Well, it’s finally here. After two of the most tortuous summer months I can remember as an Arsenal supporter, we can finally once again watch the Gunners on the pitch rather than read about them on shameless British tabloid websites and disgraceful excuses for Arsenal “blogs”.
Arsenal began their preseason campaign on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Barnet in front of 5,358 fans at Underhill Stadium. The Gunners fell behind in the 16th minute after a Havard Nordtveit foul conceded a well-worked free kick just outside the box by Barnet’s 22 year old French import, Kenny Gillet who failed to score in 31 appearances for the Bees. Despite fielding a number of full and fringe first-teamers and a lion’s share of the possession throughout the first half, Arsenal went into the break behind.
Wenger started Walcott and Bendtner up top, but neither proved very effective despite an impressive display in midfield from new signing, Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey showed confidence, vision, and intelligence in a central midfield role which saw him play not only in advanced positions but also dropping deep at times. He partnered Denilson who started the match as defensive midfielder in what will be one of his many attempts to lay claim to the spot vacated by Mathieu Flamini’s departure in May for some club that plays in the UEFA Cup. However, the youngster failed to make a positive impression and will need to pick his game up if he’s to be lining up in the starting XI opposite West Brom at the Emirates on the 16th of August.
Bakary Sagna looked his usual self and seems to be fully recovered from his season-ending injury sustained at Chelsea back on March 23rd at Stamford Bridge. He and Henri Lansbury, the 17 year old who made his first appearance for Arsenal since signing his first professional contract on July 1st, linked up well on the right and he consistently got to the byline. Manuel Almunia started the game in goal for Arsenal and generally looked sharp especially when making a full-stretch save off a shot from Barnet’s 20 year old wunderkind, Albert Adomah. He may have positioned the wall a bit better on Gillet’s free kick but it was extremely well taken.
The second half saw wholesale changes for Arsenal with a second team consisting of last year’s Reserves most notably Nacer Barazite and Jack Wilshere. Barazite and Randall both went close after coming on for the second half but it was the irrepressible Wilshere who came on and picked up right where he left off at the end of the Reserves campaign. The 16 year old has done nothing but impress since arriving at the club and he continued that trend in the second half at Underhill. He created Arsenal’s first goal with a beautiful through ball on the right side of the box for Jay Simpson, who finished cooly from a tight angle in the 64th minute. Now the momentum really began to shift the Gunners way and less than ten minutes later Wilshere again began a move that led to the winner. After dispossessing Joe Devera in midfield, he laid it off to Simpson on the right who then placed a lovely pass across the box ahead of a charging Nacer Barazite who put the Gunners on top to stay in the 73rd minute.
All in all, it was a very encouraging match for the youngsters, if less so for the first teamers. Wilshere and Barazite were both very lively and caused Barnet’s defense problems for most of the second half. All Arsenal supporters have great reason to be very excited in anticipation of seeing both feature in this year’s Carling Cup campaign. Despite the “all-possession but behind” performance of the first half, it was a good start to the preseason and it looks as though a few of the youngsters will try to make it even harder for Arsene to dip into the transfer market again.
Lineups:Almunia (Mannone 45, Sczcesny 74), Sagna (Steer 45), Hoyte (Rodgers 45), Nordtveit (G. Hoyte 45), Clichy (Ogogo 45, Dunne 74), Traore, Denilson (Randall 45), Lansbury (Wilshere 45), Ramsey (Coquelin 45), Bendtner (Fonte 45), Walcott (Barazite 45).
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