so.

There's not a whole lot of sophisticated analysis I can give for this game, for either Arsenal or Vietnam; Arsenal won their first game on tour, against an Indonesia Dream Team, 7-0, with Walcott, Akpom, Giroud (2), Podolski, Olsson, and Eisfeld scoring for Arsenal. Arsenal's team was Fabianski, Jenkinson, Miquel, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Gnabry, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Akpom, with Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Rosicky, Podolski, Wilshere, Giroud, Zelalem, Aneke, Ryo, Martinez, Eisfeld, and Olsson as subs.

Because it was a friendly, and because it was the first friendly of the season, Arsenal made wholesale changes to the lineup a couple times during the game; I couldn't even begin to tell you who might start tomorrow, but if I had to guess the starters will look similar to the Indonesia game.

As for Vietnam? I have literally no idea. I asked the NTSB and KTVU-TV to give me the names of the Vietnamese national team, but they're both currently under a gag order, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

The one thing I do want to stress here, though, is actually two things:

1) Do not read anything into these games. These are kickabouts in the park, played at about 75% speed, and there is pretty much nothing that can be inferred from them except for a player's health and general fitness level, and (sometimes) his ability to tie his shoes correctly. The real work of shaping a team is just getting started, and won't be complete until the last preseason game. This is the second game of a tour designed to make money, not a series of qualifying games for a tournament.
2) Accordingly, the result of this game absolutely does not matter. Arsenal should steamroll the Vietnamese; however, if Arsenal win 2-0, it's not a crisis. If Arsenal lose, it's not a crisis.

So, crack open a can of Booty Sweat and enjoy the second Arsenal preseason game; will be broadcasting it "as live", with the complete game video starting as soon as the final whistle blows, and you can also follow the match live there with a minute-by-minute text commentary. Just as a reminder, we do not permit discussion of illegal streams on TSF, so if you have one, keep it to yourself, please.

Arsenal's back!