Final score: MLS All-Stars 1-2 Arsenal
Arsenal win it at the death then, with a few tantalising glimpses of future attractions in the build up to that goal. They were given a good workout by the All-Stars and a couple of scares in what turned out to be a competitive game. Xhaka looked classy — causing problems from open play and set pieces with that sweet left foot. He looks like a good addition for Arsenal, but surely there’ll be more reinforcements to come. But only Arsene knows…
Thanks for your tweets and emails. Sorry I couldn’t use all of them. Good night.
90 mins +1: Dempsey slides a ball behind the defense down the right hand side for Nagbe to make a low cross. But he can’t pick out a blue shirt and danger is averted.
Into the last scheduled minute. And Monreal almost gives up the ball while trying to hold possession, but the ball deflects to safety and that will be that.
90 mins: Arsenal’s young players have been scampering forward with purpose since Wenger’s late substitutions, and that’s a nice reward for them. Time for the All-Stars to make one last attack?
There is, you know. Larin finds a postage stamp of space on a through ball into the box, but he’s just denied by Bellerin I think. We’ll have two minutes of time added on.
GOAL! MLS All-Stars 1-2 Arsenal (AKPOM!)
For the love of the game! it’s a simple tap-in for Akpom as their forwards flood the box and a low ball across goal created by a combination of Monreal and Willock gets him what should be the winning goal!
86 mins: Farrell tries to find Wondolowski from the right and earns a corner off Chambers. Diaz with the corner, which is half cleared, then the ball pings around a little awkwardly before Arsenal pick it up and head forward…
84 mins: The game will go to penalties if we don’t get a goal in the next 7 minutes. I get paid the same either way if anyone’s wondering, though that has nothing to do with my desire to see another goal. I just love the game.
Corner to Arsenal which Xhaka will take. It’s a decent one too, to the edge of the 6 yard box, and Holding heads juuuust over. Great corner from Xhaka who’s shown some sweet touches.
82 mins: Zelalem involved in the build up around the All-Star box, as Arsenal push up to probe for an opening. Nothing yet, but they retain possession for a while.
But suddenly the All-Stars break as Larin runs off Chambers’ shoulder to power into the right side of the box. He runs out of angle but holds up the ball for the arriving Wondolowski, only for the San Jose striker to fire over with his first time shot. Good work from Larin — doing what he does best.
80 mins: Iwobi sends a dangerous cross across the six yard box, but great anticipation from D.C. United’s Steve Birnbaum to get his foot to it first.
78 mins: Bingham almost gets the ball stuck under his feet from a back pass, but hacks the ball clear. Will someone find a winner in the remaining moments?
76 mins: Cyle Larin of Orlando is in the game now. He’s scored 20 goals in his one and a half seasons in MLS. All the subs on now for the All-Stars.
74 mins: Lovely little improvized flick cross from Giovinco, but there’s no finish on the end of it. And then Trapp skies his follow up shot and grins sheepishly. As he should. He really skied it. Like, California-sky-speckled-with-firework-smoke skied it.
72 mins: Now Akpom earns a free kick, central some 25 yards out, as he too runs directly at the opposition defense. Xhaka over it, but the expensive signing can only drive it straight at Bingham. Suppose he at least made him make a save, sniffed the rather less expensive Guardian writer.
Chris Wondolowski comes on to a big cheer from his local crowd. And Clint Dempsey’s on too, for Kljestan.
70 mins: Arsenal subs were Martinez for Cech, Reine-Adelaid for Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Zelalem for Elneny and Akpom for Walcott.
Bingham just had to make a quick reaction save at a snapshot from distance, and now he’s diving again in pursuit of a shot by Reine-Adelaide, who’s looking lively already.
68 mins: Big swathe of Arsenal substitutions as the tv cameras show Jones, Pirlo and Villa heading to the airport to play in that NYCFC vs Colorado game in New York at 3pm on Saturday. MLS, folks.
American Gedion Zelalem coming in as one of the subs. More in the exact changes in a second. Quick water break going on now.
66 mins: Arsenal trying to move the ball around again and Oxlade-Chamberlain again gets down the right to send a dangerous looking cross to the back post, but it’s just about headed clear. They’re just beginning to up the tempo again as they figure out all those All-Star adjustments.
64 mins: Another lovely ball forward by Kljestan almost gets Giovinco in through the middle, but Chambers steps across to block his route to goal before the little Italian can fashion a clear chance. Kljestan’s having a great season with assist numbers for the New York Red Bulls.
