Afternoon all! Sports Mole's pre-season coverage continues from Singapore as Arsenal face a Singapore Selection XI in the semi-finals of the Premier League Asia Trophy. The winner of this match will face Everton in the final, with the Merseyside outfit beating Stoke City 5-4 on penalties in the first semi-final.
First and foremost, let me bring you up-to-speed with the team news from Singapore.
SINGAPORE: Mahbud; Nazari, Baharudin, Camara, Shafiq; Velez, Esah, Sulaiman, Khaizan, Mohana; Amri
ARSENAL: Martinez; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Flamini, Coquelin, Wilshere; Ox, Iwobi, Akpom
So there we have it. There is no place in the Arsenal squad for new signing Petr Cech, with Emiliano Martinez given the chance to impress between the sticks. There are also spots in the XI for the likes of Per Mertesacker, Jack Wilshere
and Nacho Monreal, while youngsters Chuba Akpom
and Alex Iwobi also start.
As for the hosts, there are not too many familiar faces truth be told! Khairul Amri will seemingly lead the line for Singha All Star XI
, while Izan Mahbud is given the nod between the sticks. It is a team packed full of defensive-minded players, including the Frenchman Sirina Camara, who plays for Home United.
This is the first of four warm-up games for Arsenal before the official start of the season. The Gunners will either compete in the final or the third-place play-off of this particular competition at the weekend, before facing Lyon in the Emirates Cup on July 25. Arsene Wenger
's men will then face Wolfsburg in the same competition one day later, before tackling Chelsea in the Community Shield on August 2.
Arsenal's Premier League campaign then opens on August 8, when they host West Ham United. You just get the feeling that this is a really big season for the Gunners, who will want to get off to a good start if they are to really push at the top of the table. It has been a relatively quiet transfer window thus far, but the signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea is a big one. The atmosphere is really building now...
Results in pre-season are not too important, but Wenger will want to see a strong performance from his side this afternoon. This is the first time that the Gunners have competed in the Barclays Asia Trophy and it is a chance to gain some confidence and indeed rhythm with the new season fast approaching.
Quite what Arsenal will face this afternoon, however, is a bit of a mystery. Their opponents are made up of Singapore internationals and selected players from the S.League. The last time that a select XI from Singapore competed was last summer, when they lost 5-0 to Juventus. In truth, it would be a major surprise if Arsenal did not record a comfortable victory here. Kickoff is fast approaching in Singapore.
It must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium here. The state-of-the-art national stadium, which was only completed last summer, has a capacity of 55,000 and has all of the technology expected at a top European ground. The supporters have also turned out in their numbers.
PREDICTION! It is difficult to imagine Arsenal having too many problems here. It is an understrength and inexperienced XI, but there is still a lot of quality on display. As for the hosts, I am not too sure what to expect! Let's hope for an entertaining game of football. My score prediction is 3-0 Arsenal.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the first period. The referee for this one is Premier League official Jon Moss - nice work if you can get it! Arsenal get the first half underway here.
As expected, Arsenal have taken control of the possession in the opening couple of minutes - that will be a theme of this match. You just get the feeling that the hosts will need to settle very quickly in this one.
The hosts are made up of nine Singapore internationals, with the two exceptions being the Frenchman Camara and the Argentine Velez - both of whom have started in wide positions. Not too much to report in terms of chances in the early stages, but it is the Premier League side that are forcing the issue here.
CHANCE! First real chance for Arsenal as Monreal threads a wonderful cross into the home side's penalty box, but Mohana is across to make an excellent clearance. Oxlade-Chamberlain then strikes one from the resulting corner, but his effort was always moving wide of the post. Good spell for the Gunners now.
The pace of the match is not too high at the moment, which is to be expected in this heat. Arsenal are keeping hold of the possession, meanwhile, as they continue to pass and probe in the final third.
Arsenal are finding little pockets of space in the final third, but the home side have been nice and tight defensively thus far. This will be a decent test for the Premier League side against a physically fit team.
Singha All Star XI have seen a little bit more of the ball in the last couple of minutes, but they are struggling to find that elusive pass in the final third. Arsenal are still in control, but it remains 0-0.
