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It’s Coming Home!

Back from the tour of Australia and China, the Arsenal prepare to walk out at home on Saturday in the Emirates Cup against Benfica and Sevilla, with RB Leipzig also facing those two teams. Arsenal Wenger was interviewed by Arsenal Player today and commented on the nature of that journey.

“Overall I think we had a long tour, a difficult tour but a very interesting one as well. Everybody worked very hard in very different conditions. I was very happy with the attitude, the focus and the quality of our games, and the intensity of our training as well. Overall until now it has gone very well.”

With two matches to play in two days it is clear the first home crowds of the new season will see the squad fully utilised.

“You’ll see everybody because I will play two teams. One of the most interesting parts of the Emirates Cup for me is that I can give 90 minutes to most of the players in the squad. I will try to do that.”

So who will be available? Arsene dropped a hint that Alexis who, along with Skhodran Mustafi, will train for the first time on Sunday morning could get some minutes that very afternoon. He also gave an update on the injured players but still we have no date for a return by the much missed Santi Cazorla.

“Alexis and Mustafi, their first training session will be on Sunday, the day we play against Sevilla. It is easier to put a striker on the bench than a defender, sometimes, because in a short period they can make an impact. We’ll see. I would say that Gabriel is still a few weeks away because he has an inflammation of his bone. Jack Wilshere is close to coming back to training. Santi Cazorla, it is difficult to set a definite date but he is getting better every day. Overall those are the main injuries we have. Everyone else is back to fitness.”

Clearly to play two teams we will see some of the young players who made the long trip in the last couple of weeks. When asked who might make it he interestingly left out Krystian Bielik, although he also pointed out that he had used a couple of different players in the back three on tour. The reference to Elneny is an interesting one, given the (unfounded?) reports that he was being offered to Leicester City for a very reasonable fee just last week.

“This time, I believe that you will see Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock. Maybe Cohen Bramall as well. We also had Eddie Nketiah, who is doing very well, Donyell Malen, who is doing very well, on tour but there is not necessarily room for them to play. I played players like Elneny in a back three and he has coped very well. Maitland-Niles sometimes played at centre back as well, even in the big games against Chelsea. You see their strengths and their weaknesses, and you learn a lot about your players and your combinations too. Elneny is a player who has a fantastic mentality and attitude, and his main target is to help the team. When he plays there (back three), of course he does extremely well.”

Quizzed about the value of playing stronger opposition in pre-season the boss was quick to point out that in his view it was essential that we do so. This weekend obviously provides him with a last opportunity to experiment with his squad. Surely he will select the eleven against Chelsea in the Community Shield with one eye on his starting line-up against Leicester when the Premier League season kicks off in a fortnight.

“I believe it’s important. Rather than winning 10-0, and at the end of the game you don’t know much more about where you need to improve, it’s interesting for us this time to get good opposition. It makes it easier for us to understand where we want to improve. We played difficult games, sometimes with tired legs, and that is interesting.”

If that has whetted your appetite to go and see the Gunners in the flesh in a really good pre-season atmosphere then you still can. Tickets are available for both days of Emirates Cup 2017 here. Oh, and good luck to the winners of tickets courtesy of Arsenal Football Club and Goonerholic, Pete Francis on Saturday, and Daniel Lamb on Sunday.

Have a great one ‘holics.

It’s been a crazy few days which promise to get even crazier in the final month of the transfer window. Neymar to Qatar Saint Germaine at around 230m euros? Maybe with an over-priced Verratti making the reverse journey.

Real Madrid reported, falsely as it turned out according to Monaco, agreeing a 180m euros deal for the much sought after Kylian Mbappe. Even that rumoured sum takes us out of the equation, surely?

What that has done to the asking price for Thomas Lemar is anyones guess, and trust me there are lots of anyones out there having their own stab at it. All the while the shadowy agents are poised to snaffle their share of the deals they claim to have brokered.

Call me simple (although obviously I would prefer if you didn’t!) but I yearn for the days we went shopping in the lower leagues. George Graham may divide opinion these days, but with his management background with Millwall before ‘coming home’ to manage The Arsenal he pulled off some incredible deals.

Terry Neill beat him to plunder Ian Allinson from Colchester, but George would return to the Essex club to capture Perry Groves whilst also adding Lee Dixon and Stevie Bould from Stoke, then in the third tier. Nigel Winterburn was snapped up from newly promoted Wimbledon. They went on to achieve a fair bit with the club, I think it’s safe to say. We were tapping the markets that Liverpool trawled spectacularly as the biggest club in the land in the 70s and early 80s.

What was beautiful about seeing clubs improve by astute scouting in those days was the fact that everybody won. We took a punt on players ability to adapt to a higher level. The selling club got the sort of money they would not have been able to command from their peers down what has today become a pyramid, and were able to grow their squads accordingly.

