Barnet vs. Arsenal – Here we go again!

July 21, 2010 at 10:43 am 8 comments

After two months off, club football finally returned (for me at least) this weekend, with Arsenal’s traditional season opener against their North London neighbours Barnet.

Arsenal usually begin every season with this fixture, played in very good spirit at Barnet’s Underhill Stadium, and it’s usually just an opportunity for the manager to check on the players’ fitness, give the youngsters a chance to stake their claim for the first team and get the season started on a positive note. In seasons past, I would read about the game every July and it always seemed like a fun occasion. So this year, when the tickets came up for sale, seeing as I had nothing else planned for the weekend, I decided to go.

Barnet is a borough in the north of London and was apparently famous for having a horse fair in the 16th century, called the ‘Barnet Fair’, which was the term used in cockney rhyming slang for ‘hair’. That’s why the word barnet is associated with hair and hairstyles even now. Barnet Football Club, nicknamed ‘The Bees’ because of their orange and black kits, currently plays in League Two, the fourth division in English football. On paper, the game should be a no contest but the Arsenal players were just back from vacation while the Barnet guys had been in training for a while and also, the game would feature a lot of untested Arsenal youngsters. Last year, the game had ended 2-2, so it had the ability to surprise.

So it was that on this lazy Saturday afternoon, I set out for Barnet, ticket in hand and the promise of a successful season ahead. I took the tube to High Barnet station, where I met up with a friend and together, we made the short trek to the local pub (‘The Old Red Lion’, I think) and grabbed a quick beer over random football chatter before walking down to the stadium.

The ground was tiny and as result, had the benefit of making you feel really close to the action. It seemed to be a family occasion, with lots of kids running around. There were plenty of Arsenal fans, eager to see the new signings along with the returning favourites. None of the players who were at the World Cup would be there, so the big stars on show were Andrey Arshavin, Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Thomas Vermaelen, and Theo Walcott. Apart from them, the team would be made up of youngsters mainly, including the exciting Jack Wilshere, hotly tipped to play a starring role for England very soon. It’s fair to say, however, that most of the fans were curious about seeing the new signings, Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny, and finding out how they would fit into the side and playing style. I had a seat in the second row from the fence near one of the corners, so Arshavin and Traore were bombing towards me throughout the first half.

As he usually did, Arsene Wenger named a mixed team for the first half. Lukasz Fabianski in goal, the young Norwegian centre-back Havarad Nordtveidt at right-back, Koscielny partnering Vermaelen in the middle and Armand Traore on the left. In midfield, Emmanuel Frimpong was the defensive midfielder while Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere pulled the strings and fed the front three of Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Jay Simpson and the mercurial Andrey Arshavin who is as dazzling as he is frustrating. Jay Emmanuel Thomas is another youngster who’s made headlines for his versatility. (He can apparently play as a centre froward, central midfielder and as a centreback, equally comfortable in all three roles!)

Arsenal started the game on fire and I’m not even sure if Barnet had touched the ball before a great passing move saw Rosicky slipping in Arshavin, and the cheeky Russian stepped around the keeper and slotted in for an easy goal. 90 seconds on the clock and Arsenal were 1-0 up. They continued in the same vein throughout the 45 minutes, and the outstanding performer was Frimpong, the Ghanaian (who is also eligible for England) international, who looked like an absolute monster – flying into tackles, breaking up the play and giving the ball to Rosicky and Wilshere to wreak havoc. Wilshere was quite superb and Jay Simpson was the lucky recipient of his brilliance as Jack fed him twice for simple goals. Arsenal were 3-0 up at the end of a great first half for all the Arsenal fans, who would’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the team looking so fresh and fit. Koscielny looked calm and composed on the ball but unfortunately, wasn’t tested too much at all. There will be sterner tests ahead and at this point, one can only hope that he’ll be up to them.

All the players were substituted for the second half, with the new team again a good mix. Vito Mannone in goal, Craig Eastmond at right back, Johan Djourou and Igansi Miquel in the middle of the defence and rising english star Kieran Gibbs at left-back. In the middle, the ‘next Steven Gerrard’ Henri Lansbury, Conor Henderson, about whom I didn’t know anything, and Samir Nasri. Up front, Dutch youngster Nacer Barazite, who’s scored against Barnet in each of the last three seasons, and Theo Walcott were joined by Marouane Chamakh.