62 mins: Both teams a little ragged at the moment, with some sloppy touches from attacking players when it matters. Dangerous approach play by the All-Stars around the Arsenal box let down by an uncharacteristically poor touch from Mauro Diaz.
60 mins: An hour gone, and Kieran Baker’s been in touch again to let us know he’s reached D.C. and is off to watch the second half with some “proper American commentators”. With a statement like that, truly, football, or soccer as you call it, is growing etc etc. Still 1-1.
58 mins: Acosta hits a wild shot that sat up nicely for him on left edge of box, and Brandon Vincent immediately replaces him. Vincent is a first year professional who’s been making quite a name for himself in Chicago and already on the fringes of the USA national team.
56 mins: Giovonco has been a catalyst in the opening moments of the half, with the All-Stars taking the game to Arsenal much more.
Oxlade-Chamberlain gets down the right but his low cytback is well rea dby Birnbaum stepping in to intercept any danger.
54 mins: Farrell makes a big tackle and can’t help but grinning as he realizes he’s in against the team he supported as a kid, Arsenal.
Collective gasp of appreciation from the crowd, as Giovinco makes an outrageous little flick, as is his wont.
52 mins: Arsenal make their first foray forward, and Walcott wants a penalty as he’s bundled over, but he’s already been called offside.
They’re beginning to settle again — given all the subs everyone could be forgiven for thinking they’d wondered out into the wrong game.
50 mins: Andrew Farrell and Steve Birnbaum on in defense for the All-Stars, who’ve looked the sharper at the start of the second half, with Giovinco instantly causing problems for Arsenal. Sorry, still trying to track these changes on the run here.
48 mins: Arsenal subs: Bellerin for Debuchy. Chambers for Bielik, Monreal for Gibbs, Xhaka for Coquelin, Iwobi for Wilshire.
All-Stars when I figure it out, but Giovinco just had a shot, and I think he’s on for Drogba, and I just saw Darlingto Nagbe have a touch, so clearly he’s replaced someone too. And David Bingham is on for Blake in goal.
Start of second half
Five changes for Arsenal. Eight for the MLS All-Stars. Great.
Obligatory Graham Parker and the Rumour reference:
“Not THE Graham Parker,” chortles Patrick O’ Brien. “Or is that just a rumour. Ho, ho.
Anyway, is there something in the fact that Drogba can still score and Walcott still can’t?
Probs not. Arsene knows, after all.”
Yes, Drogba can still squeeze out sparks.
I’m off to change my name by deed poll. Back for the second half in a few.
Twitter — last bastion of humanity in a cruel, cruel world:
Stephen Hamilton is back, and this time I’m less certain that he’s not being sarcastic:
Kieran Baker (42 mins) seems to realize we may have got off on the wrong foot and has another go:
“Thanks for the shout out, I’m reading the game on the train from New York to Washington. It’s the best thing on the internet right now. Did you do Eng Lit at Uni and then realize there aren’t any jobs and stumbled into journalism? Great use of the word eddying by the way. Train just stopped at Baltimore and an eddy of chill air swirled into the carriage.”
I didn’t stumble. I eddied.
Half-time: MLS All-Stars 1-1 Arsenal
Anyone trying to get an early jump on the Longest bar line in North America (LOBLINA) missed that…the All-stars didn’t have many chances and Arsenal would have been decent value for a 1-0 lead, but they were punished for switching off, and Drogba gets to leave the field cheerfully teasing his former team mate Cech, after scoring past him.
OK time to rest and prepare for a raft of substitutions.
GOAL! MLS All-Stars 1-1 Arsenal (DROGBA!)
Out of nothing, Kljestan slides a beautiful pass to dos Santos on the edge of the box, who in turn slips the ball to Drogba. He needs a couple of hacks at it, but eventually toe pokes the ball past Cech from close range for an equalizer. Great vision by Kljestan.
Updated at 1.54am BST
45 mins+1: Arsenal try to work one last attack, but it rather fizzles out, like a small faulty firework, arcing off course in the Northern California sky.
Where are you going? There are two minutes of stoppage time.
44 mins: Drifting towards half-time now, like a small plume of firework smoke eddying across the Northern California sky.
