The prof is impressed
Sundram's men lose but earn praise from Wenger
(Chuba Akpom 30, 76-pen, 78, Jack Wilshere 60-pen)
SINGAPORE SELECTION 0
He stood as he always does, on the edge of the technical area, arms folded, eyes locked onto the action unfolding on the arena just a few steps ahead.
At times last night, it seemed that V Sundramoorthy had to hold himself back from sprinting onto the pitch, but understandably so, this was the National Stadium, the very site where as a player, his dazzling feet brought crowds to their feet - and this was his first game in full charge since the $1.3 billion makeover that converted Kallang into the modern sporting facility it is today.
Sundram the coach did not manage to get his Singapore Selection side to raise the roof last night, falling 4-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the Barclays Asia Trophy, but he did something right on the training ground, enough to earn praise from Arsene Wenger.
"I was surprised, (the Singapore side) were electric in the first half, I don't know what they had for lunch, but they played at a very high pace, and had good technique... kept the ball very well," said the Professor, widely credited for his part in revolutionising football in England in the 1990s.
In the first half, the hosts did have a much bigger share of possession than most would have expected, but even then didn't offer too much going forward, registering their first shot on target only in the 62nd minute.
"In the second half, they dropped physically, and cohesion goes when you make a lot of changes, and they suffered from that as well," added Wenger.
But that was enough to put a smile back on the face of a clearly dejected Sundram, who could not have been pleased with the scoreline.
"The last time it was Diego Simeone, and now its Wenger, coaches who are rated very highly, and I treasure the experience of taking coaches like them on," said Sundram, who could not dampen his competitive streak, even against the likes of the English FA Cup champions and revered manager.
Sundram led another Singapore Selections side that fell 2-0 to Atletico Madrid in 2013.
"I thought we conceded two soft penalties, and if we didn't it would have made the scoreline a lot more respectable.
"Still for someone like Wenger to say something like that is really flattering both for the boys and for me, but if the most of the boys weren't fasting (yesterday) I think we could have kept it up in the second half," he said, competitive streak rearing its head again.
The Singapore Selection struggled to contain young tyro Chuba Akpom, who scored a hat-trick on the night, the first in the 30th minute, slamming home a loose ball in the penalty box.
He added two more after Jack Wilshere scored with a 60th minute penalty, a spotkick of his own in the 76th minute, then a thumping header just two minutes later to wrap up the scoring.
The Singapore side will face Stoke - who fell 5-4 on penalties to Everton after a 0-0 draw in yesterday's earlier fixture - on Saturday, and Sundram will get another shot at taking on another English side.
And he could already see the positives - and how much more Singapore footballers can achieve.
"Performance-wise, the boys competed, played to instructions, and we made it difficult for them, actually," said Sundram.
"The way we played is the way we should continue playing, if we continue to get such high-level opposition, and if we train well, I believe we can upset some strong teams in the future."
Sundram noticed that unlike him, Wenger sat down for most of the game, but while there is a lot he would like to take on board from the Frenchman, that part of his game will not change.
But again Sundram's competitive streak surfaced.
"What I did notice was that this was not one of those pre-season games, - they wanted to win - I could hear that on the bench next to us," said Sundram.
"It was no stroll in the park, they were running their socks off, especially the young boys.
"But we will try harder the next time."
"I was surprised, (the Singapore side) were electric in the first half, I don’t know what they had for lunch, but they played at a very high pace, and had good technique..."
- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
- ARSENAL: Emiliano Martinez (Wojciech Szczesny 46), Mathieu Debuchy (Hector Bellerin 72), Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini (Dan Crowley 64), Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere (Gedion Zelalem 64), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Chris Willock 64), Alex Iwobi (Jon Toral 72), Chuba Akpom
- SINGAPORE SELECTION: Izwan Mahbud, Nazrul Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Baihakki Khaizan (Shakir Hamzah 81), Shaiful Esah (Faris Ramli 52), Safuwan Baharudin (Fazrul Nawaz 80), Izzdin Shafiq (Zulfahmi Arifin 65), Shahdan Sulaiman (Shahril Ishak 72), Sirina Camara, Nicolas Velez, Khairul Amri (Rodrigo Tosi 58)
The wonder of Wilshere
HAVING A GRIP ON THE GAME: Jack Wilshere keeping Singapore Selection's Shahdan Sulaiman at bay.
After another mixed campaign last season, Jack Wilshere is aiming to get back to his best for Arsenal in the upcoming Premier League campaign.
After spending half the previous season out injured, the 23-year-old midfielder was in fine form towards the end of the campaign as he helped Arsenal lift the FA Cup, and scored twice for England in their 3-2 win away to Slovenia in a Euro 2016 qualifier.
In his first pre-season match this term, Wilshere once again turned in a genuine No. 10 performance for the Gunners against a dogged Singapore Selection team - getting on the scoresheet from the penalty spot in the 4-0 victory at the National Stadium last night.
Arsenal left stars like Mesut Oezil, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud out of the matchday squad, as manager Arsene Wenger sprang a surprise when he opted for two youngsters - Alex Iwobi and Chuba Akpom - to lead the line.
And they were brilliantly supported by Wilshere, who played in an advance role and was the catalyst of most of their attacking moves.
"It looks like he has regained that burst again," Wenger said, of the Englishman.
"It's important for a player like him, playing in his position, to have that sort of form and momentum, and he's (playing) just like he did at the end of last season - which is good for him and us.
"He looks to be 100 per cent from his injury, so he should be optimistic for the season."
Tipped as one of England's brightest prospects in 2012, Wilshere has since struggled with injuries and consistency, never quite fulfilling his potential for either the Gunners or the Three Lions.
He faces a battle with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Cazorla and Oezil for a place in the first 11, but indications from last night suggest that the 2015/16 season could see him re-establish himself.
"He is very quick and you're always afraid he's going to drive straight at you," said Singapore's Shahdan Sulaiman, who played in central midfield for V Sundramoorthy's side.
"In the second half, I could see he was almost captaining his team, starting all the moves.
"I don't remember him giving the ball away.
"Honestly, if Wilshere didn't play, the score wouldn't have been 4-0."