Huge thanks to our own, inimitable, Bergkamp the Man for a unique account and pics of his Saturday out at Boreham Wood. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I. Thank you maestro.
With no other sporting event of any real significance on offer in this very fine, ‘Better Together’, United Kingdom, what other option could take precedence for a footie starved Gooner over the annual trip to Boreham Wood? “A10 to Potters Bar, take the first right and you can’t miss Meadow Park” (Well, you can, actually but that’s another story).
When, in 1948, Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez pooled their resources to form the mighty “Wood”, little could they have realized that 66 years later they’d open a brand spanking new West Stand in the presence of Lord Wenger, in temperatures that nearly melted the very fibre of the new structure itself. Nor could they have dreamt that the young Welsh Wizard himself, Aaron Aragorn Ramsey, would captain The Arsenal for the first time, but by no means the last time, in a career that promises previously unreached pinnacles, exhaltation and euphoric reverberation throughout the valleys filled with leeks.
The local Hertfordshire Blackhead sheep flock had munched the Meadow perfectly and uniformly to a luxurious emerald carpet. Rows and flows of angel hair drifted across and sky of azure blue perfection and ‘Alexis’ shirts were too numerous to count on tiny Gooners, smaller than the number 17 on their backs. The atmosphere was carnival, lacking toffee apples and steam-engine-powered organ chords, but supplemented instead by the inevitable chorus of “if you hate, Tottenham….” all washed down with chilled, secretly smuggled, Guinness. ‘Hic’
And suddenly, there they were, resplendent in Puma and ready to pounce, The Arsenal, in their new blue and yellow away kit. Younger, and in several cases, difficult to recognize, “Who’s that playing Number 12 for us?”, but The Arsenal, nevertheless, unequivocally. “Wojcieck, Wojcieck, give us a wave”, an exchange of pennants, a shrill whistle and we were off to the races.
The Arsenal dominated the first half, but frankly, rarely looked like scoring. “Were we trying to?”, I wondered. Wonderboy Zelalem started well but faded quickly. Jenkinson had more acres than Donald Trump but didn’t do much with them. Sanogo worked hard and should have scored but failed to remove the albatross of “hasn’t yet converted” from around his neck. Ramsey’s quality lacked the spark of an equal or an Ozil to fire the exceptional. Jon Toral, doing a very fine impersonation of Aaron Ramsey, caught the eye, but not sufficiently to merit inclusion in the first team squad for the coming season. Try harder to impose yourself, young man. You have what it takes. Nacho impressed in a defense that was never really threatened.
These warm-ups provide the luxury of an entirely new eleven at the manager’s whim and so “All change” commanded Arsene after 45 minutes. And it was a different, much more purposeful Arsenal that the sunburned legions witnessed for the second segment, even without the Wunderkinder, Serge Gnabry and Eisfeld the Iceman.
Iggi Miguel has doubled his body mass since I saw him last (in the seven-goaler at Reading). He played well. Gibbsy stayed in second gear and was untroubled. Our number 8 (who was he? I never knew) was solid. Bellerin was outstanding and the Corporal will be really challenged for the right back berth if Debuchy goes lame. Flamini and Rosicky started where they left off last season and were excellent. Olsson, Afobe and Akpom (who really grew in confidence as the half progressed) looked sharper than tacks and before we knew it, we’d won 2-0 without ever needing to fire up more than five of our twelve cylinders.
But wait! This wouldn’t be a BtM report without a mention of the finest box-to-box midfielder that the world has never seen at his peak. I was very nervous for Abou Diaby from the first warm-up leap, through the first tackle, the first stretch and then the first kick. Abou is like your best china. You want to take him out and show him off but you’re scared shitless that he’ll break or chip and you’ll be left heart-broken.
I needn’t have worried. Diaby was imperious. He oozed quality, didn’t put a foot wrong and was the heartbeat of the second-half team. If he can stay fit, Sami Khedira will spend next season sitting on the bench beside Arsene watching in awe. “Will he?” is the big question.
The whistle blew. Abou swapped shirts. He looked over to where I was standing and gave me the “I’ll be absolutely fine this season, BtM” wink. You heard it FIRST right here on Goonerholic. Abou Diaby is going to play a MAJOR roll for The Arsenal this season AND I’m back on the double. (Champagne on me at the Tolly next May!)
Enjoy it, Holics! We have an amazingly strong squad and there’s more, much more, quality to come. It just keeps getting better over here on the sunny side. COYRRRs.