42 mins: Slight delay for some treatment to Bielik and time for Kieran Baker to endear himself with this email:
“Without much to look at I’ve been studying the pre game ‘long’ picture -didn’t realize Cech was that HUGE. Dn’t recognize the little guy looking in the wrong direction either? The guy with the ‘tash looks like something out of Starsky and Hutch too. Are you freelance because no one else will stay up late at the Grauniad?”
I am freelance as a lifestyle option, Kieran (he said with as much dignity as he could muster). And ‘tash man is Kljestan.
Drogba’s free kick is deflected over off the wall, then Van Damme heads powerfully over from the resulting corner.
40 mins: Oxlade-Chamberlain makes a little burst down the left but runs into traffic in the corner. Now Aresnal go down the right with no more joy, and the All-Stars can break. Piatti drifts into a dangerous spot but his touch to Kljestan is poor. But now Drogba wins a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box after he’s dragged down by Bielik.
38 mins: The All-Stars making the odd chance without getting many clear shots on goal other than dos Santos’s early chance on Pirlo’s ball over the top. A little spell of possession for them in the Arsenal half at the moment. The intelligent movement of Kljestan and Piatti will give the Arsenal midfield a couple of adjustments to make.
36 mins: Arsenal building up again in the All-Star half, with neat one-twos/give-and-go’s (delete where culturally appropriate). They slowly up the tempo in search of a shooting angle, but eventually Campbell fouls Piatti as he tries to retrieve a loose ball.
Pirlo and Villa are already shaking hands and leaving for the airport by the way., so they just missed Kljestan almost getting on the end of a fiercely driven ball across the box.
34 mins: Piatti immediately tries to find Drgoba, but doesn’t. Such is life.
32 mins: Villa greets a long ball out wide with a first time low ball across the six yard box. It evades Cech, but there’s nobody there to turn it in. And that will be the last contribution of Villa and Pirlo as the two NYCFC players are withdrawn. Their Eastern Conference leading team is facing the Western leaders Colorado Rapids on Saturday afternoon in New York.
Sacha Kljestan and Ignacio Piatti on for them by the way.
30 mins: Coquelin makes another hard tackle that looked a little naughty, but no card.
Meanwhile the All-Stars are scrambling a little in defense until Van Damme boots it inelegantly clear.
Kaka and Drogba again try to combine but Kaka’s deft flick behind the defense wasn’t read by the Montreal striker and the ball drifts out for a goal kick. Still 1-0 to Arsenal.
28 mins: Acosta has to get across sharply to deflect Campbell’s shot, after the Arsenal player had made a support run to meet Walcott’s cutback. Acosta’s done well so far.
All-Stars come forward and both Kaka and Drogba look to be trying to tee themselves up for something spectacular in the Arsenal box but Bielik does well to crowd Drogba out. No nerves from the young man.
26 mins: Arsenal a little less direct for the moment, but their patient build up pays off, as Elneny is given way too much space in the same spot Oxlade-Chamberlain blasted from a few minutes ago. He hits a similarly fierce shot, that Blake has to tip over acrobatically.
24 mins: All-Stars get a free kick for a handball just inside Arsenal’s half. They spread play wide but Villa’s cross in is rather limp and bounces safely to Cech. Game appears to be entering a brief lull after the stoppage for the Acosta tackle.
22 mins: Villa and dos Santos combine with the latter overlapping on the left into the box. The ball goes out as dos Santos tries to fire across goal. He wants a corner. Referee says no.
Hmmm. Look away now Dallas fans. Kelyn Acosta just got caught with a studs up challenge from Coquelin going in to a 50-50. He’s down for a moment but limping to his feet now.
20 mins: Villa has plenty of appetite for this game, though he’s all conspicuous effort rather than effectiveness right now. He tries an overhead kick that flies high and wide. This game is very open right now. 1-0 to Arsenal.
18 mins: Stern words via email from Marcus James:
“Joel Campbell’s penalty run-up had a distinct nod to Simone Zaza. Please football gods, don’t let this thing catch on”
I worried a little about the celebration too Marcus. I blame the summer beach parties.
Oxlade-Chamberlain finds himself in space some 30 yards out, and 1970’s a shot fiercely past the post, possibly while muttering “’ave it…”
16 mins: All-Stars living dangerously as Arsenal break and Acosta has to time his recovery tackle perfectly as Walcott shapes to shoot on the edge of the box. He makes the tackle, just. And now Villa shows some quick feet at the byline at the other end, only to be crowded out and for Arsenal to burst up to the other end of the field as the game opens up. Another couple of shimmies from Walcott as he goes past two players to make room for the shot, but having done the hard work (fill in your Theo Walcott final product cliches here…).
