Saturday, 19 July 2008

Arsenal 2 Barnet 1

The yearly trip to Underhill saw Wenger start a handful of first team starters, a few squad players, and a couple of youth/reserve players. The big names of Fabregas, Toure, and Gallas were left out of the squad as was the big summer signing Nasri, coming of age boy Alex Song, and returning from Spain Carlos Vela. I think most of us would have wanted to see how the likes of Vela and Nasri would fit into the squad, and really to see how they play in the Arsenal shirt, but I'm sure that just as we must be patient with getting new signings, we can be patient to see them make their Arsenal birth. 5 million pound signing Aaron Ramsey did get his first start however, with Lansbury, Traore, and Nordtveit, all relatively new faces to the first team also featuring. Regulars Almunia, Clichy, Sagna, Walcott, Bendtner, and Denilson also began the match for Arsenal.

In the opening minutes Barnet seemed content to let our boys hold the ball with no serious attacks coming of the possession. As the game began to open up Barnet looked good on the counter-attack with the defense looking a bit shaky, forcing Almunia into a few good saves including one full stretch save. While the center halves starting this game may not be our regular Premier League starters it does make one wonder what would would happen if, God forbid, Gallas and Toure were injured. However, Nordtveit did make up for some Arsenal mistakes with 2 very timely and technically sound tackles, whilst doing well in his aerial battles as well. Feeling confident from the 2 tackles, Havard over commited and showed his immaturity and brought down a Barnet player just outside the box in the 15th minute, a clumsy free kick to concede as it was within perfect striking range. Almunia set the wall up but they could do nothing as Gillets strike curved powerfully around and down into the back of net. Perhaps Almunia should have been better positioned but I believe he was helpless and it would have gone in against any Premier League keeper, the wall also could have done Almunia a favour by closing down the strike. Even after the goal the defense was still suspect with poor clearances and Almunia even had a few poor choice distributions. But, I'm confident once we get into the League and Champions League, these silly mistakes will be taken care of and we will return to watching our smooth playing Gunners at their best.
Ramsey certainly put a smile on all Arsenal fans watching as he hit Sagna on a number of long passes and seemed very comfortable on the ball in the attacking half. He had good vision and technical ability throughout the first half and linked up very well with the 1st team regulars. With Rosicky saying today that he will not be on the pitch til atleast September maybe we might see Ramsey given a chance in his position at some point? After today's performance I feel that he should be at east considered, but we'll continue to keep tabs on him as pre-season goes on. We'll be watching particularly for one of the most important factors; how he gels with Cesc, these two could unlock the type of defense that would makeHoudini proud.
Denilson also looked good on the ball and had a few quality runs, I wouldn't be surprised to see Wenger give him a few chances as the season gets closer. Sagna continued his great form from last season and it looked as if he was never injured, he made a good number of overlapping runs, although did have some trouble getting in service to the forwards.
Clichy kept it solid at the left back spot and captained the young side, we'll hopefully see him making appearances for France in the near future, even with Domenech retaining his spot as coach.
I was severely disappointed with todays starting forwards. Bendtner was unimpressive and even tripped over the ball at one point, I was expecting much more from someone who expects to be in the starting XI. Walcott had a hard time getting into the game and never really made the huge impact we saw him make at the end of last year. We can forgive him though as we know he has it in him and it is after all only the first game of the new season. Lansbury also took his fair share of long range shots and they were all optimistic to say the least.
Overall the attack looked good in possession but we simply could not find the final pass to seal a goal, and the shots from outside the 18 yard box could not be kept down or on target. We kept possession well for the most part but kudos to Barnet to holding us off for the entire first half. I would have liked to see the first half team to see come out for the second half because I felt they were really starting to come together but we have plenty more games to look forward to.

The second half opened with eleven changes to the Arsenal side and it was like a new match. The squad consisted of mainly youth and reserve players whom were given their opportunities to show their stuff in front of the watchful Wenger. Vito Mannone took Almunia's spot in goal and I'm sure a number of supporters were wondering where Fabianski was, but he has been given an extended holiday in light of his inclusion in the Euros. Mannone came off his line a few times and every time I was scared. He didn't come out too forcefully or powerfully and did just enough to win the ball, and while that may work against Barnet, I know keeping like that against the likes of Chelsea or Manchester United will see us concede.
Wilshere made a decent impact with a number of quality passes displaying his vision of the field. Jay Simpson was no doubt the man of the second half for Arsenal with a goal and an assist to his name. On his leveling goal he had a perfectly slotted pass played through to him by Wilshere, and Jay let it run on to his right foot and one touched it into the back of net. The goal was very Arsenal like in the sense that Wilshere found the hole in the defense, and slid it through onto the foot of a forward with perfect weighting.
For the winning goal (73 minutes), Simpson was sprinting down field with Barnet defenders left in his wake and once he hit the top of the box, he slid the ball across to Dutchman Barazite to slot away in the bottom right corner leaving the goalie on ground watching it roll into the back of the net, a perfectly executioned finish. The rest of the match passed by with little chances created by either side as the match finished 2-1.

Overall an interesting preview of our younger players rather than a good showing from our more senior squad players. The likes of Simpson, Wilshere, and Barazite really excelled in the match winning second half performance, and Ramsey was the best performer of the more disappointing first half performance. The future certainly is bright.

Please check back later for goal videos.

By: Oscar Norsworthy