Saturday, July 17 15:00 GMT
With the ghost of the FIFA World Cup 2010 left far behind, the Gunners prepare themselves for the traditional pre-season friendly against Barnet. The players who made the trip to South Africa are not available for the match owing to lassitude and emotional stress, while the ones who watched their exceptional team-mates on television are available and understandably raring to go, or so we hope.
The History of the Fixture
Underhill, the smallest Football League stadium in London, hosts the traditional fixture against Premier League giants Arsenal, to kick-off their preparation for the new season. The 103-year-old stadium hosts all Arsenal Reserves games, and its proximity to The Emirates makes it a prime location to start a fresh season every year.
The first of these meetings happened in 2000, when Arsenal beat their modest neighbors by a solitary Jermaine Pennant goal. Arsenal did manage to put ten goals past The Bees in 2004, with Francis Jeffers and Jose Antonio Reyes managing to claim hat tricks. Three of these fixtures have ended in a stale-mate, the most recent being the one played just a year back.
Players to watch out for
Under the Bosman ruling system, the gangly Moroccan striker made his much anticipated move to Arsenal a few months back. All eyes will be on the former Bordeaux front man, as he makes his Arsenal debut at The Underhill. With Eduardo and Vela’s indifferent form last season, and Nicolas Bendtner’s untimely World Cup injury, Chamakh would want to impress his French manager straight away.
Signing Fee: N.A. (Free Transfer)
After highly impressing the Arsenal scouts at FC Lorient, it is time for the young French defender to fill the void in the center of Arsenal’s defense. With Sol Campbell, William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre all being free agents now, Koscielny has a very good chance to partner Vermaelen at the start of the season. The fact that he is ready to work like a dog to get into the starting eleven is not doing any harm to the man, who quite outlandishly is also eligible to play for Poland.
Signing Fee: 10M Pounds
After being dropped from the World Cup squad, Samir Nasri has to do it all over again. He has to pick himself up and play his best season for Arsenal. The charismatic Frenchman needs to improve on his goal-scoring dexterity, keeping his cool head and consistent performances intact.
You won’t be chastised if you blame Russia’s best player for their inability to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. Arshavin had a very poor season for Arsenal, by his high standards. He needs to keep all those ‘Barcelona talks’ out of his mind and put in a stellar performance this season. “One game. Five goals” is still a distant reality.
There is absolutely nothing to talk about Rosicky’s last season at Arsenal. For a player of his stature, he is expected to put in unswerving performances day in and day out at The Emirates. Like Russia, Czech Republic failed to qualify for the World Cup, which leaves the charming Czech captain fresh to begin the new season; and, it better be a one to be remembered.
The most surprising piece of drop-out from the England squad was the Arsenal ace. The injuries and unpredictable form of Theo last season didn’t help his cause either. He really needs to buckle up and prove his detractors that he actually has other footballing attributes apart from sheer pace.
The Barnet side of the story
Arsenal’s pre-season curtain raiser is a major ‘event’ to the football club of Barnet. Their manager Mark Stimson believes that this particular fixture helps the club financially and even gives the supporters something immense to cheer about at the start of every season. This particular contest is so important to Barnet that their manager has lured important players into the team with the Arsenal pre-season fixture as the bait.
Barnet Trivia: Their nickname ‘The Bees’ came from the apiaries close to Underhill during the start of the 20th century.
Last Season League Position: 21st in League Two.
Arsenal – This Season
While, Thierry Daniel Henry, after a disappointing World Cup, signed for the New York Red Bulls, his former club team-mate Freddie Ljunberg already plies his trade in the MLS with Seattle Sounders. While, Patrick Vieira is spending some pointless time with the billionaires in Manchester City, his former French team-mate Robert Pires roams around in El Madrigal with blasé. While, former Oranje legend Dennis Bergkamp is trying to pick up the modus operandi of managing a football team, Englishman Sol Campbell is honeymooning in some remote island near The British Isle.
Arsenal won their last Premier League title when these illustrious men got together in Arsenal colors and that was roughly six years back. With tremendous pressure to keep their talismanic captain Cesc Fabregas for season 2010-11’, Arsene Wenger starts another season with his ideologies and seemingly polished stratagem intact. With two new signings and few more expected to happen, Arsenal look strong and fresh to compete for the new season.