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February 2021

Viking FK 0 Arsenal Lots. Time for the anti-Arsenal to say you can’t judge anything from friendlies.

By Tony Attwood

There’s a big problem with pre-season friendlies.   Win easily and those people who very sadly (for them) are unable to find joy and happiness in football (or perhaps in life) denounce it as only a friendly.  Unexpectedly lose, and all hell breaks loose as suddenly instead of it only being a friendly it is a clear indicator of what will happen in the league this season.

Last night the Daily Telegraph ran one of its minute by minute accounts of the game and got to half time with these final two entries for the half

Terrible pass from Walcott ruins a promising move.

1-0 to the Arsenal. Sound familiar?

One could almost hear the knives being sharpened – and indeed there must have been some who were ready to make cutting comments about the picture of Arsene Wenger being presented with a Viking sword before the game.  (“Cutting comments” – geddit?  Oh do try to keep up).

They did warm to it a bit by the end though saying

Arsenal have walloped Viking 8-0. They were made to work in the first half but made to walk in the second in a convincing victory that demonstrated how good Alex Iwobi is going to be and showed that Elneny should have first dibs at partnering Xhaka in defensive midfield. Cazorla will play a big role next/this season, too. 

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Well well, quite fair.

Of course where the game is handled elsewhere (and very few in the media touch it although most of the pre-season games from Man C, Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea have been covered even when they have been cancelled due to the state of the pitch), we get the usual

Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell paper over the cracks as Arsenal run riot against Viking FK

That’s the Metro and I guess that is going to be the standard line from now on, although to be fair, slightly more reasonably they added 

It might just be a friendly against a comparatively weak side, but seeing so many Arsenal players chip in with goals can never be a bad thing.

If the Gunners look a little light of genuine options up front going into the new season, this game might have at least shown that they can rely on goals from their attacking midfielders.

Goodness.  The old Metro lightening up a bit.

But no pre-season goes by without me thinking back to 11 July 2003  – Peterborough 1 Arsenal 0 – it was followed by Barnet 0 Arsenal 0.  I remember that Peterborough pre-season match because I was there with good friends… and I recall Arsene Wenger walking onto the pitch during the pre-match kick around, smiling broadly, and rubbing his hands together in the way that he has, just meandering around the pitch looking, waving at the crowd as we sang his name.

I remember thinking at the time “he knows something”, but that thought vanished with the result of this and the next game.

In fact the club only won four out of nine pre-season games, but you might recall we still did rather well in the season to come.

Which all goes to prove that you can’t tell too much from one game, although sometimes you can get a bit of a feel of what is to come from pre-season.   I recall that after the 27 July 2012 game which Arsenal lost  to Man City some supporters became “anxious” about the club’s direction following the departure of Robin van Persie and Alex Song and predictions of ending up mid-table were multiple.

But of course this is not the only time we’ve scored a lot.   There was, on 28 July 2008 a knock about pre-season friendly against Burgenland XI, Bendtner scored four in the first half and Vela three in the second as Arsenal won 10-2; that was the season we beat Real Madrid in the warm ups.  

In fact there is a whole series on “Arsenal in the summer” covering getting on for 50 of Arsenal’s pre-seasons – and more are added as the Arsenal History Society continues its series on Arsenal in the 1930s (which reminds me I have got a couple more to add – must do that today).

So “no need to get excited” as Bob Dylan wrote in “All Along the Watchtower” (there’s a review of that on Untold Dylan – the musical extension of Untold Arsenal), but every reason to have enjoyed what we saw, and to realise that, as we have shown so often of late, it wasn’t that we were missing a top goal scorer, it was that we were missing the men behind him – most particularly the utterly wonderful and glorious Santi Cazorla, that extraordinarily ambidextrous player.

£10m he cost from Málaga four years ago; a transfer that was widely derided by those who deride such things largely because he clearly wasn’t much good if he only cost £10m and Málaga were rubbish, and if he were any good he would already be at a bigger club.  

He got the man of the match award in his first game, won the goal of the month a couple of months later and became a complete fixture, playing every league game in his first season, and all but one in his third, and was man of the match in the demolition of Villa in the cup final.

But the injury last season took him totally out of the squad after 15 games, and I think we really did miss him.  It was interesting that Ozil’s game had to change after Santi left the side – he was the perfect foil; he was injured in the draw with Norwich, and that was that.  We stayed until 17 January, but two wins in nine around that time did it for us.  Had Santi been there I think it could have been different.

Of course every team gets injuries, so what we need to do is to make sure we have enough players to cover the times when those injuries come along.  And looking at this squad I am calmly (as opposed to my normal mode of rampant hysteria) confident.