14 mins: The All-Stars have a decent record in these games, having beaten Spurs last year and Bayern Munich the year before that (after falling behind, natch), but already their defense is being stretched here. Arsenal have another corner now. They can’t make anything of it, but they have the All-Stars pinned back and relying on Pirlo hoisting balls over the top for now.
GOAL! MLS All-Stars 0-1 Arsenal (CAMPBELL!)
Blake goes the right way, but he can’t reach Campbell’s firm kick to his left and Arsenal lead!
Penalty to Arsenal
Miscommunication between Blake and Ciman leads to the latter fouling Campbell. Keeper at fault there (of course, after I just praised him). And now Campbell will take the kick…
10 mins: That’s a great chance for the All-Stars. Lobbed ball over the top from Pirlo finds dos Santos haring clear. He traps the ball perfectly first time and then fires a shot low across Cech that the Arsenal keeper can only parry, but there was nobody following in. Decent chance for the hosts, and now they have another one with a free kick wide left, but this time Pirlo wastes it…hang on…
8 mins: Blake has been my outside shot for league MVP so far. He was drafted number one a couple of yers back by Philadelphia and has nailed down the number one slot at the club since then, as well as graduating to the Jamaica team. Ask me about the mechanisms of the draft another time — for now I’m watching Villa try to wriggle into space on the left of the box for a shot. He does so, but it’s charged down and clear and Arsenal come away. First sniff at goal for the All-Stars.
6 mins: Beckerman hoofs a speculative ball from Coquelin clear, but Arsenal push the ball back forward and earn their first corner after decent work by Campbell. Drogba heads it clear but Arsenal pressuring again immediately and now they have a dangerous free kick near the left of the D…Walcott drives it low and Blake has to drop quickly to his left to make the save. Not a hard shot, but well read by the young keeper.
4 mins: Wilshere goes in firmly on a tackle, then Debuchy tries to get going down the right but overruns it and that will be a goal kick to the All-Stars.
2 mins: Sloppy touch from Pirlo allows Oxlade-Chamberlain to nip in and push the ball to Walcott on the edge of the box. His shot has Blake diving but it’s well wide.
We’re underway. Arsenal get us under way and immediately pass the ball around the back to get everyone a touch. Teams feel each other out a little in opening exchanges, with the All-Stars picking up a couple of throws in the Arsenal half, without initiating anything dangerous from them.
Kaka and Cech exchange pennants. Bielik and Holding exchange name tags (probably). Big test and big chance for the young central defenders for Arsenal.
Peter Oh’s been busy thinking about LOBINA:
“The journalist Edward R. Murrow once said “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.” Surely LOBINA has raised the bar on the end of the bar imagery.”
Not sure about that, but as an enthusiastic smoker, Morrow would have appreciated the mix of smog and firework smoke currently hovering over the Avaya Stadium, just in case the heat wasn’t making the conditions difficult enough. Goodnight and good luck to the players…
Updated at 1.00am BST
Time for a couple of emails
Peter Oh writes:
“Punchline please — Drogba, Pirlo and Kaká walk into the longest bar in North America…”
Help Peter out. I got nothing other than “Why the long pass?”
Bob Zoellner writes:
“You’ve got to love Arsene Wenger’s legs in that picture! I’m working, currently, and I must follow the action leading up to the match through your comments, so please keep me up-to-date! (I’m an Arsenal supporter and have been since I found out about the real football in my long ago youth!)“
That photo above looks like an awkward moment between three different selfie groups.
Teams in the tunnel
Light your sparklers, the spectacle is about to happen. Actually, there are fireworks loudly going off (slightly forlorn visually, as they’re swallowed by the sunny day)
Lots of hugging and backslapping from the likes of Kaka and Drogba — ostentatiously showing their MLS peers that they totally know the guys on the other team.
OK, here come the teams.
Clint Dempsey is in the All-Star squad, despite having a rather rough year with Seattle, who just sacked long-term head coach Sigi Schmid this week. Dempsey has been missing his partnership with the hastily-departed Obafemi Martins, and despite helping the USA get to the semi-finals of Copa America, he’s been a curiously muted presence this year. But even in the twilight of his career he’s still capable of changing games in a minute.
Meanwhile, looking at that Arsenal side, there are a few player who may be thinking that this game represents an opportunity to make a breakthrough, with some of the regular first-teamers absent. This game last year was a very nice showcase for one Dele Alli, for example.
