Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Summer memories, perfect friendlies, pre-season prep and Academy appointments

Good morning from Brixton. 

As Blogs mentioned yesterday, he’s taking a well-earned break from the golf course to sun himself on the continent for a week. 

I was doing the same last week (Naxos, since you ask) and have to say I very much enjoyed disconnecting from football. Well, I did my best. In a world where you can watch Arsenal’s pre-season goals from every angle within seconds of them being scored, you’re never far from a wrist-slap from your significant other. 

Did I haul myself away from one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever visited to spend time with my phone in a restaurant toilet watching Mo Elneny’s screamer on repeat? If I speak, I am in big trouble…

How far humanity has come. When we made jaunts abroad during my childhood, it was not uncommon for the Allen family to be on edge until we’d scouted a place selling British newspapers. Once located, we’d then report back daily and take it in turns with the sports section. Happy times. I can tell you…you’ve not lived until you’ve discovered a 36-year-old John Lukic has re-joined Arsenal via 50 words on page 67 of a two-day-old red top. 

If we happened to be abroad for the first game of the season (school holidays and all that) it usually meant sitting in the hire car listening to the BBC World Service for match updates. I’ll never forget visiting relatives in Cyprus in 1992 and being sent to fetch the final score of our opening home game against Norwich. Having been two up at the break, I was expecting news of a glorious victory only to find out we’d lost 4-2. FOUR. FUCKING. TWO

The year after, my brother and I waited outside a phone box as dad called my grandfather to find out the result of the season opener versus Coventry. THREE. NIL. MICKEY QUINN HAT-TRICK

My childhood is pockmarked by snippets like this. It’s genuinely amazing I didn’t give up on football before my 11th birthday. 

Anyway, I digress. 

I figured by now that I’d have made time to watch Friday’s win over Nürnberg in full but I haven’t and, at this point, with the weather being nice, I doubt I ever will. Still, judging by the highlights it looked a lot of fun. It certainly had many of the ingredients needed to qualify as a ‘gold-standard’ pre-season game. 

Exotic (sort of) opposition

At this stage of pre-season, it’s always fun watching us play opponents I’ve never heard of. While a Bundesliga side hardly represents an unknown quantity, we’d never actually lined up against Nürnberg before, so that gets a tick from me. At least it wasn’t a Premier League team, which is increasingly and depressingly the norm. If anyone from the club is reading, let’s get back to the days of playing actual countries, like Vietnam (2013), Trinidad, Jamaica, Curaçao (all 1965), Egypt (1982) and France (Valentine’s Day, 1989). 

Debuts

Excitable lot that we are, it’s rare for a pre-season to pass without Arsenal fans lauding a youngster as the second coming of Christ; Jack Wilshere, The Jeff and Gedion Zelalem all come to mind. This time though, we had an actual Jesus to praise. I knew our new £45 million signing wouldn’t pass over *badum tish* the chance to impress. I can’t wait to see more of him. Particularly how he handles crosses. No. I’m not sorry. 

Loads of goals

While not quite an 8-2 win against SV Marsch Neuberg (2002), a 10-1 trouncing of Barnet (2004), an 8-1 win over Schwadorf (2006), a 10-2 win over a Burgenland XI (2008) or a 6-5 see-saw struggle with Legia Warsaw (2010), eight goals is nothing to sniff at on the entertainment front, especially when five of them were for Arsenal. 

Comedy own goals

Neither scored by Nürnberg rivalled Carl Jenkinson’s debut howler against Cologne in 2011 but the second of the afternoon was calamitously bundled home by a fella called Handwerker. That’s enough to get me sniggering. 

Belting goals

I’ve already mentioned Mo’s strike but kudos also to the German lad, Johannes Geis, for his swirling effort that crashed against the bar and over the line. I wonder if anyone will better those in the coming weeks. Is this section just an excuse for me to link to the greatest pre-season goal of them all? Yes. Yes, it is. 

Here’s hoping for more of the same when Arsenal face Everton on Saturday evening. Preparations for the match in Baltimore are stepping up at London Colney with the club’s international players returning for their medical check-ups. As far as we’re aware, there are no major injury issues so all of them should be on the plane to the States when we travel in the next couple of days. 

Yesterday, the club shared snaps of Bukayo Saka, Aaron Ramsdale, Nuno Tavares, Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Lucas Torreira and William Saliba being put through their paces by the fitness team.

Torreira was wearing number 35 having surrendered the 11 shirt to Gabriel Martinelli. Saliba’s number was cropped out of the shots so we’ll have to wait a little longer to see what digits he sports this season. As a reminder, while on loan at Marseille we gave his 4 shirt to Ben White. On Twitter, there was talk of the defender’s agent sharing a picture from the contract signing room. Could a new deal be confirmed soon? 

On the transfer front, things are relatively quiet. Our interest in Raphinha looks set to end in disappointment with Barcelona on the verge of a deal worth upwards of €70 million. He’s a decent player, no doubt, but that’s a hell of a lot of money to spend, especially when you’ve spent most of the summer crying about being broke. 

It’ll be interesting to see if we turn our attention elsewhere. If you’re thirsty for a poo-o-meter fix, there’s a quick round-up of some of the weekend’s rumours on Arseblog News. Spoiler, we weren’t convinced by any of them. 

Elsewhere, at the Academy, the club confirmed the appointment of Jack Wilshere and Mehmet Ali as head coaches of the under-18s and under-21s respectively. 

Wilshere’s appointment certainly catches the eye. It feels like only yesterday he was graduating from the Academy himself and now he’s back with the responsibility of developing players on the cusp of a professional contract. It’ll be intriguing to see how he gets on. 

In an interview with the club, he said: “I’m the first to admit that I probably haven’t got the experience that a lot of coaches have out there, but I have got experience of walking in the players’ footsteps, coming through the academy and making it into the first-team. I think first and foremost I need to focus on myself here, learning how to be a coach, but I think when you’ve got ambition and you’re hungry, it helps you learn quicker and ultimately you help the kids.”

As was the case with Per Mertesacker – appointed manager of the Academy at 34 – and Mikel Arteta – head coach of the club at 38 – you suspect he’ll be given some room to manoeuvre while he learns on the job. He’s only 30! 

I have to admit, I don’t know a huge amount about Ali. He only joined the club from Reading in January but has seemingly done enough within six months to warrant a promotion. While predecessor Kevin Betsy, who left for Crawley five weeks ago taking Dan Micciche with him, wasn’t particularly high-profile, other predecessors include Steve Bould and Freddie Ljungberg. Good luck to him. 

On a related-noted, a new documentary about Hale End is being launched today on the club’s YouTube channel. Judging by the trailer (see below) it should make for interesting viewing. 

Finally for today, congratulations to the Arsenal contingent who featured as England produced an incredible performance to trounce Norway 8-0 at the AMEX to qualify for the knockout stages of the Women’s European Championships. Beth Mead laid on an assist before helping herself to a hat-trick.

You could say that she’s on 🔥…

Right, that’s your lot for today. Tim Stillman will be on duty tomorrow and I’ll be back on Thursday.

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