Half-chance for Arsenal as Iwobi combines with Wilshere outside the box before striking towards goal, but his effort lacked power. The game has just started to open up as Singha All Star XI attack down the left.
SAVE! Mahbud is forced into a save as Iwobi dances into the home side's box before attempting to find the bottom corner. Moments later, the stopper denies Ox from outside the penalty area.
You just get the feeling that the floodlights could open if Arsenal break the deadlock in the next few minutes. The pressure is building and Singha All Star XI do not look too secure defensively here.
The home side are seeing more of the ball in forward areas at the moment, but Martinez has not yet been tested in the Arsenal goal. Just a reminder that Arsene Wenger has only named six subs for this game, which is a bit of a surprise. Singha All Star XI, however, have 12 players waiting in reserve here.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments, with the home side managing to take the sting out of Arsenal's play. It is the type of match which really needs a goal.
Just the two shots on target in the first 24 minutes, and they have both been from Arsenal. The Gunners have another shooting chance through Oxlade-Chamberlain, but his effort was always moving high and wide.
The home side are growing in confidence as they continue to pop the ball around in forward positions, but they are struggling in the final third of the field. Arsenal are still in control, but they have also found it difficult to really make their mark in attack. Still goalless with 26 minutes on the clock in Singapore.
Amri has shown some lovely touches for the home side this evening, and the striker evades another challenge with a fine piece of skill in the middle of the park. Singha All Star XI are enjoying a strong spell.
Drinks break time...
... we are back on! It is very, very hot inside the stadium. Tough old conditions.
GOAL! Singha All Star XI 0-1 Arsenal (Akpom)
Arsenal take the lead with 30 minutes on the clock as Akpom finds the back of the net from inside the box. Wilshere had initially been denied by a fine sliding challenge following a quick break from the Premier League side, but Akpom was on hand to smash home. The spectators have raised the atmosphere now.
The match has just started to open up as the home side break down the other end with Camara, but Debuchy is across to clear for a corner, which is headed wide by Khaizan. It is a good game at the moment.
Gabriel is in need of some treatment after blocking a stinging drive from Nazari as the home team break forward once again. We are expecting sweeping changes from Singha All Star XI at the interval here.
Another half-chance for Arsenal as Akpom breaks into the home side's box, but Mahbud is out to make another smart save. The Arsenal front two have been nice and bright in the last 10 minutes or so in Singapore.
Just a reminder that the winner of this semi-final will face Everton in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy on Saturday. The Merseyside outfit beat Stoke City on penalties earlier this afternoon.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of minutes, with the home side still struggling to make their mark in the final third. Another cross from Camara is collected by Martinez.
Possession football from Singha All Star XI in the last couple of minutes, but Arsenal are the team in control of developments. It must be said that this first period in Singapore has just flown past.
Arsenal have a free kick in a dangerous area as Wilshere is felled just outside the box...
... Wilshere strikes his effort straight into the wall. Poor from the England international.
HALF-TIME: Singha All Star XI 0-1 Arsenal
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close in Singapore with Arsenal leading 1-0 courtesy of a 30th-minute effort from Akpom, who found the bottom corner from inside the box. The home team have had their moments in the final third, but it has been a half controlled by the Premier League side.
BENCH WATCH! Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has only named six subs for this one, and youngsters Zelalem, Crowley, Toral and Willock will all be hoping to gain some minutes. Singha All Star XI, however, have 12 players in reserve and I suspect that alterations will be made at the interval here.
It has not been a walkover for Arsenal thus far, but Wenger's side have been in control of developments here. The home side have plenty of energy all over the park, but do seem to lack that quality in the final third. Amri has been isolated as the lone striker and support for the 30-year-old is surely a must.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period in Singapore. You just get the feeling that another Arsenal goal would end this game as a contest. The hosts resume the action here.
SUB! Arsenal have made a change in goal, with Szczesny replacing Martinez.
It does not appear that the home side have made any changes at the break, which means that there will be a lot over the course of the second period! Just the one confirmed change for Arsenal, which is not too much of a surprise. Sulaiman is current down for the hosts following a challenge with Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Half-chance for Arsenal as Mertesacker meets a corner from Oxlade-Chamberlain, but his header was never testing Mahbud in the home side's goal. The Gunners are really forcing the issue at the moment here.
