Here we go again, football is back. It`s that time of the summer where the Arsenal squad travels a short distance due north to Barnet for the traditional preseason curtain raiser, before flying out to Austria. Asenal`s record in this fixture in the last nine years is predictably impressive at 7-0-2. Last year Barnet took the game to Arsenal early on and scored the goal they deserved, but Arsenal eventually broke through in the second half with a goal from Jay Simpson. Then the young Gunners went on to win by a solitary goal thanks to Nacer Barazite.
For Arsenal, this is a game where the youngsters get their chance to shine alongside Arsenal`s finest. The starting line-up usually consists of a mixture of starters, squad members, and of course everclear, the foundation for all the best punchbowls. Sarcasm of course, but after long, tough weeks at the beach, the legs and minds of even our best players are always a tad intoxicated. Wengerball never gets rolling in this fixture. However, at halftime, we should see the Boss make eleven substitutions to transform the lineup into a full-fledged youth team, which usually sees the game liven up. This match is a chance for the squad to sharpen up physically and to get their touch back into the proper groove, but much more importantly, the key to this game is to come out injury free.
Wenger`s been a bit mum these past few weeks probably due to the combination of vacation and that transfer that’s been moving along during past few days, so I have quotes from our captain on his best friend. “I have spent a lot of time with Rosicky and I know how he feels” Fabregas told Arsenal.com.
“I know what he wants and I have never seen a guy being so committed, so professional and never giving up. If this happened to me I probably wouldn’t want to talk to anyone, I would be always down and angry. But he’s unbelievable and when we see that he will be back next season, he will be strong and hopefully he can help us improve a lot. Technically he is one of the best in the world and physically I am sure he will be really strong because he’s been working really hard. I am happy because soon he is going to be back and I can’t wait to see him playing again.”
“He’s the type of player you enjoy playing alongside and as a guy he’s amazing. He didn’t deserve his injury but I am sure he will come back stronger. I wish him all the best because everyone here at Arsenal loves him a lot.”
When Ian Hendon, the Barnet manager, was told the Arsenal players that could be facing his team, he laughed and said with a wry smile “Some line-up there”.
Barnet Team News:
Barnet won their first preseason game against Conference South opponents Dover Athletic last Saturday despite missing several key players. Barnet won 2-1 with goals either side of halftime by Mark Hughes and Joe Devera. Exciting prospect Albert Adomah and Luke Medley both missed the game with the flu, but should be fine by Saturday. Jake Hyde is a doubt for the game due to a glandular infection, aka the kissing disease, aka mono. Oh Hyde, you dirty, dirty boy. Striker, and top scorer from last season, John O’Flynn will miss the game after suffering a torn muscle in his right foot during training.
Interesting news coming out of Barnet this week is that manager Ian Hendon took himself off the squad list. He was the Barnet captain when the Bee`s regained Football League status in 05, and the 37 year old took over as manager on Boxing Day last year and has now been appointed full-time on a two year deal.
Player to watch: Albert Adomah
Albert Adomah is a quick 21 year old winger who is being courted by plenty of Championship teams like Reading, Sheffield United, and Watford. He should be fit enough to take part in this prestigious fixture for the Bee`s, and he certainly could sting Arsenal for a goal.
Arsenal Team News:
With only a handful of players competing in international tournaments this summer, the vast majority of the first team has reported back to London Colney during these past two weeks, so traveling fans will see a more experienced team than during World Cup and Euro summers take on Barnet. Although not everyone who has returned will feature. Only the players who returned on July 7th will be included in the squad. Don`t fret though, you will still be able to see new signing Vermaelen, Arshavin, and Silvestre! Fabregas, Theo, and Gibbs are still on holiday for the weekend, while Carlos Vela is on international duty for Mexico. Vela has recovered from a leg injury and will start in the Gold Cup quarter-final for El Tri against Haiti on Sunday.
Arsenal fans will be treated to some ghosts of seasons past on Saturday when Senderos and Rosicky will once again be wearing the red and white, while Eduardo looks likely to feature as well. Like usual for this match, squad numbers will be disregarded and the traditional 1-11 will be sported by the starters.
Player to watch: Tomas Rosicky
Tomas Rosicky is expected to return to action for the first time since limping off the field against Newcastle an astonishing nineteen months ago. While he should not be included in any permanent plans for next season, his possible addition to the squad could be massive boost. I`m looking forward to seeing his unique, prancing dribbling style again.
Second Half Player to Watch: Jay Simpson
Jay Simpson should play a substantial amount of minutes in the second half. He scored two goals in his debut start for Arsenal in the Carling Cup against Wigan last year, and during the 07/08 campaign he was named League One Player of the year while on loan at Millwall. He went on loan again to West Brom following our exit from the Carling Cup, and scored 2 goals in 12 starts for the Baggies. He has always stated his desire to compete for a starting spot at Arsenal, despite permanent offers from other Premier League teams. Look for him to get on the score sheet for a second year in a row.
Obviously I don`t expect Arsenal to relinquish their dominating form in this fixture, but predicting the score is very much a guessing game. Arsenal has previously won 10-0, but sometimes Barnet pushes us to the very end, like last year. I will go with an away win by 3 or 4 goals, and I wouldn`t be surprised if Barnet scored against our out of shape defence.
21/7 (Tue) – SC Columbia (A)
27/7 (Mon) – Szombathelyi Haladas (A)
There are still tickets available for all areas of the ground on Saturday. Call the Barnet Ticket Office on 020 8449 6325 or visit the official Barnet website.
If you aren`t making the short trip to Underhill, the match will be shown exclusively on Arsenal TV Online (It will not be on the Arsenal channel). Go to the ATVO homepage, register if you haven`t already, and it`s like 4 pounds for all of Arsenal’s preseason games this month, excluding the Emirates Cup. Great deal if you ask me.
Have a great weekend everyone. Arsenal’s back!