All-Star week is about much more than the game. In a huge territory like North America (home of a very long bar), the logistics of running a league almost demand a week like this for annual face-to-face committee meetings etc. There are other games too — from the game pitting products of MLS academies against quality opposition (the homegrown team lost 2-0 against the Mexico U-20 team last night), to the Unified All-Stars game run in conjunction with the Special Olympics. It’s a fun week, and a lot of business gets done too — look out for some hot transfer action reported in the coming days.
“Football, or soccer as you call it here (self-conscious chuckle) is growing all the time…I could see myself playing here at some stage of my career…”
Sadly, the Guardian did not blog this year’s All-Star press conference so I’m unable to lead you in a round of Visiting European Player Bingo™. But there’ll be another one next year, and they’ll say the same thing.
We’re having a heatwave across the USA right now, by the way, and San Jose is as hot as anywhere. With the game being on the West Coast but scheduled to suit Eastern timezone TV schedules, the game is being played in stifling late afternoon conditions.
Entirely unscientific assertion about Arsenal
I meet a lot of Arsenal fans in the US. Like, a lot more than you might expect given that Arsenal aren’t exactly a regularly marketed presence on these shores. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United to name but a few, have all toured fairly extensively in the USA, and of course City have their link to NYCFC in New York. And those teams have also won profile-enhancing titles in recent years. But Arsenal remain a team of choice for a lot of casual fans, and by the looks of what we’re seeing in San Jose they’ll be well represented tonight.
Full disclosure: My poison of choice is Sunderland. I have nothing for or against Arsenal or, indeed, the All-Stars — though Kyle Beckerman did tread on my foot once in a media scrum.
Twitter issues its sober verdict
In these cynical times, I’m choosing to take that statement at face value, Stephen.
MLS All-Stars: Blake; Rosenberry, Ciman, Van Damme, Acosta; Pirlo, Beckerman, dos Santos, Kaka, Villa; Drogba
Arsenal: Cech; Debuchy, Holding, Bielik, Gibbs; Coquelin, Elneny, Campbell, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott
Positive selection for Arsenal, and great to see Wilshere getting a start as he continues on the road back. Looks like Coquelin is starting in a more familiar deep midfield role.
Speaking of deep midfield, first thing that jumps out about the All-Star team is that the deep midfield pairing of Kyle Beckman and Andrea Pirlo may possess many virtues, but is also, as Ron Atkinson would have once said, “lightning slow”. Let’s see how quickly Arsenal get in among them.
They’ll need to be wary though. Kaka and Villa tormented Tottenham in the same game last year, and that was without dos Santos alongside them and Drogba in front of them. This is an All-Star side that could do some damage if they get to the Arsenall side of the field.
Goalkeepers (3): Petr Cech, Emiliano Martinez, David Ospina
Defenders (7): Hector Bellerin, Krystian Bielik, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal
Midfielders (9): Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Chris Willock, Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Gedion Zelalem
Forwards (4): Chuba Akpom, Joel Campbell, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott
So, word is Coquelin will be starting in the center of defense in what is otherwise a full-strength Arsenal team.
Obviously by saying “full strength” I am choosing to ignore the fact that thanks to the Euros there’s no Giroud, Mertesacker (injured), Koscielny, Ozil, or Ramsey. And no Gunnersaurus.
But the Red on the Arsenal shirts is in no way faded for tonight’s game (even before you adjust the saturation on your TV to Ronaldo/Conor McGregor levels). So full strength-ish. Look, it’s a friendly…
It’s understandable. With the English season two weeks away and players recuperating from tournament play, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the squad Wenger has chosen to bring to the West coast of the USA. It will be interesting to see how he assembles his starting line up though — the first half is likely the nearest we’ll have to a competitive game, before the second half devolves into a flurry of obligatory substitute cameos to give the assistant referee board-hoisting cramp. More on all that in a second, as team news is just coming through…
Updated at 12.17am BST
The All-Star squad
Goalkeepers (2): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders (7): Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Andrew Farrell (New England Revolution), Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Midfielders (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Kaká (Orlando City), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
Forwards (7): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Cyle Larin (Orlando City), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), David Villa (New York City FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
This is a young All-Star squad, with a couple of obvious exceptions in Drogba and Pirlo. Andre Blake has had a great second season in goal for Philadelphia and Brandon Vincent is seeing plenty of action trying to keep Chicago Fire in games in his debut season.