What I’ve been looking out for (amidst all the wild ravings from others about signing centre forwards because we scored three goals fewer than the champions last season) is the performance of the youngsters, and the hope that we might see another player who is equal to a signing but is not considered one because he was nurtured by Arsenal.

Another Bellerin, Coquelin, Iwobi…

We’ve got a fair number to choose from:

  • Jeff Reine-Adélaïde – heralded last summer and kept at the club as the awful Jonathan Liew snorted derision at him, and at Arsenal fans who appreciated young talent.
  • Chuba Akpom – thought by some fans not to be up to it because he didn’t score enough at Hull (forgetting the way the team played and the dominance in the team of Hernández), but scoring in every game in pre-season.  Pre-season isn’t the real thing, but scoring in the friendlies is at least a start.
  • Serge Gnabry – still only 21 and currently off at the drugs fest in Rio.
  • Rob Holding – I’ll include because he is only 20, and came as a very low cost “underwhelming” purchase.
  • Takuma Asano and Kelechi Nwakali signed this summer (it has taken the media a while to catch up with the Transfer Index over Nwakali, but he is one of ours).
  • Krystian Bielik, Chris Willock, Gedion Zelalem: they are not necessarily starting matches but they are getting time in the pre-season games, and their time could come in the season.
  • Carl Jenkinson – still out injured but played a lot of games for WHU, although we look to be well-equipped at full back, but he could be there if we need him.

If the last few seasons are anything to go by, one of these ten players (yes ten players who could make it – how many other clubs have anything remotely like that) will come through in the same way as Iwobi, Coquelin and Bellerin.

I know the anti-Wengerians didn’t get the point of my last piece and will not share my optimism, but maybe that’s just it.  I’m an optimist. 

And I really did enjoy yesterday evening’s fun.  Oh and I haven’t quite finished with the issue of why the media and a lot of “fans” endlessly put Arsenal down.  More on that later.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

A transfer to remember from the anniversary files

6 August 1977 Pat Jennings signed for £45,000.  He had played 591 games for Tottenham but his club seemed to think at at 32 he was too old to continue.  Also cited as several other dates up to 11 August.

The full anniversary files for the day are shown on the home page

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30 comments to Viking FK 0 Arsenal Lots. Time for the anti-Arsenal to say you can’t judge anything from friendlies.

  • Frankantz

    What is the point of this article except to bash anyone who dares opine the club can productively reinforce? I look forward to plenty of dislikes.

  • Robert

    “I know the anti-Wengerians didn’t get the point of my last piece”

    You’re being incredibly arrogant, Tony. Not all who disagree with your opinions are anti-Wenger.

    As for not getting your point – I for one got your point, disagreed and objected to your fake opinions masquerading as statistics.

    To put it politely, you’ve been economical with the truth far too often of late. Shame, you used to be better than that.

  • Des

    Preseason it’s all about getting the players fit and ready and helping all the new signings acclimatise and settle into their new surroundings. 🙂

  • Robert

    “Takuma Asano and Kelechi Nwakali signed this summer (it has taken the media a while to catch up with the Transfer Index over Nwakali, but he is one of ours).”

    It may have escaped your attention that Nwakali’s signing was only announced by Arsenal yesterday. Given that Nigerian sources were trumpeting his arrival (and another’s) as far back as January, I’m not surprised the media held off. It may also have escaped your attention that Arsenal stated, “Kelechi, who joins us as a young professional, will look to gain experience with a loan move in the coming months.” Visa problems, perhaps?

    Asano is over 21. Wenger described his as “one for the future”. More visa problems, perhaps?

  • Robert

    Carl Jenkinson is 24. Not exactly a youngster any more in the footballing world. There’s no news about his cruciate injury from Arsenal, so he may be out for some time to come.

    Perhaps Arsenal will hold on to Debuchy until January to allow Carl to return to fitness and provide cover for Bellerin.

  • Minstrel

    Agree, not only is the current squad’s depth very reassuring, there’s a range of young talent knocking
    at the door as well, as you point out. Clearly, Reine-Adelaide is a great player in the making – so composed and
    deft with his passes, and even at this point it seems he can be trusted in regular PL games. And Zelalem is quite
    likely to reach the heights of Fabregas.

