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Saturday, 17 July 2010

Off and running

Barnet 0 - 4 Arsenal
So here we go then. Arsenal's season is off to a bright start following the boys 4-0 win at Barnet. None of the World Cup players are back yet from their holidays, so Arsene mixed things up a bit with a decent XI playing each half. In other years it has been a first-team for 45 minutes followed by a reserve team in the second-half. From an entertainment point of view this was much better. I didn't go to Barnet this year due to the price of tickets - I wanted to take my 4-year-old to see The Arsenal for the first time, but I was not willing to pay £20-odd for myself, and the same for a little boy. No concessions at Barnet? That's taking the p*** as far as I'm concerned.
I watched the game on Arsenal TV Online which meant having to listen to Stewart Robson, a self-confessed non-Arsenal fan - but happy to take Arsenal's dollar when it's offered. I'm sure Arsenal could make better use of former players with a genuine Club affection (though, please, not Perry Groves, surely the World's most improved player since his retirement).
The boys slipped easily back in to the passing routine with the first goal after 90 seconds, before a Barnet player had touched the ball. Arshavin finished coolly, coming in-field to take the ball and dummy the keeper about 4 times before finally rounding him and slotting home. After that it was the Jack Wilshere show for the remainder of the first-half. Wilshere was deployed in the middle of midfield and seemed to revel in it. He set up both goals for Jay Simpson. It's nice to see Simpson scoring, but I have to question what the man is still doing at Arsenal. Along with a number of others I can not understand why Arsenal still have them on the payroll - Barazite, Hoyte, Nordveidt, to name a few - money to be made, surely, not spent on weekly wages. Other notable first-half performers were Armand Traore, Thomas Vermaelen and Emmanuel Frimpong, who was typically combative in midfield - he was clearly determined to take his opportunity in front of Arsene Wenger, which is more than can be said of the younger players in the second-half. Laurent Koscielny had a nice, quiet start, to his Arsenal career, and number 6 always looks so good on an Arsenal shirt. Notable, for his anonymity, was Tomas Rosicky. Pre-season or not, I was very disappointed with him - for me, his race is run, and it's time to cash in while we still can. Those, like me, who would like to see Vermaelen replace Fabregas as skipper, will have been disappointed to see Arsenal being led by Rosicky today, and not TV5. I suspect Alex Ferguson would not have been slow to demote Fabregas in the same circumstances, were he a Man Utd player.
In the second-half things started brightly, particularly for Theo Walcott. His touch was good, for a change, and he easily had the beating of the defence. Unfortunately, the usual problems are still there, though one superb ball across the area deserved to have someone getting on the end of it. Which brings me nicely to Marouane Chamakh. He already has his own "Chamakh" chant, to the tune of "Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack". Sadly he didn't inspire today, though the service he received was not to his obvious aerial strength - he had a couple of shots well saved by the keeper. Johan Djourou looked a cut above at the back, while Nasri (second-half captain)grew in to the game and eventually struck the fourth following some poor mistakes by Barnet defenders. Henri Lansbury seemed strangely subdued in midfield, following his energetic cameo against Fulham at the end of last season. Kieran Gibbs took things understandably easy in his first game since last Autumn.
Strangely, Arsenal used three goalkeepers - Fabianski for the first-half, Mannone and Sczeszny during the second. On Friday, arsenal.com advertised that Fabianski and Almunia were the keepers in the squad for this game. Where is Manuel? I think he may be on his way out - probably the best thing for him as he would not want to go back to being the understudy when Arsenal eventually sign a new goalkeeper.
The other notable absentee was Eduardo. Again, he was named in the squad (whilst Simpson wasn't). It is my understanding that he has picked up yet another injury. It's tragic that Eduardo has never recovered from the assault at Birmingham, but again it's time to cut our losses. He is never going to make it back, so let's get rid and make the money while we still can. Eduardo's loss was certainly Jay Simpson's gain on this occasion.
I knew the season had started midway through the second-half when the familiar voice of Maria broke the silence with her always welcome "COME. ON. YOU. GUNNERS. COME ON ARS-E-NAL!" It seemed to get the rest of the crowd going too.
The squad fly to Austria now for the next leg of their preparations. It will be interesting to see which players on show today will NOT be on the trip to Bad Waltersdorf - the younger players on show all wore the squad numbers of those players on World Cup duty, including Craig Eastmond, which I thought was a bit unfair on a youngster who made such a breakthrough last season. I've no doubt the travelling Gooners will be royally welcomed by the great friends they've made in Austria, and I'm sure the legendary Andy Kovacs will be looking after them as usual. I just wish I was going too. I will have spies in the camp in Austria, so if any story is breaking, then it will break here (assuming I'm at home and in front of the computer!)

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