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What is the impact of pre-season games? When should we experiment?

Untold Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

By Walter Broeckx

I was going to write an article about how much pre season friendly games have an impact on the season. Of course as the season is not yet underway we cannot know what the impact will be of those games we have been playing so far.

Looking at the noise some part of the fans make it seems that we have just lost the FA cup, the league title, the Carling cup and the champions league and are about to be relegated. We are doomed and nothing can change that is the word out on the streets. I think you could light up a fire with those words in Tottenham for the moment.  I must admit that living in Belgium I don’t know what exactly is going on in London but it sure is a frightening sight to be honest.

But let us return to football and see how pre-season games have an impact on the start of the season. So I took the liberty of going down the gutter of the internet and visit some websites of other important clubs in England. And the lot down the burning road.

Let us start with Liverpool who only had 3 friendly games last season and lost 2 of them and had 1 draw.  And granted after that they had a rather poor start of the season. Which lead to the sacking of the manager a little later.

Now for those who are worrying about those pre-season friendly games I should advise you to have a look at how United is dealing with those games: they even don’t keep record of them. Because when I go and check their fixtures and results it seems that they only started playing their first game against Chelsea in the Community Shield. Before that no date, no names, no teams, no nothing.  At United they are so interested in those games that they just don’t mention them. Well at least they don’t have to mention losing 8-2 to Marseille.   But whatever the results might have been the fact was that they started strong at home and weak when going away. Something that stuck with them the rest of the season.

Let us go to their neighbours and see how City did last pre season. Well it wasn’t that good to be honest. 6 games played : 1 draw, 2 wins and 3 lost. After that they had a mixed start with a draw, a win and losing away at Sunderland. I think it was with the gigantic Tevez miss in that game. But later on they started playing better and got to 3rd place at the end of the season.

If we go back to London we will go to the ones who want to leave North London. The Spurs played 7 games in pre-season and they won 4, had 2 draws and 1 defeat. And then they had a mixed start with a win, losing and a draw in their first 3 games. A bit like City but in fact the Spurs had a far better pre season than City and still it didn’t tell in the results in the EPL.

So how did Chelsea do last season? Well the pre season could be best described as…a disaster. If I include the Community Shield they had 6 games before the season started. And they could only win 1 (yes one) game of those 6. A 1-0 win against Crystal Palace. And all the other games were lost. 5 games lost in pre-season including the Community Shield. I really wonder how the Chelsea fans felt before the start of the season. And yet when the league was underway for some 5 games everyone in the media declared them the new champions. They won all their first 5 games and scored 21 goals and only conceded 1 goal. I don’t think many Chelsea fan will worry that much about the pre season results since then.

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And last but not least Arsenal. We had 6 games and we had a draw against AC Milan. And the other 5 games we won. So very very good results I would say. In fact maybe the best results  of all the teams involved. And then we started the league and had a draw at Liverpool and then we also won some games. But despite our good pre-season it didn’t last.

And if we compare  Chelsea and Arsenal they had a disaster in pre season but had a great start of the season. Even better than our start. So you can have a bad start in pre-season and a good start in the league. It just is so different for every club you cannot say: if this will happen, then we are doomed or we will win the league.

Because maybe last time around Chelsea did what we did this pre season. Maybe they played all kind of formations that you wouldn’t expect to play in the league unless the whole team is sick or injured. Chelsea went in that pre-season as the defending champions with very much the same squad as they ended the season. So the need to play the best players was not very high. They knew each other, they had been playing together.

Just like our best 11-14 players know each other and have been playing together for a while. So then a manager might be thinking: okay I play them 45 minutes and then I will see what works and what doesn’t work. Can I put Vermaelen together with Squilacci or not? Can I play Ryo and Gervinho at the wings at the same time and will it work? Can I play Ramsey with Rosicky and will they link up? Will Jenkinson be good enough to cover for Sagna when needed?  Those are questions that needed answers and there are many more questions like that.

So when do you think a manager will have to see if those things work? When we go to Newcastle? At home against Liverpool? In the CL Qualifier? Or away at United? Just pick the game you would have wanted us to experiment a bit with those players. And to put some reserves and some youth players on the field and see how far they stand and how they can cope.  I think by now the manager will have more answers to what he can do or what he cannot do. To what he should avoid if possible and what should be the best possible team.  And isn’t this the main reason that football teams play games in pre-season?

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24 comments to What is the impact of pre-season games? When should we experiment?