In midfield, if you’re not familiar with MLS but know the US national team, you’ll recognize the likes of Kyle Beckman and Jermaine Jones from World Cup action, but also keep an eye out for Mauro Diaz — Dallas’s little wizard of a playmaker. And this is where Giovani dos Santos went. And Kaka.
Up front Sebastian Giovinco broke records in his debut season for Toronto last year and while he’s not been setting such a stellar pace this time around, he’s still single-handedly responsible for anything good his team does. David Villa too, has driven New York City FC to the top of the Eastern Conference standings halfway through the season, while Ignacio Patti has been in great form scoring goals for Montreal, as well as making them for Didier Drogba. Drogba actually went through a bit of a goal drought of late, but he got a hat trick in his last game, so that’s alright then. Oh, and so did Giovinco. It was that sort of weekend.
Couple of notable omissions though. Colorado have had an extraordinary defensive record this season, but being more of a collective wall than a collection of standout individuals, none of their defenders were singled out for All-Star honors, which is a shame. And Diego Valeri, playmaker for the champion Portland Timbers, is an inexplicable absence.
Two facts about the Avaya Stadium:
1) Its stands have the steepest rake of any stadium in MLS
2) It features the longest outdoor bar in North America — known in social media circuits as LOBINA
so 1) Mind your step 2) especially if you’ve just been to LOBINA.
Also, relating to part 2, is there a longer bar in South or Central America that necessitates the modifier of “North”? Is a bartender in Honduras sneering at the TV coverage of the All-Star game at the other end of the bar, half a mile away? We should be told.
Evening all. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!
It’s the MLS All-Star game — in which a selection of the league’s best and brightest take a break from their regular season to battle against a bemused European opponent who will most likely be regarding the shiny numbers on the back of the hosts’ shirts through pre-season sunglasses.
The All-Star team is selected by the entirely scientific method of a fan vote, some video gaming, a guest head coach, and the whim of the MLS Commissioner, all within a world where there’s no such things as defenders (or hardly any, anyway). Their subsequent formation of 0-0-10 will be running up against the rather more conservative stylings of Arsenal.
Last time Arsenal came to the US, breaking a decade long absence to play a friendly against Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls in 2014, they cautiously fielded a team without an out-and-out striker, and lost 1-0 to a Bradley Wright-Phillips goal (Brad’s doing fine, thanks for asking, any British readers stumbling on this). Tonight they’re expected to send out another slight head scratcher of a line up as Arsene Wenger tries to juggle the need for pre-season fitness with having to deal with the absences of some very unfit (i.e. injured) players such as the unfortunate Per Mertesacker.
The game is in San Jose at the latest new-build stadium in MLS, the Avaya Stadium, and the MLS All-Stars will be coached by San Jose Earthquakes coach Dom Kinnear — a coach who won a couple of MLS Cup titles about a decade ago and has consistently crafted playoff teams and gallant losing finalists ever since.
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger
I’ll be back shortly with some more build up and team news soon. For now, send your tweets and emails in to @KidWeil or firstname.lastname@example.org and remember that you, the reader, are all stars in my book (and that that book uses American spelling).
Graham will be here shortly, in the meantime here’s the latest on Arsenal’s injury problems:
Francis Coquelin could be set to operate as a makeshift defender for Arsenal as Arsène Wenger looks to handle a number of injuries heading into the new season.
Wenger revealed this week that Per Mertesacker is set to be out for several months with a knee injury, while fellow centre-backs Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny were also left behind as the squad flew to the United States for two pre-season fixtures.
Gabriel is ill while Koscielny is on an extended break having reached the final of Euro 2016 with France. That means Calum Chambers is the most experienced central defender on the tour, with the new signing Rob Holding also likely to play a major part in both games – starting with the MLS All-Stars on Thursday evening.
And although Wenger has said Mertesacker’s injury will force him back into the market for further defensive recruits, it appears midfielder Coquelin could become an option at the back. When the club’s official Snapchat account asked what he had been focusing on in training, the 25-year old replied: “I’ve been playing centre-back and I’ve been bossing it.”
While Coquelin appears confident in his ability to adapt to a new role, Petr Cech conceded the absence of Mertesacker is a blow. “He is a great player, a great part of the team with his experience,” the goalkeeper told ESPN FC. “You cannot just replace a world champion just like that because obviously the experience of him, the games he played and he’s one of the captains. That says it all.
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