Solid start for new arrivals as Arsenal beat Barnet
By Jonny Payne
Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny made their Arsenal debuts today in an impressive four-nil friendly win over Barnet. Koscielny, the £10 million signing from Lorient played a composed 45minutes alongside Thomas Vermaelen, while Chamakh our new Moroccan forward from Bordeaux put in a good shift during the second period.
In truth it was a difficult game for the new signings to shine. Finding their feet alongside new colleagues and against a physical Barnet side on a sloping pitch is always going to be difficult, but the duo showed flashes of why Arsene Wenger was so keen to lure them to the Emirates.
Arsenal showed their technical superiority throughout the match and raced into a three-goal lead by half time. Andrey Arshavin opened the scoring, having played a neat one-two with Tomas Rosicky, and Jay Simpson, often Arsenal’s forgotten striker, added a neatly taken-brace.
A quieter second half saw only one more goal added, despite the best efforts of Theo Walcott to create openings. Samir Nasri capitalised on a defensive blunder to strike past Jake Cole in the Barnet goal.
Arsene Wenger decided to start with what is seemingly his first-choice defensive partnership for the coming season with Thomas Vermaelen – who made his debut here last season – partnering new-boy Koscielny.
Lukasz Fabianski was given a run-out in goal, while Armand Traore and Havard Nordtveit, who both spent time away on loan last season, took-up the fullback positions.
A midfield trio of youngsters Emmanuel Frimpong and Jack Wilshere and captain for the day Rosicky provided a base for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Andrey Arshavin and Jay Simpson to attack.
Despite this being the first match of pre-season, Arsenal didn’t take long to get into gear. Arshavin picked up the ball on the edge of the area and exchanged passes with Rosicky before rounding the goalkeeper and tapping into an empty net.
After Emmanuel-Thomas had shot straight at Cole in the home goal, Arsenal doubled their lead.
Wilshere tried to find space for himself on the right of the area, and with the defences’ attention taken by the precocious talent, Simpson was left with space in the area. Wilshere duly found the 21 year-old, who fired low into the bottom corner.
Simpson has been threatening to explode onto the scene for a number of years, but a number of impressive loan spells and Carling Cup outings in the Arsenal team have failed to cement a place in the Arsenal first-team squad. The Enfield-born player was obviously determined to make an impression again today.
Rosicky and Wilshere, in particular, were controlling the game from midfield – the young Englishmen looking every bit the composed player England’s senior players should have been a few weeks ago.
Another one of Arsenal’s youth prospects, Emmanuel Frimpong, was having a commanding game in midfield. The 18 year-old bundle of energy was everywhere; blocking a challenge here, chasing a lost cause there, and bursting into the area when needed.
After Vermaelen and Wilshere had both come close to adding to the tally, Simpson scored his second on the stroke of half time.
Arshavin gained control of a loose ball on the edge of the area and slid a ball through to the unmarked Wilshere on the left, who squared the ball effortlessly for Simpson who was never going to miss from a yard out.
At half time, Wenger opted to change the entire team at half time. Vito Mannone came in between the posts, while Craig Eastmond, Johan Djourou, Ignasi Miquel and Kieran Gibbs completed the defence.
Henri Lansbury, Samir Nasri and Conor Henderson made up the new-look midfield, while Theo Walcott and Nacer Barazite supported Chamakh up-front.
Walcott immediately set about showing England manager Fabio Capello what he had been missing during the World Cup, sprinting down the right at every opportunity.
As well as the threat of Walcott, the classy duo of Nasri and Barazite helped to pull the strings behind Chamakh, whose eagerness to make runs and help the team bodes well for the season ahead.
Wojciech Szczesny replaced Mannone mid-way through the half earning a warm reception from an anticipant crowd. The young Polish shot-stopper, however, had little to do thereafter as the action continued to take place in the Barnet half.
Arsenal were dominating possession, without really threatening the Barnet goal and when the fourth finally came it was due to a defensive error.
Daniel Leach, the tall Barnet centre-back miscontrolled the ball with Nasri in close attendance, The Frenchman made the interception and dummied before firing past the stranded Cole.
With first-team regulars linking up well, promising young talent flourishing once more and positive performances by the new signings – there are signs already that this season could be Arsenal’s year.
Arsenal Team 1st Half
Nordtveit Koscielny Vermaelen Traore
Arsenal Team 2nd Half
Eastmond Miquel Djourou Gibbs
Walcott Nasri Barazite
Sub: Szczesny (Mannone 68)
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