The second half was considerably less exciting than the first, with the players taking it easy. Nasri capitalised on a defensive error to score, Walcott had some good runs and Chamakh had some nice touches but overall there was little else of note. Mannone was replaced by Wojciech Sczezsny midway through the half, but neither had anything to do. Personally, I was most pleased about seeing Johan Djourou, who missed all of last season through injury, back in action. He seemed fit and had a very solid 45 mins indeed.

Overall, it was a glorious way to spend a Saturday afternoon and from the Arsenal point of view, it a very tidy performance to start off the pre-season. With a couple of new signings, a genuine title bid is definitely on the cards. So, hopefully, some exciting times ahead! 🙂

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Entry filed under: Arsenal, Football, News, Personal.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rohit  |  July 23, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Really awesome! I am envious. London! My dream!

    I hope you get to watch more matches this season. Hopefully Campbell will stay on for another year and a quality keeper will be signed and we might just win it!

    Ooh to be a Gooner!

    Reply
  • 2. Arun  |  July 23, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Cesc or no Cesc…. without a good signing for the goalkeeper position, I am doubtful about a serious title challenge. Fabianski is a joke. He tries too hard & gets all too excited for even routine saves/catches. The goalkeeper should be the least anxious person in the field. We need someone with more maturity & positioning skills. When I was watching the Nigerian goalkeeper during the world cup doing consistent high quality saves, i could not but feel sad, why we could not attract/acquire such talent.

    Defending too needs a slight beef up. With Gallas on his way, and Sol too maybe… Koscielny is a good signing… but as we have painfully learned, injuries for the defenders & forwards cost us a serious title challenge last season.

    Reply
  • 3. Vinod  |  July 23, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    @Rohit
    I hope so too. And yeah, Sol staying would be good, but strictly as back-up only. And anyway, we need to buy one more CB I think, because the interest in Jagielka seems to have been real. Maybe some random african dude, I don’t know, but I have faith in Wenger. Always have had.

    Reply
  • 4. Vinod  |  July 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    @Arun
    Not all goalkeepers are world class at 22-23. Look at Spurs, Gomes was a joke in his first season. Now, he’s brilliant. Fabianski will come good, I’m sure of that.

    And what do you mean? Do you honestly think Arsenal would not be able to attract/acquire Vincent Enyeama? Actually, Wenger had made a bid for him two years ago for like 1 or 2 million and then decided not to buy him. And fair enough, he was brilliant in the first two games but made a blunder in the third, when Nigeria could’ve gone through. So that’s 1 in 3, much lower than almunia wouldn’t you say?

    And the Arsenal system serves to bring in players when they’re young to save on transfer costs in the future. No point letting Fabianski go without giving him a proper run in the side, not the odd game here and there.

    Agreed on the defenders part. We badly need 1 or 2 more good quality CBs.

    Reply
  • 5. Vinod  |  July 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Sorry, meant “much higher rate than Almunia”! 🙂

    Reply
  • 6. Arun  |  July 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Vincent Enyeama made a mistake.
    Fabianski made goof ups.

    Why employ young goalkeepers at all. The third choice goalkeeper could be young. Why the first and second? Vito Mannone was more impressive than Fabianski during his small stint last season. What i am saying is age is not the problem for Fabianski. Its his temperment & positioning skills thats the problem. We can’t suffer till he matures.

    We are one of the best financially managed teams. I get the Arsenal system. But what is the necessity to stick to it, when the player is not of the envisioned quality.
    Fabianski is 25 years old. We are 6 years without any silverware. What we need NOW is a proven goalkeeper.

    Reply
  • 7. Rohit  |  July 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Fact remains that we have crappy goal keepers. For a 25 year old who has been in the first team for a while now, Fabianski cannot continue to make such blunders.

    I would rather see some established goalkeeper and by that I dont mean Schwarzer.

    Hopefully Koscielny will do a Vermaelen but I think that’s too much to expect.

    Reply
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This blog was previously published at http://vinodg.blogspot.com.

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