    I remain unsure of Akpom, though. Yes, he scores. Which is, indeed, what you want of a striker. But the goals are not
    particularly impressive or spectacular. Strictly speaking, that’s not necessary–it’s the goals that count after all. And Arsenal has not really been blessed recently with the kind of poaching qualities displayed by Akpom. Still, ideally one would want a striker with the capability of a Van Persie or a Suarez to score the entirely unforeseen, “outrageous” goal in a situation no one quite perceived as having a goal in it. And that I don’t think we see in Akpom–at least not yet.

    It should of course also be said that Arsenal is not the only club to have a lot of exciting youth prospects. Look at Everton when Barkley and Stones burst onto the scene. Spurs with Kane, Dier and Alli. United with Rashford and Lingard. Chelsea with Loftus-Cheek and Ola Aina. City with Kelechi Iheanacho.

    While the quality and depth of Arsenal’s younger players should be fully acknowledged as very promising, it remains to be seen if the current squad has what it takes this year to seriously challenge for the title for the first time since 2008.

  • Do you always send your articles in Windings. Copy and paste and I got to read your article. And its good to hear the point of view from an Optimist, even if he does communicate in another language.

  • Leon

    There are certain things that pre season friendlies are good for judging the team by: fitness levels, teamplay, bedding in new players and just generally getting there ready for the season, and our games in this pre season have proven that we are getting there.
    But results are not expected to be taken too seriously, and a 0-8 routing of a division one level team although exciting to watch is not an indicator of impending greatness.. Who would even dream that it is? I would expect a team that might be more representative of our starting side against Liverpool to play on Sunday, and this match will give us more idea of what shape we are in.
    It’s certainly not anti Arsenal to suggest we might still need some reinforcements, although I think we could get by with the players we have if they manage to stay fit for the season.
    Why does this aaa mantra keep getting rolled out to beat free thinking supporters?

  • JohnW

    No one says the club should not reinforce. All we are saying is, we are not as poor as others want us to believe. When the very tiny Totts got close to 80ms, from the sale of Gareth Bale, they bought a host of players. Many predicted how the Arsenal was doomed, how the tinnies showed what ambition is, blah blah. But I don’t know whether all these signings have been worth it. Every season, Arsenal starts with people wanting it to prove themselves. But I don’t know how much ‘proving’ people expect before they stop disbelieving.

  • I have been experimenting with fonts of late, but certainly this one didn’t show any problems on my machine. But I’ve changed it to Times New Roman now.

  • Re Nwakali I think he signed a pre-contract agreement as a youth player much earlier in the year – he has now signed fully, on reaching the right age.

    And a little thought for the people who always send in abuse, telling me what a ****** I am, and/or how awful my writing is, do you seriously expect me to publish such comments? I do read them, and I do cite them in the occasional psychology paper that I write, but I often wonder what makes people spend time writing abuse to the person who is going to decide whether to publish it or not.

  • It appears Tony is only truly happy when he is not . Quite a few like that on here I’ve noticed .

  • Pat

    I loved yesterday’s match and was just enjoying Tony’s article when I came across this phrase ‘the drugs fest in Rio’.

    Why do it Tony? The Olympic Games, marred as it is by big money and its use by the US in particular as a weapon to beat the countries they have decided are ‘rogue states’ with, is still a great sporting occasion.

    For the first time it is taking place in South America and that is also to be celebrated.

    If we are talking about drugs, let us remind ourselves that football is one of the least well policed sports as far as drugs are concerned.

  • Leon

    Thanks for switching the font Tony. I’m now able to read the article (not just the headline).

  • WalterBroeckx

    I only see strange signs???

  • WalterBroeckx

    Okay not any more

  • laos gooner

    Did anyone else note the itv 4 commentary at the beginning of the game about the great 6 – 0 win from the spuds earlier in Norway? It seems for itv that any win by the spuds is to be taken to indicate that all their media were right and the tinies will win the league again this year. Oh wait they won nothing last season even though they and liverpool! are still the illegitimate love children to the British press.
    Very rewarding to listen to them having to change their views on the match.
    I see from the comments above that some people are not happy. Not having the team to criticise they take issue with some extremely small matters in the writing style. As you rightly say it does give the appearance that football does not form part of their enjoyment in life.
    I thought Viking did well to pressure in the first half. I thought we addressed issues well at half time and just felt better and better as the second half went on.
    If we put it in a sentence it is clearly a refreshing thing to be saying for Arsenal supporters, ” we won 8 – 0 in a pre-season friendly”. I shall enjoy that thought as much as the game and encourage others to see this as a positive.

  • porter

    It was good to see the progress of the youngsters , it was good to see Cazorla dictating play again , It was good to see Akpom get another reaction goal in the box . Don’t say they are not spectacular because they count just the same and it was good to see Iwobi enjoying himself . Things will get harder as they should but a very pleasant stroll in the evening sunshine.

