I’m sure we’ve all been looking forward to this day, ever since the final whistle went at the last game against Fulham, all those months ago. Arsenal are back at last, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s missed them dearly!
So it was our usual pre-season curtain-raiser against Barnet, and the original squad list for the trip included:
Almunia (GK), Arshavin, Nacer Barazite, Chamakh, Djourou, Craig Eastmond, Eduardo, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Fabianski (GK), Emmanuel Frimpong, Kieran Gibbs, Conor Henderson, Laurent Koscielny, Henri Lansbury, Ignasi Miquel, Nasri, Havard Nordtveit, Rosicky, Traore, Vermaelen, Walcott and Wilshere.
But thanks to an apparently genuine injury to Almunia, he was replaced by both Vito Mannone and Wojciech Szczesny, and for reasons unknown to me, Eduardo wasn’t part of the team that travelled down, and was replaced by Jay Simpson. Make of that, whatever you will.
Anyways, kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes, and the 11 that took to the field in the first half were:
Nordtveit Vermaelen Koscielny Traore
Frimpong Rosicky Wilshere
Arshavin Jay Simpson Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Rosicky was our stand-in captain, and there was the opportunity to get a first look at new signing, Laurent Koscielny, and youngsters like Simpson, Frimpong and J.E.T. We got off to the best start really, scoring a goal inside 2 minutes, settling any nerves that there might have been. Lovely inter-play between Arshavin and Rosicky on the edge of the box, and with the ‘keeper falling for his dummy, Arshavin had the simple task of rounding the ‘keeper and scoring. Fabulous start! And two minutes later, J.E.T. hit a shot from outside the box which the ‘keeper did well to punch clear.
The second goal came shortly after with 16 minutes on the clock, after some lovely build up play, with Wilshere teasing, before feeding Jay Simpson to slot past the ‘keeper into the bottom right corner. Vermaelen then had an effort cleared off the line. A few more chances in the first half, with Arshavin curling a beauty from just inside the box on the right, onto the crossbar with the ‘keeper beaten. Great effort.
Fabianski had a free ride really, and just before half time, Simpson added a third, his second, Wilshere again with the assist. It was a counter-attack goal, with Arshavin starting it down the right, feeding Wilshere who squared to Simpson for an easy tap-in.
Second half as expected, saw the 11 changed, so the new line-up was:
Ignasi Miquel Djourou Gibbs Craig Eastmond
Nasri Conor Henderson Henri Lansbury
Nacer Barazite Walcott Chamakh
Opportunity to see Chamakh especially, in action for the first time (in an Arsenal shirt). Theo had a great chance to make it four, after a quick burst down the middle, but his chip was only just saved by the ‘keeper. Chamakh had the chance to score his first Arsenal goal, after Barazite (I think it was)’s delightful ball over the top from the left hand side found Theo, who played in Chamakh, but his effort was saved by the ‘keeper. The second half was largely uneventful, but Nasri added the fourth after a mistake by a defender let him in, and with only the ‘keeper to beat, his finish was composed. A few more half chances, Theo threatening as usual with his pace, but we’d done enough anyways, and with everyone (including all 2 ‘keepers) getting a run out, it was just what the doctor ordered.
It’s hard judging the players who played, it being just the first game back, so taking negatives from it would be pointless, but there were a few positives to take from it. J.E.T looks a really good player, and his physical strength is impressive, and he’s not shy to use it. It seems Jack loan spell was beneficial as he looks a better player and he set up two of the goals. Simpson was impressive, scoring twice. Nice to see Rosicky play45 minutes, and I really hope his season doesn’t get curtailed again by injuries. Oh, another positive, none of the players picked up any injuries, it seems, which is a great start! It’s too early to judge the likes of Chamakh and Koscielny, it being just their first game. Theo seems to have beefed up and I was struggling to recognise him a few times, but maybe it’s just the new kit (which is fabulous, by the way)! Still needs to work on his final ball, but give him a break, it’s just the first game back!
A few more pre-season matches will probably give us an idea as to which players one would expect to be definites in the first team, and those who might need to go on loan, but we do have a strong squad, that’s for sure. Arsene said he’s still on the look-out for a goalkeeper, so hopefully we’ll be getting one or two more signings before the transfer window closes- a goalkeeper and defender, hopefully.
As for expectations from the new season, not sure I can handle anything other than a top 2 finish, which 1st being the priority, ofcourse. There haven’t been any high profile departures in any of the top clubs (yet), but neither have there been any high profile additions (except Manchester City as usual), but one would expect teams to be stronger than they were last season, including ours, especially with the addition of Chamakh and with it looking like Cesc is staying.
Hopefully when the first round of league games are over, we’d have established ourselves as real contenders. The Liverpool games is really massive, as a win serves as a marker to others, and ourselves! As usual, the Carling Cup and FA Cup will be taken as seriously as we can, if we can bag one of them, that’ll be great! I’ll wait until the Champions League draw is out, before getting my hopes high, but hopefully we’ll do better than we did last season.
But anyways, let’s enjoy pre-season without any downers, before the really serious stuff begins. I for one, can’t wait to see Arsene back on the touchline- I’ve missed his dramatics! Hopefully it’s mainly positive reactions this season!
Welcome back, Arsenal!