Premier League champions Manchester City coasted to a 2-0 victory over Arsenal in a pre-season friendly at China's Beijing National Stadium. The Gunners were undone by a quick fire double from Argentinian right back Pablo Zabaleta and Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure.
The English champions started the game with a 3-5-2 formation and enough experience to stifle a young Arsenal starting eleven. City captain Vincent Kompany partnered Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure in the back three, while Serbian Aleksandr Kolarov and Zabaleta controlled the flanks.
Arsenal, meanwhile, left the game with their need for a top class striker laid bare. Arsene Wenger's side created several chances, as they always do, but the absence of striker Robin van Persie, who ruled himself out of this pre-season tour as a way of forcing a transfer from the club, and of new signings Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud (both of whom are still recovering from their Euro 2012 exertions) highlighted their lack of firepower.
The game started briskly, with Arsenal taking control. Walcott made a few incisive runs past the City defence and saw a shot zip past the far corner. However, the City back three did its job well and Arsenal were restricted to long distance strikes in the first half, with Andre Santos, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs all denied by City keeper Costel Pantilimon, deputising for absent England keeper Joe Hart.
The champions initially struggled to impose themselves on the game, but Zabaleta's 40th minute strike and Toure's goal two minutes later set up what turned out to be a fairly easy win.
In the second half, Arsenal increased the tempo but the poor state of the pitch, coupled with a torrential downpour, made it hard for the teams to move the ball about. Gervinho, who had a good game, might have pulled one back for the Gunners but for a timely interception by Kompany. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had the best chance of the game for Arsenal - a 25-yard shot hit that both posts before trickling out the wrong side, as far as Arsenal were concerned, of the goal line.
Both sides lost focus and motivation as the game wore on and were content to knock the ball around, waiting for the final whistle. The 90 minutes was a clear indication that City will remain the team to beat next season.
As far as Arsenal are concerned, the return of senior players such as defender Laurent Koscielny and the recovery from injury of midfielders like Abou Diaby will certainly add some steel to their ranks, but the full back positions continue to be a problem. Jenkinson may have promise but is still raw and Wenger cannot afford to give him the necessary game time to develop at the Emirates. He should be loaned out, preferably to a Premier League side. Gibbs, while more experienced, is not totally convincing either.
Finally, the issue of who is going to play up front, and the fate of van Persie, must still be resolved. Both Podolski and Giroud are potentially excellent alternatives, but both are new to the English game and may need time to adjust. In the meantime, should van Persie leave, Wenger will be left with only Moroccan Marouane Chamakh to call on... and that does not inspire hope.
Arsenal end their pre-season tour of Asia with a trip to Hong Kong to play Kitchee FC, on Sunday 29 July. Manchester City will play a friendly match against the Malaysian national team in Kuala Lumpur on Monday 30 July.