  • Ben

    He isn’t saying that this game proves that we don’t need additions to the playing staff or that we are ready for next seasons or that arsenal will be beating teams 8:0 in the coming season. He simply said that the game will now be seen as an insignificant friendly because arsenal won while it would have been seen differently had we lost ,which is always the case .And most of the comments here so far have justified him

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Pat, I am in total support of Mr Tony. The truth to the matter is, the Rio Olympic Games is a drug festival games. What are the dope Russian athletes doing there if it isn’t a drug festival games organized by the IOC for dopers?

    I like the 0-8 Arsenal winning result against the Viking FK of Stavanger yesterday night. This is a true indication that showed the Boss preparing the Gunners for a title winning campaign in this coming season is well on course.

    Due to game fatigue, I should think many of the Gunners the Boss played yesterday night may not be played again in the Man City game tomorrow. Therefore, I begin to think who will the Boss play at the 2 mid-wing positions if Sanchez is played as a striker and Giroud, Ozil and Wilshere will not be available for selection.

    My starts against Man City:

    Bellerin Holding Chambers Monreal
    Coquelin Xhaka
    ?? Ramsey ??

  • Ben

    He didn’t call those that disagreed with him AAA, he simply said that the AAA did not get his point . I can’t understand why you felt he was referring to you simsimply because you disagreed with him cos I also disagree with him sometimes but never felt being referred to as AAA .I wander if you still read the papers and listen to news.I will be surprised if you still do because nothing positive about arsenal is news to them I’ve noticed .Your anger should be directed to them instead. Why will someone write that Wenger rushed Sanchez and Ramsey back to training when all their natural team mates had returned to there respective clubs too. Expect of course to turn fans again him and keep the atmosphere negative in arsenal. AGENDA

  • Robert

    Ben, I suggest you read my post more carefully. And kindly don’t presume about whether I do or do not read the papers.

  • westwing

    We see Tottenham beat Inter Milan by 6 and my nephew point out this is a much better result. I try to write better and Tony talk of misery people and then is misery himself. My wife thinks you need a doctor.

  • para

    Anyone who does not see the change in how the team is playing is blind. There is a different sort of movement between them and they are aware of eath other. The newcomers fit right in or maybe it’s because of them?

    Anyhow, play with this togetherness and do not get disheartened if things don’t work, try something else. Pleasing to watch them in this game.

    No doubt the “enemy” are now analying the tapes from this game, Heh heh.
    But Arsenal is now ever changing, not standing still.

  • Ajay

    Calling names is unbecoming. Olympians train hard their whole life, some from the single digit ages to reach their dream. For some to call it a drug fest is harsh and undermining hard work and the human spirit of endurance. Yes there are countries that dominate the medals tally but again it shows their infrastructure to develop talent is solid from grass roots.
    Friendlies are a great team bonding and fitness level checking mechanism with a lot of commercial commitment as well. It is encouraging to see the depth and options available but the season starts next week. Even the match against Man C gives us a final opportunity to fine tune and not to pass judgement. Lets wait for may 2017 to decide the results.

  • Leon

    Those “likes/dislikes” that are piling up on my earlier comment have nothing at all to do with me. It’s probably a conspicuously absent regular making mischief instead of just trolling me outright in his usual unpleasant manner.

  • Menace

    The handbags & man bags are swinging wildly. Tony you were referring to grass & roots but in a easier way when addressing the fiesta in Brazil. Some readers just don’t get it.

    Our youth & veteran mix did a great job of playing the Wenger way.

  • Markyb

    I think Robert should get over himself

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I don’t think it is bad to play against a middle level team at this point. In a match where you are outplayed, how a player reacts is important. In a match where you are dominant, how well you keep your concentration is important. It is pre-season and teams use matches for various reasons e.g. individual match fitness, individual compatibility, individual match play, team formations, confidence boosting, testing players in difficult situations,etc. There is always something to be gained from a match.

  • Frankantz

    This talk of the youngsters and how great they look is just fine. But Wenger’s job is to win the league. First and foremost that must surely be the first line of his job description. If it isn’t then something is seriously wrong.
    To do that he has to put together a title winning team….preferably in the same season. Players like Sanchez, Ozil and Carzorla won’t wait around forever for the arrival of the wonder youngster or the ‘perfect’ but cheap striker Wenger is looking for. They need a world class poacher ahead of them right now. Because next year, if we don’t win anything, it’s likely we’ll be looking for replacements for Ozil and Sanchez too.