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Preaching to the choir there Walter.
    About the only conclusion we can draw from pre-season is that poor Squillaci is either rubbish or worse, targeted by the opposition as they think he’s rubbish. I remember the run of games where Torres targeted Vidic and got him sent off. If a great striker can do that to a great proactive centreback, then there’s no reason to suppose that an ordinary player will not target a perceived weak link in our back four. You’d have to be superhumanly good not to fail under such intense pressure and every failure will intensify the pressure even more.

  • nicky

    I see Squillaci has already succeeded Denilson as the Emirates hatemongers target for next season. Chamakh is next in line.
    On the subject of when we should experiment our game plan for the coming term, I hope the following is already happening on the coaching field:
    1.Reduce our high line defensive method to suit (hopefully) our new blood.
    2. Restrict our close passing in the final 1/3rd of the field.
    3. Encourage more shooting opportunities from attacking m/fielders like Arshavin, Wilshere and Walcott.

  • critic

    please don’t refer to people who are suffering in riots as tottenham or something. They are human and you shouldn’t mention them while mentioning football rivalries. May be involved persons are tottenham fans but that doesn’t make that club a hooligan destination.

    “And the lot down the burning road.”

    Even in the last post tony intended a pun towards them.
    You guys call yourself adult so don’t behave like U-10’s.

    Now, a good pre-season certainly lifts morale if not the chances of winning anything.

  • countryboy

    Truth. Preseason has been dissappointing. It doesnt matter if its the under 9s or friendlies, fans dont like to see arsenal lose. Our first eleven is as good as any in the league. The problem is , to me, Verm is being wasted at CB. With is tackling, positional sense, passing ability and ferocious shots, he should be a DM. Song is being wasted at DM. He is a CB. Arsene says so. Teams that pack the bus will be punished by Verms shots while freeing up the other players if they try to close him down. This team is not so bad

  • bob

    I especially agree with your pt.(2)

    In addition, I also think we need 2 strikers or a 1a/1b so to speak up front. imo, we’ve been way too predictable with 1 striker there for tough defenses to be able to shut down; and, as many have noted, RvP plays even better off the lead striker; and that we’ve needed that second-striker signing slightly less than we need another quality defender on the back line. to pretend RvP won’t suffer injury and to cover for the now possibly injured TV, who is supposed to be the cover for KG’s inexperience/possible injury mandates additional quality depth. My prayer is that we get at least the striker or especially the defender (as in learning from not having had the cover we should have bought last January), if not both, about two weeks ago.

  • WalterBroeckx


    I accept your criticism about the riots.
    When I was typing the article it was the first incidents and well such things with a few hundred troublemakers destroying some public property also exists every now and then in my country in what I still consider my home town. The last time in Antwerp was only a few months ago after the game Barcelona – Real Madrid (just to show that every reason is good enough for some to start riots).

    Later on the riots became much worse. It was in the article and at the moment (when it seemed not that bad and comparable to things in my country at times) I thought it wasn’t that bad. But after seeing the images on my TV yesterday evening and today in the newspapers I agree with you that I could have removed that part.

    Actually I should have removed it but to be honest I hadn’t thought about that part of the article later on.

    So if anyone feels offended by this particular part I take the blame and will offer my apologies for this.

  • bob

    I agree that pre-season is for experimenting and that supporters should definitely stay aware of this and not be media-manipulated into Arsenal-bashing based on the final result.

    That said, what specific lesson(s) would you say might have been learned from both the first half and rather different second half experiments at Benefica? From my pov, I feel our inability to regain or maintain possession over several longish stretches in the second half needs some analysis. Desi Gunner suggests there was a systemic failure (the side not having yet integrated a defensive system) on display there. Do you/anyone agree, and what would be a remedy, do you think?

    I’d welcome your/anyone’s thoughts on what specifics Arsene/coaches might have take away from what they saw. Granted we cannot know this with any degree of certitude; but, to follow on your point about pre-season experiments, I’m keen to know what you/people think Might have been learned.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think that a difference was the switch Song and Frimpong. Song even though still young has lots of experience and Frimpong not yet. I had the impression that Frimpong on a few occasions got dragged out of position because of his inexperience and left the defense a bit unguarded.
    I think that after this game Wenger can have a good word with Frimpong about this. And I also think that he will learn from this experience. Much more than playing let us say Dover Utd and trashing them 7-0 or something. In such games you learn nothing. But in games like against Benfica when you get lost at times, that is the time you make mistakes and when the manager can tell you later on which mistakes you made and how to do it better next time.

