Akpom scores again as Arsenal conclude Asia Tour with win


This was the final and, as it turned out, most challenging workout for Arsenal during their pre-season tour of Asia, with Urawa Red Diamonds enjoying large spells of possession and forcing Lukasz Fabianski into making some impressive saves, but the Gunners eventually prevailed, with Chuba Akpom capitalising on some inept defending to make it 2-1 late on.

Akpom will have fond memories of this four-stop tour, and, along with Gedion Zelalem, who was introduced midway through the second half, can be seen to have greatly enhanced his claim for at least some first-team action when the new campaign gets underway. Ignasi Miquel, meanwhile, completed the whole game at left-back, an indication that he, too, is very much in Arsene Wenger’s thinking as a back-up option in defence.

There were fewer substitutions than in the previous games, with Damian Martinez, Kristoffer Olsson, Thomas Eisfeld and Chuks Aneke all remaining un-used, but, for all of the youngsters involved, this tour has at least afforded them the opportunity of sampling what life in the first-team is like. Now, the task will be to remain with the squad for the Emirates Cup, and, potentially, beyond.

Source: Chris McGrath/Getty Images AsiaPac

Source: Chris McGrath/Getty Images AsiaPac

Serge Gnabry was handed his third start of the tour as he sought to send a message to Wenger, but the 18 year old, despite some driving runs, didn’t make a sustained impact on proceedings. Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both struck the woodwork as Arsenal piled on the pressure in the first-half, but they couldn’t make a breakthrough until just after the interval when Lukas Podolski applied the finishing touch to a fine move to put his side ahead.Walcott then squandered two opportunities to increase the lead, but, instead, it was the hosts who would score next, with former Leicester City defender Yuki Abe firing past Fabianski to equalise. Urawa Red Diamonds proceeded to dominate for the next ten minutes or so, with Fabianski forced into action on several occasions, and Laurent Koscielny, back from injury, had to make a vital late interception to prevent another goal.

Akpom was on hand to find the net when it mattered at the other end, however, with the 17 year old, deployed on the right flank, seizing upon a mis-understanding between the Urawa goalkeeper and a defender by stroking the ball calmly into the net.

The signing of Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre this summer may have pushed Akpom a little further down the pecking order as far as Arsenal’s strikers are concerned, but the England youth international has certainly staked his claim for further outings during this trip and is a certainty to at least feature in the Capital One Cup this season.

Zelalem, meanwhile, again played some neat passes, but was guilty of dwelling on the ball on one occasion which resulted in the Japanese side winning the ball. By and large, though, the 16 year old has enjoyed a superb run of games during this tour and has showcased his talent to a worldwide audience.

Miquel could well be promoted to the first-team squad as cover but still does not seem to be entirely dependable in a defensive sense, whilst Gnabry’s continued inclusion suggests that Wenger could elevate the young German into the first-team squad to take the place of Andrey Arshavin.

Martinez could find himself as the club’s third-choice goalkeeper, but only if another, more experienced shot-stopper is not acquired within the next 38 days. As for Eisfeld, Aneke and Olsson, they are likely to have to wait another year at least to discover their long-term fate at the club, with the latter likely to feature in the Capital One Cup, whilst Eisfeld and Aneke could be set for loan spells.

With the squad now returning to England, some of the youngsters who missed out on the tour, such as Nico Yennaris and Isaac Hayden, will hope to be involved in the Emirates Cup, as Wenger continues to assess his options ahead of the new campaign.

24 comments

  1. I personally think ryo is a step in front of gnabry. Miquel will get the chance to step up if we don’t sign a left sided centre back. As for akpom I feel his place is the same. Whilst sanogo is in it appears campbell and afobe have definitely been overtaken at least for the time being.

    1. Wenger has said that he will remain with the squad for the time being, rather than going out on loan, so it looks as if he’s going to get some chances. He’s still very raw, but when he gets back to full fitness then he can be a danger to the opposition.

    2. Hardly any, that is my point. We have to face facts ryo gnabry eisfeld olsson campbell are just not ready for 1st team duty yet.

  2. I agree with the comment from Le Grove that Gnabry’s physique is perfect for the EPL, unlike Gervinho. His driving runs are invaluable, but for him to really stake his claim, he needs to start putting away chances regularly.

    Ryo was quite selfish during the game in my opinion, understandably, but it’s early days still. He needs to get over his injury run.

  3. Urawa Red Diamonds were very good and combatative and pressured high. Zelalem was not that good against this opposition due to his poor frame and workrate. He is young and will improve but not ready for PL.

