HONG KONG: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Sunday his side have “a lot of work to do” defensively before they are ready for the upcoming English Premier League campaign, following a 2-2 draw in Hong Kong.
The boss of the north London club said he was disappointed with his “fragile” defence, adding that several players who had taken part in the club’s pre-season tour of Asia were not yet ready to play in England’s top flight.
Wenger’s comments imply he may be tempted to delve into the transfer market to strengthen at the back, however he has a number of experienced defenders at his disposal who were left out of the tour because of a lack of fitness.
“Defensively we looked fragile, especially in the first half. In the second half not so much because we weren’t challenged,” Wenger said in the southern Chinese city following the draw to local outfit Kitchee.
“We have a lot of work to do as a unit to defend much better,” he added.
The club shipped five goals in their three games in Asia, including one against a select Malaysian side on Tuesday and two against Manchester City in Beijing on Friday, much more than Wenger would have liked.
“We let everybody play today and some players are not yet at the level of the Premier League,” he said.
“It’s a learning process. If you don’t do it in the pre-season, you never do it you know, to give them a chance to see what is requested at the top level.
“I played all the defenders during this tour to see who is ready, who is not ready, and we have (Bacary) Sagna and (Laurent) Koscielny at home, (Per) Mertesacker at home, so we have three experienced defenders at home.”
Arsenal started with a back four of Kieran Gibbs, Johan Djourou, Ignasi Miquel and Craig Eastmond.
A capacity crowd of 40,000 filled Hong Kong Stadium to cheer on both sides, in a match that was much more competitive than some had anticipated.
Kitchee broke the deadlock after only seven minutes when Spaniard Yago Gonzalez Lopez neatly slotted the ball into the corner, giving Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny no chance.
England international Theo Walcott then pulled the match level on 23 minutes, passing the ball casually into the net after it broke kindly for him in the six-yard box.
Undeterred, Kitchee were ahead again only five minutes later when left-back Daniel Cancela Rodriguez lashed the ball into the roof of the goal from around 12 yards, giving the local side a 2-1 lead at half-time.
Arsenal pressed but their lack of firepower was evident as they spurned a number of chances, highlighting how crucial wantaway striker Robin van Persie, left out of the tour after saying he wanted to leave the club, is to the team.
On 77 minutes Arsenal had their equaliser, however. Playmaker Gervinho skillfully took the ball to the byline before cutting it back to right-winger Thomas Eisfeld for the easiest of tap-ins.