Having watched our game against Man City in Bangkok earlier this season, it was time for me to rack up another ‘overseas game’ this past weekend, due to my trip to Kuala Lumpur for Singapore’s Suzuki Cup opener against Malaysia.
After my brother and I checked in at the Seri Pacific Hotel on Saturday, thoughts turned to how we would catch the Gunners away at Villa Park. Frustratingly, the programme guide indicated that practically every BPL game would be shown on our hotel room TV except for the Arsenal one!
Thankfully, a friendly man at the hotel concierge came to our rescue. He directed us to a bar in the opposite hotel, and even called to verify that the match would be shown!
Fast forward to 1:20 a.m. the next morning, and we strolled over to what was to be one of the strangest football-watching experiences of my life.
We entered the bar to find the place largely empty and plopped ourselves down at a table in front of a big screen. What I had not counted on was that we would not be listening to any of the in-game sounds like the commentary or cheering fans; instead, we were accompanied by the soundtrack of the resident singers in the bar, who were deafening to say the least.
As our Gunners battled valiantly against the Villans, the two female singers were facing a challenge of their own: trying to deliver credible renditions of popular pop tunes. Bon Jovi and Adele were amongst the artists covered, albeit rather unsuccessfully. The icing on this mildly unpleasant cake - a jazzed-up version of Gangnam Style – well, suffice to say that a video of this performance would not come anywhere near the success levels of the original version by PSY.
Still, the singers were not lacking in effort, and the same could be said about both teams on the pitch. This match was not the ‘borefest’ that 0-0 draws are usually associated with. I was delighted at the way both teams set out to play, and there were long stretches of the match where the action was just frenetic, with the ball being played from end to end with hardly any stoppages.
Being a Gooner, it seems almost a betrayal on my part to be somewhat satisfied with the result. Yes, our rivals have earned maximum points over the same opponents, some doing so with minimum fuss. But I felt the draw was a result of two teams cancelling each other out, rather than us delivering a poor performance.
We were pretty decent going forward, and we did well to carve out a number of good chances. Ramsey was at the forefront of most of our attacking efforts, and I thought he put in an impressive shift after coming in for the supposedly fatigued Wilshere.
Now, I am not merely siding with him because we share the same first name; Ramsey does offer a more direct threat than Wilshere, which is evident from how he often pops up in the penalty area as he sniffs out chances. He still has bags of confidence judging from how eager he was to shoot, and only Guzan’s boot stood between Ramsey and a handsome opener.
I don’t think Ramsey has met most fans’ expectations of what it takes to be an Arsenal player, but I do feel he gets more stick than he deserves. He has been asked to play wide on the right on a few occasions, so we must understand when he doesn’t have the same impact as when he plays in the middle. It feels like he’s been with us forever but he’s just 22, so there’s still time for him to grow in stature and put in more consistent displays to earn back the fans’ support.
It was also good to see Szczesny back in goal, and the Pole produced a fantastic save near the end to keep his clean sheet. He arguably commands the penalty area better than Mannone, so I’m hoping his presence will continue to give us the defensive steel displayed in the last two games.
Overall, I feel there were more points of encouragement than disappointment from this draw. We are getting players back from injury, and as Wenger’s rotation on Saturday suggests, we will need every squad player to dig in as the matches come thick and fast.
Come on you Gunners!
Aaron has been an Arsenal fan since the mid 90's, and is currently a member of Arsenal Singapore, the official Arsenal supporters' club in Singapore. He is also a passionate Lions supporter, and he still dreams of seeing Singapore compete in the World Cup someday.