SUB! The hosts are forced into a change as the injured Esah is replaced by Ramli.
Arsenal are threatening a second goal at the moment as they continue to force the issue in the final third, but a series of last-ditch challenges have kept the score at 1-0. The tempo is starting to rise again.
CHANCE! Arsenal come close to scoring a second as Iwobi finds space inside the home side's penalty box, but on the stretch, the striker can only lift his effort over the crossbar. Might have done better!
Singha All Star XI have a free kick just outside the Arsenal box here...
... Amri takes the resulting set piece, but his effort is straight into the wall. Little over 30 minutes of football remaining in this semi-final and Arsenal still lead courtesy of that first-half Akpom strike.
Iwobi fires high and wide as Arsenal once again work their way into the home side's box.
SUB! The home side make their second change as Amri is replaced by Tosi.
CHANCE! Arsenal once again come close as Oxlade-Chamberlain dances into the home side's box before attempting to slide one past Mahbud, but the goalkeeper just does enough to make the save.
Arsenal are awarded a penalty as Camara trips Debuchy inside the box. It was a clumsy challenge.
GOAL! Singha All Star XI 0-2 Arsenal (Wilshere, pen)
Wilshere sends his effort into the bottom corner as Arsenal take a two-goal lead here.
SAVE! Velez forces Szczesny into a decent save as the home side break forward with numbers.
SUBS! Arsenal make a triple change as Wilshere, Flamini and Oxlade-Chamberlain all leave the field for Willock, Crowley and Zelalem. The Gunners are really on top at the moment here.
SUB! The home side also make a change as Zulifahmi replaces Shafiq.
Little under 25 minutes of football remaining in this semi-final and Arsenal are on course for the final, where Everton will be waiting. Stoke, meanwhile, will seemingly face the hosts in the third-place match.
Szczesny is quick off his line to claim a through ball from Tosi, who has proved dangerous since entering the field in the second period. I would be surprised if we had seen the last of the goals in this one.
Arsenal still have two permitted changes remaining this evening and it would be a surprise if we did not see Bellerin and Toral before the night is out. The visitors continue to force the issue from another corner, but Mahbud just does enough to clear for another set piece. Still 2-0 to the Gunners here.
SUBS! Arsenal do indeed make their final two changes as Toral and Bellerin replace Akpom and Debuchy.
SUB! The home side also look to their bench as Shahdan is replaced by Ishak.
Little over 15 minutes of football remaining in this match and Arsenal still lead 2-0. The Gunners are dominating the possession at the moment as they continue to pass and probe in the final third.
Arsenal are awarded another penalty as Toral is felled inside the box by Mahbud.
GOAL! Singha All Star XI 0-3 Arsenal (Akpom, pen)
Arsenal have their third as Akpom dispatches his penalty into the bottom corner.
Arsenal could well add a couple more goals in the final 10 minutes as they continue to dominate proceedings. The home team just cannot keep the ball in their own half at the moment here.
GOAL! Singha All Star XI 0-4 Arsenal (Akpom, hat-trick)
Akpom has his hat-trick as the striker heads a wonderful Bellerin cross into the bottom corner.
SUB! The home side make another change as Nawaz replaces Safuwan.
SUB! Hamzah replaces Khaizan in the home side's final change of the night.
Arsenal are searching for a fifth goal here as they continue to force set pieces. In truth, the hosts are really struggling to make their mark as we approach the final five minutes of action.
It is almost like a training exercise for Arsenal at the moment as they continue to pass and probe in the final third of the field. The Gunners are full of energy and ideas in the latter stages of this match.
Crowley tries his luck for Arsenal after finding space outside the box, but his effort was always moving over the crossbar. All of the football is being played inside the home side's half at the moment.
SAVE! Mahbud is forced into another save to deny Toral from a powerful strike.
FULL-TIME: Singha All Star XI 0-4 Arsenal
So there we have it. Arsenal will play Everton in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy on Saturday after beating Singha All Star XI 4-0 courtesy of goals from Akpom (3) and Wilshere. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action. Good afternoon!