    Gnabry was average again, poor defending and tracking back. this kid needs to lose some weight.

    Ryo was best winger but it is evident that he has poor match fitness. I feel however he is ready to be Gervinho replacement with Bernard who will sign on Tuesday according to lequipe.

    Akpom was goood but inferior to Sanogo, who I feel is the better talent

  4. Gnabry was strong again. Agree he needs to tighten up his finishing and final ball but he and Ryo should be allowed to fight it out for a chance in the first team.

    Zelalem wasn’t as good as he was in the other matches, but his composure and passing were still impressive. At just 16, the kid handled himself incredibly well against grown men. He delivered two of the best passes of the tour and looks to be the jewel of our youth system. Hope to see periodic appearances in the first team this season. While Wenger and the staff sharpen his brilliant talent, they also need to ease him into the pressure of first team football.

    Akimbo also did extremely well on the tour. I watched a lot Sonogo at the u-20 championships and frankly, don’t think the French kid is that far ahead of Akpomb. I think they will have a good battle for the Main striker in the League Cup, etc.

    Feel a bit bad for Aneke and Eisfeld who I think are top talents. Both of them suffered from the amazing play of Zelalem. But I hope Wenger keeps them both firmly in his plans. They are both big talents.

  5. J.B. – Anything on Abdisalam Ibrahim, man city release him, and Arsenal had a interest in him as he was dubbed as the next Vieira

  6. The Asia tour has been great for the youngsters, I didn’t expect them to be as involved as they were and I think that’s a great sign of Arsene’s faith in them. Zelalem, Gnabry and Akpom have all looked very comfortable amongst the senior players and it should be a big confidence boost for them, that they can cut it at the top level and that the manager believes in them.

    Ryo wasn’t really fit for the tour and that should be taken into account. He’s obviously a big draw in Asia so we took him along and gave him some minutes but he wasn’t at his best, it would be unwise to draw conclusions from his performances there.

    1. How can you say they’re ready for to mix it with the big boys. We were playing against virtual semi pro players and they looked good and that was about it. Against premier league or even championships quality they will struggle, fact. Need a couple years yet before they can be considered first team regulars. Would love to see Akpom make it though. Seems his all round game is very good for a young kid.

      1. I didn’t say “they’re ready to mix it with the big boys”.

        And saying “fact” at the end of your opinion doesn’t make it factual.

  7. On the occasion when Zelalem dwelled and gave the ball away, I credit that more to a lack of movement in front of him than anything else. He actually did quite well drift out of pressure a couple of times, but if you watch it again you’ll Rosicky and Ramsey just standing at staring. Neither made any effort to check to the ball and offer him an outlet. Tonight I think he proved he could play under intense pressure, he has the ability to drift out of it, and he’s more than capable of playing quick first time passes…something I can’t say for Ramsey!

    1. @. Goo, I feel perhaps an hour or two spent in Specsavers may be an investment worth considering. Afterwards you may then like to review some of Ramsey’s quick, accurate threaded first time through passes that resulted in goals. Actual real goals in real high pressure professional premier league matches. Or then again you could continue to rubbish an effective and improving member of our team, coz that’s what we all need from our supporters.

      1. Fact: Ramsey is not as quick a passer as other CMs we have. Notably Wilshere, Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta…pretty much all of them barring maybe Diaby and Frimpong. Look, i’m not questioning his quality, his late season form this past two seasons has been one of the main reasons why we’ve managed to qualify for the CL. But surely you can’t deny the fact that he’s not a quick passer of the ball, its not his game. Think back to the West Brom match at the Emirates and that wonderful bit of quick passing between Cazorla and Wilshire, now try and substitute either of them for Ramsey. I’m convinced he could never have been able to play like that. He always seems to take two, three, or even four touches before he moves the ball on which is completely fine for controlling the midfield but when we need to speed things up or play quick combinations at the top of the box he’s a liability.
        P.S. when did we decide that players are immune from criticism from their own supporters?

      2. Basically what i’m saying is if you want a player he can control the tempo of a match he’s great, a lot like Arteta but more tenacious, but if you want quick play and creativity, its undeniable that he’s nowhere near the level of Cazorla, Wilshire, and even to a lesser extent Rosicky.

    2. Totally agree with you. besides ramsey didn’t want to pass the ball to Zelalem most of the time . Respect for Wilshere for coming out and supporting/encouraging young players like Zelalem.

  8. Ramsey may not be able to change the tempo as much as Cazorla and Wilshire but I wouldnt say that he isnt creative and he has a great eye for a pass

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