I was really looking forward to this game as I’m sure most of you were as well. And I must say it was quite a start to the pre-season. In the last five seasons we haven’t really been this convincing in this fixture. Perhaps, it’s to do with the fact that Barnet are undergoing some changes and weren’t that good, but our first half performance was a real joy.
The first goal came in ninety seconds or so and I’m not sure a Barnet player got a touch before that was scored. The ball was played around between a few players as everyone was getting acclimatized to the pitch and conditions when out of nowhere Arshavin showed a burst of energy, played a neat one-two with Rosicky, and calmly wrong footed the keeper before hitting the back of an empty goal.
It could have been a riot after that as Barnet were hesitant and somewhat unorganized. I must commend them for trying to play the ball out of the defence and for generally keeping the physical side of the game under check. They couldn’t however keep the ball for a sustained period or build any meaningful attacks.
Bulk of the credit for breaking up play and establishing Arsenal’s dominance in midfield goes to the youngster Emmanuel Frimpong. He looked bigger, stronger, and faster than what he did with the reserves and youth sides last year. I was really impressed by his reading of the game and tackling. One particular tackle on the edge of the Arsenal box was simply breathtaking. He does have some room for improvement in his passing but I’d rate him as big a defensive talent as Wilshere was an attacking one this time last year.
Speaking of Wilshere, I must acknowledge the improvements in his game. Starting in a midfield role he showed some nice touches and close control. He’s always been strong for his stature and did well to hold the ball under some challenges. His intelligent run and selfless, inch perfect assist set up the third goal on the counter. Now he needs to demonstrate the some consistency to force himself into Wenger’s thinking.
The other youngster to impress in the first half was Nordveit. When I saw him in Bundesliga he seemed afraid of the ball and shied away from responsibility. In this game it was a different story altogether as the youngster was calm and composed and picked out some decent long passes. His reading of the game and defensive positioning was not bad considering the unfamiliar nature of his role. I’d like to see him against quicker and better players before forming an opinion but he’s certainly not bad for a third choice Right Back.
Jay Emmanuel Thomas had a bright start to the game wide on the right but drifted out of the game after the initial minutes. I thought he was a little hesitant when facing the defender on the edge of the box and will have to be much more decisive and incisive in order to make an impression.
Jay Simpson had a good game. He gives the impression of being a good striker but if you watch his game closely there are a few mistakes that we shouldn’t see at the highest level. I still think he would make a good striker for a smaller Premier League team. He isn’t any worse than Di Santo who played at Blackburn last year or Benitez at Birmingham. Hopefully, we will get good value for him and he will get a good career.
Traore was quick and energetic. Put in some good crosses and some horrible ones. Inconsistency and lapses in concentration, especially defensively, have been his weaknesses and this game wasn’t much different.
Amongst the seniors, the newcomer Koscielny was as impressive as a defender can be when the team is rarely under attack. His touch looked good and he looked like a ball playing central defender. His aerial and physical strength wasn’t really tested. I thought we didn’t deal with some aerial balls in the first half but that was more on Vermaelen’s side of the pitch. In any case Barnet didn’t have much to trouble us.
Arshavin and Rosicky were on a different planet in terms of class and Fabianski wasn’t really tested.
The second half was a completely different ball game as the whole team was changed. The most notable change was that Arsenal missed Frimpong in the middle. I’m not sure who was supposed to be the holding midfielder as Henderson, Lansbury and Nasri are all creative/attacking players.
This, coupled with the fact that Barnet came out better organized and pressed the ball better, meant that the second half was scrappy and boring.
Amongst the youngsters, Gibbs was impressive in defence and while going forward; Miquel had a few good interceptions and clearances; Eastmond didn’t have much to do at Right Back didn’t really look solid; Henderson didn’t get on the ball as often as I’d have liked; Same goes for Lansbury; Barazite was wasteful and looks like a guy who has reached his peak and will not be good enough; Mannone and Szczesny shared the half without much to do as the hosts hardly had a shot on target.
Chamakh had some good touches but I was disappointed with his shooting. It will get better as he regains his fitness and match sharpness. Walcott was sharp and his touch was good. I was impressed with the fact that he looked hungry and focussed and hasn’t let the England snub affect him. He also put in some good crosses but Barazite was never available at the back post.
Djourou was solid in the centre of defence and looked good on the ball. Nasri was the standout player of the half and it’s good to see him start off from where he ended the last season. Looked like another player who is past the World Cup disappointment and ready for the upcoming season.
It was also interesting to note that we played with a formation similar to last season. We will know more about the boss’ tactical plans once all the big guns are back so I don’t want to discuss that in detail at the moment. Considering the fact that many first choice players were missing, this game was fun to watch and sets up an exciting pre-season.
I’ll end with a comment on ATVO. It saddens me to say that the coverage was really poor. I don’t know if it was only me or others got a shaky/blurry picture for most of the game. I’ve had no problems with streaming before and have comfortably watched games on ESPN3 and other sources with an 8 Mbps connection. I had no problems watching press conferences and highlights on ATVO last year so this seems to be a new issue. Hopefully, it will be sorted out soon if it affected a majority of the users.