Arsenal get their pre-season friendlies underway tomorrow with the traditional curtain raiser at Underhill when they face Barnet.
Wenger will take a mixed squad of first team players and reserves. Saturday could see the return of Rosicky as well as a welcome return from injury for Eduardo and Gallas. Arshavin and Nasri are also in the squad as is new signing Thomas Vermaelen.
The one surprise is that Eduardo is the only recognised striker in the squad. Adebayor is still thinking about waht to do with his money, Vela is with Mexico whilst neither van Persie or Bendtner are included in the squad.
The match will be no real indicator as to where we are going this season, but there will be some clues. Last season we struggled against Barnet and showed that we were missing Fabregas, Rosicky and Hleb and this was the case during the season. I would like to see Nasri given a central midfield role in the absence of Fabregas.
The game can be seen live only on Arsenal TV Online and will not be screened on Arsenal TV (though I imagine the game will be shown later next week). Subscription to Arsenal TV Online costs £3.99 on a monthly basis or £45 for the year. Arsenal TV Online will televise Arsenal’s four pre-season friendlies, being the Barnet game, the two in Austria and the game against Hannover 96.
A warm July afternoon saw Arsenal kick-off the 2008/09 campaign with a game at Underhill against League 2 side Barnet.
The early exchanges saw Barnet on top with Almunia called upon to make an early save. Arsenal eventually settled down and started to dominate with early glimpses of Ramsey’s ability on display. Bendtner had two early chances but his first touch let him down.
After 16 minutes, Arsenal conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box, which was taken by French player Gillett. He curled the ball around the wall and Almunia was unable to prevent the Bees taking the lead.
The goal knocked Arsenal and silenced their fans. It was not long before Arsenal started to pass the ball around and try to create chances. Arsenal’s best chance of the half came after a mazy run from Denllson, he found Walcott who created space for himself, but his shot was well saved.
Most of the work and creativity came from Welshman Ramsey. Playing Traore on the left wing did not work, as Traore lacked the final ball, plenty of running but no end product. Nordveit showed a lot of promise and composure, making a couple of worthy interceptions.
Arsenal went in at half-time trailing 1-0, Arsene Wenger knew that the team was not sharp enough in front of goal and changes will be made.
Wholesale changes were made in the second half, including a debut for new signing Francis Coquelin.
Neil Banfield’s reserve played like a team and within 10 minutes Mark Randall and Nacer Barazite both came close to equalising.
Where Ramsey left off, another Arsenal starlet, Wlishere picked the ball up on the wing, threaded a great ball to young Simpson who made no mistake in bringing the Gunners level on the hour mark. Arsenal continued to push forward and in the 75th minute another great ball from Wilshere found Simpson, who looked up and played a ball ac cross to Barazite who buried the ball to give Arsenal the lead.
After the goal Arsenal lost some of their composure, they created little and were content to see the game out.
What has Wenger learnt from this outing? Ramsey, Randall, Willshere are players to be considered for first team, duty. Traore is no winger, he will become a much maligned figure on the wing. Bendtner let himself down, so it will be interesting to see him over the next couple of weeks, will he add pressure on Adebayor or will he be content to play second fiddle to the Togolese striker. Overall a good work out, now on to Austra for the next phase of pre-season..
First Half Starting Line Up
Almunia ; Sagna; Nordveit; Hoyte (J) ;Clichy – Lansbury; Denilson; Ramsey; Traore – Walcott; Bendtner
Second Half Starting Line Up
Manone (Szczezny -75) -Agogo Dunne -75); Hoyte (G); Rodgers; Steer – Randall, Wilshere; Barazite; Coqeulin;- Fonte; Simpson