Unless you don’t have a facebook or a twitter account, or just skip through everything I post, then you know that I went to Kuala Lumpur for the sole purpose of watching Arsenal’s pre-season trip to Malaysia. Some people ask me what it was like, watching them live, and this is what I always answer: It’s like the rest of my life will pale in comparison. That is, until I get to watch them at the Emirates, or Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Though we did not make it to the meet and greet — blame it on the last minute change of scheduling by the event organizers– we did manage to get training passes. Well, of course we did, Jerome and I were probably one of the first twenty people to book tickets. The boss and Gunnersaurus were the first to come out, and then the team was introduced one by one. Let me tell you, my resolve to keep my cool disappeared as soon as they stepped in sight. Screaming in excitement? Check. Calling out player names even though they can’t hear us individually? Check. Can hardly breathe? Check. Though this last one probably has more to do with the general smell of the population rather than excitement.
The team did some warm-ups and a practice game, and even sometimes hammed it up for the fans. I was pretty stoked that Nasri was there, because I was wearing his kit and shouting “Sign, sign, sign!” How can I be disappointed that Fabregas wasn’t there, when almost everybody else were training just a few yards in front of me?
The fans were terrific, cheering the team and the individual players along. We even chanted the Boss’ chant. And Gunnersaurus’, which is exactly like the boss’, except substitute Gunnersaurus for Arsene Wenger. I felt heady with ecstasy; I wanted to watch every player closely, but when I try to do that, I was distracted with happenings on the other parts of the pitch. I wish there was another of me to take pics, another one to take a video, and one more just to watch the session. Same with the actual game.
The Bukit Jalil stadium is a far cry from even our best stadiums here. It was huge, with excellent lighting and a pretty decent field. It would be a long time before any EPL teams play here in the Philippines, that’s for sure. I planned on stalking them at the hotel the next day, but their hotel was miles outside the city and the nearest train was not near enough for walking. Jerome and I ended up not doing the hotel-stalking, but it’s fine, at least we were rested for game night. Theo Walcott was the one friendliest to the fans. He seems to really care about us and how we perceive the team. We need more players like him, in my opinion.
We arrived way early before the game, but even so, a lot of Gooners and fans of the Malaysia team beat us to it. We still got excellent seats though. We’re talking about a full view of the pitch and the Arsenal bench. We could also see the players pretty well when they go in and out of the tunnel.
It was surreal being there with all the other fans. I kept repeating “I can’t believe I’m here”, both to myself and out loud. I kept having stupid and obvious thoughts like, “That’s <insert name of player>! I’m seeing him live. Just last month, I was just watching you on tv!”
After some warm-ups, it was kick off time! Vermaelen captained the first half, to my eternal delight. It’s no secret that I want him to be captain if (when?) Cesc leaves, until Wilshere matures a bit and is more grounded. The starting XI for Arsenal were Szczesny, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Jenkinson, Wilshere, Song, Ramsey, Walcott, Miyaichi, and Chamakh. Everyone played though, with Denilson getting the least playing time at about 15 minutes. Hurhur.
It was a pretty good game, though it was obvious that the Malaysia team was no match for Arsenal. They gave a pretty decent fight during the first half though, in which I managed to note that Gibbs might not be ready to fill Clichy’s boots after all. Traore did a bit better in the second half as a left back, but I still say, buy someone stable and experienced. Jenkinson shone for me as a right back. He needs to link up more with the team since he’s new, but even so, he managed to impress me and give me hope. He’s going to give Sagna a run for his money. We have two excellent right backs, but we have yet to replace Clichy properly. Le sigh, as they say in French.
Ryo Miyaichi looks lively as well, though he seems to be a bit easy to tackle due to his slight frame. But yeah, excited to see him play during the season. Vela managed to fan the embers of my eternal hope for him. He took chances, had loads of attempt, and managed a goal.
A few more pics from the game after the jump. Sorry for the random selections, I have so many pics that it’s too much of an effort to pick out the best right now!
The final score was 0-4 in favor of Arsenal. Ramsey (pen), Walcott, Vela, and even our dear underperforming Rosicky were the goalscorers. To be fair to Rosicky, he managed a pretty decent game, and even led to jokes that Cesc’s spirit has body switched with him. (Also, he wore the captain’s armband the entire second half, except when he dropped the armband and Vela picked it up… and wore it.)