Whelp, here we are, the brink of another season and the Arsenal find themselves facing a familiar opponent to kick off the pre-season friendlies; Barnet. After that, Arsenal will string together a series of matches 3-4 days apart as Arsene Wenger puts his team through their paces and prods the players to see where they fit best. All the while bringing along a smattering of youth players to test their mettle against these, let’s face it, lesser teams.
But first up, Barnet, those pesky bees. Well, they haven’t been all that pesky to be honest, more of like a cute little bumblebee bumbling along from clover to clover. But they are a gracious host and as evidenced by their web site, they love having Arsenal come out and play, even if they do lose pretty much every time.
Leading up to the match, nearly every Arsenal player has been interviewed (Arshavin, via Gunnerblog) over the last few days and they are all really excited for the season and ready to kick this year off better than last (Almunia, via the dot com). That’s perfect, I think they lost focus at the start of last year and overlooked teams like Fulham so, making sure that they are all on the same page and up for the task from the onset is absolutely crucial if Arsene is going to see this youth project of his pay off. A good win tomorrow will send a very clear message that Arsenal are focused on the season.
The club announced the squad today, and I’m excited for the opportunity to see Thomas Vermaelen in his first action for the club. There’s been a lot of speculation that he’s going to be Arsenal’s midfield hard man and given Arsene’s track record in transforming players I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. Still, if he just plays at center back then that too will be just fine: top quality depth at that position was lacking at the end of last season with injuries forcing Wenger to use Silvestre in crucial matches and that proving fatal to Arsenal’s season. So, even if he’s just cover for Gallas and Toure and he’s half the quality that Wenger usually spots, then he will be a welcome addition indeed.
The other player that everyone is talking about is Thomas Rosicky. Our little Mozart has been out for what seems like a dog’s year but he’s supposedly ready to go. Cesc gave an emotional interview in which he described Rosicky as a great footballer, a great friend, and a man with nearly unparalleled perseverance. I say “nearly” because I think Eduardo would give him a run for his money in that category. I am absolutely stoked to see Rosicky back in action, his width on the right, crosses, and ability to get by defenders was missed last year. Welcome back, Thomas, here’s to you being 100%.
Also included is Andrei Arshavin and I’ll be expecting a cool dozen goals from him; William Gallas, and I’ll be expecting an on-camera chat up of the players from him; Manuel Almunia, and I’ll be expecting him to have a union jack tee-shirt on under his kit; Johan Djourou, and I’m expecting him to be tall; Jack Wilshere, who I’m expecting to be fast and stuff; and Nacer Barazite, who has scored in the last two of these friendlies so, I’m expecting that Arsene Wenger will switch him to holding midfielder or something equally bizzare.
On a serious note, the squad is a bit odd, with no less than 6 youngsters named in the squad who the dot com says, or I have seen, play the holding midfield role: Randall, Cruise, Eastmond, Coquelin, Emmanuel-Thomas, and Frimpong. Admittedly, I don’t read the blogs about the youth teams because that seems just a little bit too obsessive. So, I have to go by what the dot com says. I do know that Wenger has spoken highly of Coquelin and Frimpong, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of those two start next to Wilshere in the center of the pitch.
One cool thing about these pre-season matches is that I get to approach all these youngsters with “fresh eyes” having only seen a handful of them in Carling Cup matches so, it’s exciting for me to see the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Jay Simpson on the list.
That’s about it, the only other thing to mention here is that you can only watch the match on ArsenalTV, which, if you get for the rest of the month is only £4. I’m no shill for ArsenalTV but £4! That’s a pint! And for that you get to watch every one of this month’s pre-season matches, plus other incredibly cool videos, like Henry’s goal against Real Madrid, or Tony Adams’ goal against Everton, plus interviews, and old matches… Come on, it’s four quid well spent to get you excited for the season.
If you don’t get the video, you can tune in here, I will be liveblogging the match, and kickoff is at… 7am (PST).
Finally, I’m not doing a gods damn transfer roundup this morning, I’m burnt out on all that shit. I will say this, Carlos Vela’s reported injury is not as bad as, erm, reported which is good. With Adebayor leaving for bluer pastures, we’ll need him healthy.
See you tomorrow, first thing in the AM, here’s to Rosicky scoring 100 goals!
Up the Arse!