This game wasn't just any preseason game. This was truly a momentous occasion in the history of Arsenal FC. This was to be the return of a legend: Thierry Henry against his old club at the Emirates Stadium.
Indeed, even throughout the warm-up period fans were screaming the name of the man who stands first as Arsenal's all-time top scorer. Henry brought so many great memories to the Highbury and the Emirates faithful: memories of 174 goals from 254 appearances, two English Premier league trophies, three FA Cups, two Community Shields and more entertainment than can possibly be measured.
They cheered his name when it appeared on the board, when it was announced and whenever he touched the ball. This was a great day for the fans and Henry. The reception was fantastic and well deserved.
Henry had returned with his newest team, the New York Red Bulls, who hail from USA's MLS. Fresh from their 1-0 win over PSG in the first test match of the Emirates cup, the Red Bulls were looking to get a result, either win or draw to lift the Emirates Cup. Arsenal, on the other hand, could take no less than a win in this game if they wanted to reclaim their friendly cup.
Arsenal had given away a 2-0 lead in their previous game against Argentina's Boca Juniors to eventually draw 2-2. Once again defensive lapses in defence let Boca back in the game when Sebastian Squillaci gave the ball away cheaply to Juan Roman Riquelme, who happy helped himself to a gift goal. Boca then equalised through Mouche, who was able to benefit from an error from Johan Djourou.
Earlier goals from Robin Van Persie and Aaron Ramsey were overshadowed by what looked like the kind of defensive performance that has become synonymous with Arsenal. It left a feeling under the skin that not much may have changed in the defensive department for Arsene Wenger and changes needed to be imminent.
Arsenal had the chance against the Red Bulls to bring back some confidence with the Emirates Cup and so today Wenger set out to do just that starting with Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky, Ramsey, Song, Wilshere, Gervinho, van Persie. It was clear Arsenal meant business.
The first half was dominated by Arsenal but also lacked real bite; a little tentative, though still the intent was there. The game floated along but there were glimpses of good movement and link-up play from Van Persie and Gervinho, both causing problems for the Red Bulls defence. Henry looked pedestrian but for a decent free-kick effort saved easily by Szczesny.
By then Wilshere had already limped off prematurely and was replaced by Ben Afobe. Hopefully Wishere's injury will not be of the extent of that of Theo Walcott's, for he may be far more important with the future of two midfield stars in the balance.
Rosicky was one of the players on the pitch who looked like they wanted to make things happen and did just before the end of the first half with an assist. After a hand ball from ex-Spurs player Teemu Tainio, Rosicky was granted with the responsibility of taking the free kick, which he floated onto the unmarked head of Van Persie.
It was a simple goal aided by the lack of marking from the Red Bulls defence and Van Persie appeared pleased to score the kind of goal he may struggle to do against strong Premiership opposition. The New York Red Bulls were poor opposition thus far and Henry was more involved in talking to the referee and trying to win free kicks than get a grip of the game. He seemed a shadow of the great he once was.
In the beginning of the second half Henry had made an outlandish request to start the second half for his former side but the referee did not allow it as it is against the rules. Rather comical really, but it would have been a great thing to see. Like the first half, the second started with no real urgency, plodding along like an exhibition match. An exhibition of boredom. There was nothing to pull from it, no standout performance that you could take heart from. It was just flat.
As the game snailed along changes were made as Van Persie, Gervinho, Sagna, Kolscielny and Afobe were replaced by Chamakh, Vela, Eboue, Bartley and Arsharvin. From this moment the intensity from Arsenal decreased even more and the Red Bulls were beginning to get into the game. They were beginning to win more corners and free kicks, much to the relief of Henry who mocked the referee by applauding him when he finally won a decision.
Could Arsenal hold onto the lead to win their own friendly cup at their own ground? The answer was an inevitable no. Arsenal conceded an own goal by Kyle Bartley in the 84th minute after a great through ball from Henry released his team mate Miller to put a ball across the front of the Arsenal goal. Bartley had little opportunity but to put the ball into his own net.
It just appeared that with only one friendly left before the start of the season Arsenal FC do not look close to becoming the strong team that is needed to compete for major honours.
With star players leaving and not much immediate movement to solve the team's issues, many Arsenal fans would be right to question the teams temperament and ability to go all the way. Some will say it is only pre season but these deficiencies really need to be ironed out before the real tests come. It is important to always display your strengths and win everything you can; however, Arsenal continue to show their weaknesses.
As the final whistle blew it rung in the boos from certain sections of the Emirates, unhappy with the showing from their team and rightly so—it was lacklustre. Henry was able to win the Emirates trophy again but with the Red Bulls and not his old club. What must have been a sweet moment for him had to be an embarrassment to Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal still look a weak side and lack potency. It's not just the quality of the players that needs to be looked at it's the quality of the training and football that also needs to be addressed. If Wenger doesn't start sorting out the issues and acting progressively he will hear more boos after more final whistles.
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