Archive for August 1st, 2011

All very un-Friendly as Henry comes home

72 comments August 1st, 2011

It should have been a day for celebration.  One of Arsenal’s most cherished sons, Thierry Henry, returned home to a rapturous reception.  In a neat piece of symmetry, as we looked back at the career of one our all-time greats, a young striker hailing from Dagenham, Benik Afobe, was making his debut.  And, with Arsenal leading thanks to a Robin van Persie header, it should have been rounded off by Arsenal lifting their own trophy in their own stadium.

Unfortunately, Henry had other ideas, splitting the defence with a typically precise pass to invoke a move that ended with Kyle Bartley turning in to his own net.  Immediately, the atmosphere soured, like coagulated milk.  The unpleasant stench of last season enveloped the Emirates, and the full-time whistle of a friendly game was met with booing.  Yes, booing.

I can’t condone that at all.  The Emirates Cup is a “Cup” only in name – otherwise our previous successes in it would mean we wouldn’t be accused of any kind of trophy drought.  It is an exercise in two things: fitness and revenue.  The players run around, the club make some money, and Emirates get to plaster their name all over something else.  Whilst a positive performance is always a boost, the result, ultimately, doesn’t matter.

I can, however, understand the frustration.  The boos were not so much for conceding an equaliser.  Nor were they for failing to win another, admittedly pointless, trophy.  They were boos born out of what has been yet another painful summer, in a year when Arsenal fans really needed it to go more smoothly.  They were boos which were almost as articulate an expression of the concerns around the club as this piece by Amy Lawrence.

There’s still time for the situation to be rectified.  There’s still time to find a resolution to the Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri stand-offs and redress the balance caused by any departure.  There is time to add an experienced centre-back, or maybe even a left-back.  But it is running short.  The season is now less than two weeks away.  Events at full-time yesterday showed that Arsenal fans are still deeply hurt by the back end of last season.  The players are too, and even they are clear about wanting reinforcements.  In the next couple of weeks, the manager has a chance to take decisive action, regain everybody’s trust, and make the home crowd feel that little bit better about that 6.5% extra they’ve paid to watch us in the coming months.

It’s important to remember that the game was not without positives.  Gervinho continues to impress me with his direct running and movement off the ball.  Having a wide player who is prepared to dart through the centre and in to the six yard box will add something to this team.

Robin van Persie looks sharp, whilst having Thomas Vermaelen fit again is a huge boost to the squad.  Afobe also made a decent impression on his first-team bow, albeit in unfortunate circumstances, as Jack Wilshere was withdrawn with an injury.  It doesn’t seem like a serious one, and if it means he can miss out on international duty with England then that’s probably no bad thing.

It was fantastic to see Thierry looking, in my opinion, happier than he ever did in a Barcelona shirt.  Arsene had planned to give him 5 minutes in an Arsenal shirt, but the rules forbade it.  That’s no bad thing: I’ve got enough memories of him in red and white to last a lifetime.  There’s never been a more electrifying sight than Henry in full flow.  We’ll be lucky to see his like again.

Right, that’ll do for now.  Something tells me there could be plenty more to say come the end of this week…

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