    Oh and please let nobody think I am just blaming Frimpong. It was just something I noticed during the game and thought would Song have done the same? Because I really think that Frimpong could become a world class player. He has an impressive body for a young man, he works hard, is brave, is determined and don’t forget: he only came back after being out for one year. So one weaker game cannot destroy the possibilities he has for me. I will not write Frimpong off like some fans have done with Song after having a bad game when he was a bit younger. And some are still writing him off for that bad game these days… sigh

  • bob

    Walter, Tony, Sim Nsi, bob, All
    kudos on your being forthright re. the riot at Tottenham. I also think that reader Sim Nsi’s objection yesterday (at 5:31) on Tony’s comparing it to a “third world” scene deserves a reply. As our troubled world Inevitably leaks into sport (and that’s not at all a bad thing, imo), I think we’ll all need to be attuned and sensitive to how we refer to events going forward. If we all stay gracious with each other and accept criticism and improve our perceptions, our UA community will continue to be a welcome home for thoughtful and passionate analysis and debate that continues (excitingly) to attract folks from all parts of the world.

  • Mandy Dodd

    One probable Spurs supporting writer seems to be reading a bit much into all things pre-season!
    Some of this stuff is quite comical really

  • Mahesh

    I agree with Critic in that some things are above football. What is happening in Tottenham and elsewhere should be beyond football banter, just like, racism and other such issues. Taking a swipe at any opposition when they are under such issues, actually reflects very poorly on Untold Arsenal and Arsenal fans as a whole. I hope this site, including other fans, is better than that!

  • Arvind

    @nicky: The scapegoat list for this year is as follows on the AAA agenda:
    1) Squillaci
    2) Chamakh
    3) Diaby
    4) Song

    Nothing they do will be good enough for the AAA. The mind has been made up well in advance.

    The season is for the fans; pre-season is for the team. I think that sums my thoughts up.

  • Shard


    I had the exact same impression about Frimpong at Benfica. Also, it must be noted that Pablo Aimar really took control of that game. At one time, Aimar was among the best players in the world, and he showed that he still has something. I think Aimar in that form would have got the better of a tired Alex Song too. Benfica were very good, we weren’t that bad. It was as you say, a time to try out new things.

  • Shard

    @Mandy Dodd

    A different kind of comical stuff about Arsenal. This time I think it’s intended. And I can’t stop laughing

  • Gord

    The preseason had one good effect at least. Ryo Miyaichi has been given a work permit.

  • Mandy dodd

    Very amusing shard! Btw just heard tottenham have signed a new player- Grabatelli!

  • Gooner Gal

    Walter, I applaud you for referencing and inserting world events in your writeup today. There is nothing really wrong with what you wrote, I think most people have been surprised by how quickly the situation escalated beyond North London. All the sensitive minnies need to give it a break since people deal with and respond to adversity in different ways.

    I don’t think Untold need to walk around on eggshells about this. I am a Londoner, in London right now and I can tell you that I have had very little sleep as yesterday night was very scary. Round my house it was a bit like that famous Malcolm X scene at the window. The inept police really need to shoulder some of the blame for instigating and not being able to deal with the escalation of the situation. There are some mainly young, out of control violent thugs roaming the streets at night looking for trouble. And to be honest, If they come to my neck of the woods they might actually find it.

    People have to protect their lives and livelihoods from mindless people revelling in the power of fear.I am not saying that everyone should go out and beat them all up but there are a growing number of people that believe in self defence, since it seemed like the police lost control of the streets last night.

    Hearing that Ryo can play for us this season is really welcome news right now.

  • arsene-al

    Some really good points. Maybe pre season is more about seeing what doesn’t work rather than what does?

  • Shard

    @Mandy Dodd

    Maybe your joke was ‘wrong’ or ‘insensitive’ (though Gooner Gal suggests otherwise), but it really made me laugh.. Good one. I’ve never been one for politically correct jokes anyway 🙂

  • Mandy dodd

    Erm yes sorry about that one!

  • Shard

    @Mandy Dodd

    You should be!! Got any more? 🙂

  • Ed

    i dont think there is anything wrong with the “joke” about the london riots. its telling it like it is – a group of morons causing trouble. Im from the UK, but working in HK and it makes me ashamed to be british and if the police were to shoot all the troublemakers, i would not be upset.

    however, i saw the news about Ryo as well… very exciting. add him to the wings with oxlade chamberlain, gervinho, and then walcott and arshavin… then put them all on against the defensive teams! nice!

    agree with Walter that pre-season friendlies are for experimenting, but as we all know from our chemistry lessons… learning what is working is always happier than learning what is not working 🙁

  • bob

    Ed, your agro-solution to defensive problems makes you perfect fit for Team Pulis! yep, ye old touch of Steel – in the streets, on the pitch. so glad you’re there and Miyachi’s here. Btw, Joey B sends his best. Two peas in a pod…

  • Johnny Deigh

    The “lot down the road” have cost the cancellation of Saturday’s match between Tottenham and Everton.