Most attractive of all through these rose-tinted optical receivers was the fact that the money stayed within the game and was redistributed around our clubs from top to bottom. When I think of super agents hoovering up tens of millions from deals today (Pogba, anyone?) It leaves more than a sour taste in the mouth. I actually get very angry butterflies in the stomach when I think how much has changed, and where that money came from.

It hasn’t come from the clubs. It has come from you and I. Ah, I hear you say you don’t go anymore because you have been priced out of, or fallen out of love with, the game. You’re still paying for it. Even if you don’t have a Sky/BT/Foreign broadcaster’s package you are still paying for the internet by which you are accessing illegal streams (and I don’t blame you!). You are paying for it when you buy your leisurewear, aircraft tickets, your beer, even when you have a bet with your bookmaker of choice.

YOU ARE PAYING FOR IT!

‘You’re a fossil, ‘holic, it’s the modern way. Get on board or get off’, I hear some of you say. You have a point but believe it or not I do understand if you didn’t experience different times then today the game is what it is. It’s still the most popular sport on the planet. we still desperately want ‘our’ club to be successful, and we have to shell out to compete in today’s market.

I get that totally, and with not unreasonable reservations will still get to as many games as I can this season because this club is in my blood, a family inheritance that will always have the utmost importance in my life. Don’t tell me that what I have seen in recent days, weeks, months, and beyond, is ‘progress’. When the financial model sees more of the vast sums involved in the game today staying within football for the betterment of all, not just the select few, that will be progress my friends.

Have a great day, ‘holics.

The Gunners lined up against a very strong looking Chelsea starting eleven in Beijing. Again our squad was utilised fully, with David Ospina between the posts, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing on the right-hand side of Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal in the back three. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cohen Bramall were selected as the wing backs outside a seemingly settled shielding midfield duo of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey. A blend of youth and experience, Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil were selected to provide the ammunition for Alexandre Lacazette.

Chelsea started strongly, perhaps not surprisingly against a makeshift defence. They may have been without Hazard and the departing Costa, but they still had a very offensive looking unit. The first big chance fell to Willian, taking advantage of a Maitland-Niles error to sprint clear but he slid his effort wide of Ospina’s far post. Players on both sides found control difficult on a poor quality pitch complete with ruts and bumps.

On the quarter of an hour Batshuayi got a shot off from the edge of the box but it found Ospina perfectly placed to comfortably save. The Gunners started some promising moves without being able to break down the not so thin blue line in front of Courtois. In the 22nd minute we finally created an opportunity, with Iwobi and Ozil combining to feed the late-arriving Ramsey. Sadly he was just unable to clip his sliding effort on target at the near post.

A coming together between Pedro and Ospina on the edge of the box saw a generous free-kick awarded our way. Both players only had eyes for the ball, and if any offence was committed it was a handball just the wrong side of the 18 yard line by the goalkeeper. The former Barca man had to be substituted by Boga before another sensible drinks break after half an hour in temperature approaching 30 degrees again.

After another error by Maitland-Niles Willian, then Moses, were denied by Ospina. From the resulting corner Batshuayi was adjudged offside when he slid a cross across the face of the goal into the back of the net. It looked a wrong call, and not the first we have seen from the local officials on this tour. The same player dragged an effort wide minutes later as Chelsea looked to crank up the pressure.

That pressure paid off when Willian danced inside Monreal’s non-existent challenge on the edge of the box and powered an effort in off the inside of the far post. Moments later Batshuayi unleashed another goalbound effort beyond Ospina after Bramall surrendered possession. That two didn’t become three a minute later was down more to luck than defensive quality. In truth we were being unlocked at will.

Ramsey did bring a save out of Courtois, but there is no doubt which of these two sides would have been more relieved to hear the half-time whistle. It may only have been a pre-season friendly, but Arsene Wenger and Jens Lehmann would have wanted to encourage their charges to respond to a key rival.

There was a farcical start to the second-half when the Chinese officials initially refused to allow Olivier Giroud to come on as a substitute due to his name not appearing on the official team sheet. Thankfully common sense eventually prevailed. Indeed the Gunners made wholesale changes. The big French striker was teed up almost immediately by Ramsey but failed to connect with an acrobatic effort rather than what appeared to be a simpler headed opportunity.

We paid full penalty for that when Batshuayi smashed his second after the right-flank of the Gunners defence was opened up again. A new back three of Laurent Koscielny, Mohamed Elneny, and Sead Kolasinac were unable to close the striker down in time. The response was a Giroud free-kick into the wall followed by a Francis Coquelin drive from the edge of the box that shaved the crossbar.

A simple long ball from Luiz gave Willian the opportunity to force another save from Ospina. Although the Arsenal looked a lot more competitive with Coquelin and Giroud on it was a warning sign that the defensive vulnerability remained. That’s what pre-season matches are for in some respect. We know we have some issues to address before the competitive season returns in under three weeks.

Giroud got another couple of efforts away, one saved by substitute goalkeeper Caballero and the other dragged wide, before another series of substitutions by both sides. Joe Willock and Donyell Malen joined the fray and the latter struck a post as we searched in vain for a consolation.

