Premier League - Poor Arsenal draw in China
Arsenal gave Arsene Wenger plenty to ponder after their Asian tour concluded with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Hangzhou Greentown in Yiwu City.
The Gunners were desperately poor at the back in the first half and fell behind to a goal from Sebastian Vazquez after 16 minutes following a mistake from goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
Carlos Vela continued his impressive pre-season campaign when drawing Arsenal level on the stroke of half-time with a finish from close range, and though the Gunners improved markedly after their manager made 11 changes at the break, they were unable to find a winner in China.
Wenger was adamant earlier this week that his side does not have a weakness in defence, despite evidence to the contrary last season, and his players set about attempting to prove him wrong in an error-strewn first-half performance.
Mannone was forced into making a good save after only two minutes as Arsenal's defence was opened up by a ball over the top - a familiar scenario for the North London club in recent seasons - while Armand Traore also struggled at left-back.
After quarter of an hour, the Gunners were once again exposed as Uruguayan forward Paulo Pezzolano exploited uncertainty between the unconvincing Johan Djourou and Sebastien Squillaci when curling a shot against the base of the post.
Inside two minutes, Hangzhou were ahead. Mannone made a terrible mess of a free-kick and after he fumbled the ball in the box, Vazquez pounced amid a stationary Arsenal defence to slot home the opening goal.
Arsenal grew into the contest slowly and saw Samir Nasri - starting despite persistent speculation regarding his future - go close with a neat volley that flew just wide of the post, but chances were few and far between as the Premier League side struggled for fluidity.
On the brink of half-time though, they found an equaliser. Andrei Arshavin looped a pass over the top of the Greentown defence and after Van Persie's cushioned shot was palmed away by Jiang Bo, Vela was alert to bundle the ball home.
Wenger made 11 changes at half-time and the result was a far more cohesive, energetic performance. Indeed, Arsenal nearly took the lead on 55 minutes when a shot from Aaron Ramsey from the edge of the box threatened to squirm away from the keeper and in.
As Arsenal pressed with much more verve, they continued to create chances and just before the hour mark Ryo Miyaichi laid the ball off to Kieran Gibbs, who saw his low drilled effort palmed away expertly by substitute Gu Chao.
Gibbs was a bundle of energy and on 64 minutes it was his run that resulted in Theo Walcott being played in on the right of the box. His initial shot was blocked and Walcott lobbed the follow-up over the bar. His team-mates, Gibbs especially, were unimpressed.
Walcott was his usual frustrating self but on 78 minutes was unlucky not to score when darting in ahead of his man to meet a cross from Miyaichi and head narrowly over the bar.
Miyaichi and Marouane Chamakh both forced Gu into smart saves in the closing minutes but the Gunners were unable to make a winner materialise.