The first defeat of pre-season may do more good than harm. Some young talent experienced playing against more experienced opposition and if they improve as a result then today will not have been wasted. Hers’s hoping they get another opportunity next weekend to show they have the ability to respond positively.

Safe home all.

Win Tickets For The Emirates Cup Next Sunday

The Arsenal are hosting their pre-season tournament, the Emirates Cup, on Saturday July 29th and Sunday July 30th.

We’ve already teamed up with the Gunners to offer one lucky reader a pair of VIP tickets to the first day of the tournament, in Club Level at Emirates Stadium. Now we can offer another lucky winner a chance to attend the second day of the tournament on the Sunday.

Taking part in this year’s competition alongside the Arsenal are Portuguese champions Benfica, 2016 Europa League winners Sevilla, and Bundesliga club RB Leipzig.

As with the previous Emirates Cup tournaments, fans will enjoy two matches each on both Saturday and Sunday, with one ticket giving access to both matches on a particular day.

For the opportunity to enjoy a day out in style at Emirates Stadium this pre-season, just answer the following question:

Those at the tournament will get an opportunity to see record signing, Alexandre Lacazette, in the flesh. From which French club did we sign him?

  1. A) Lyon
    B) Monaco
    C) PSG

Send your entry to competition@goonerholic.com to arrive by midnight, UK time, on Sunday 23rd July. Please include a contact email address and phone number so the Arsenal can contact you directly if you are the one drawn out of the hat.

Now for the important bit. If you missed out on the tickets for the Saturday, won by Pete Francis, tickets are still available for Day One and Day Two of Emirates Cup 2017, from £25 adults and £12 concessions.Visit Arsenal.com to buy.

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The Arsenal are hosting their pre-season tournament, the Emirates Cup, on Saturday July 29th and Sunday July 30th.

We’ve already teamed up with the Gunners to offer one lucky reader a pair of VIP tickets to the first day of the tournament, in Club Level at Emirates Stadium. Now we can offer another lucky winner a chance to attend the second day of the tournament on the Sunday.

Taking part in this year’s competition alongside the Arsenal are Portuguese champions Benfica, 2016 Europa League winners Sevilla, and Bundesliga club RB Leipzig.

As with the previous Emirates Cup tournaments, fans will enjoy two matches each on both Saturday and Sunday, with one ticket giving access to both matches on a particular day.

For the opportunity to enjoy a day out in style at Emirates Stadium this pre-season, just answer the following question:

Those at the tournament will get an opportunity to see record signing, Alexandre Lacazette, in the flesh. From which French club did we sign him?

  1. A) Lyon
    B) Monaco
    C) PSG

Send your entry to competition@goonerholic.com to arrive by midnight, UK time, on Sunday 23rd July. Please include a contact email address and phone number so the Arsenal can contact you directly if you are the one drawn out of the hat.

Now for the important bit. If you missed out on the tickets for the Saturday, won by Pete Francis, tickets are still available for Day One and Day Two of Emirates Cup 2017, from £25 adults and £12 concessions.Visit Arsenal.com to buy.

Now before the Emirates Cup kicks off next weekend we have the small matter of our FA Cup Final rematch against Chelsea this Saturday in Beijing. Of course it is the first of two matches against the bus stop in Fulham in a fortnight. There are not really any ‘friendly’ fixtures between the London rivals but I’m sure both clubs would happily trade pre-season wins for Premier League triumphs  in the coming season.

Like us the Pensioners have a mixed squad in China including four teenagers, and missing Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and Kurt Zouma, apparently completing moves away from the club. Eden Hazard and new £40million midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko have stayed in London for fitness sessions, and new centre-half Antonio Rudiger has yet to report for pre-season training after extended international duty with Germany.

The Arsenal starting line-up will presumably depend on who has recovered from the food poisoning either side of (and during!) the shoot-out win over Bayern Munich. It is also being reported that Laurent Koscielny has a niggling back strain and it would not be wise to risk aggravating that in a tour fixture. Again we can probably expect wholesale changes in the second-half as the squad is fully utilised.

You can watch the match in the UK on BT Sport at 12.40 pm on Saturday. That means for those that do not subscribe to BT Sport that streams for the game should be plentiful. Here’s hoping we can maintain our run of excellent results without overestimating the achievements in pre-season.

Have a great one ‘holics.

Shanghai provided a day of mixed blessings for the touring Gunners. A number of players were laid low by a spot of food poisoning which forced the late withdrawal of Per Mertesacker from the fixture against Bayern Munich.

The Arsenal went into the match with Petr Cech starting behind a makeshift back three of Kristian Bielik, Mohamed Elneny, and Nacho Monreal. Young Ainsley Maitland-Niles and newly signed Sead Kolasinac were the wing backs. Francis Coquelin accompanied Granit Xhaka in the centre of midfield, while Mesut Ozil was the creator in chief behind a pairing of Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette.

The Bayern side, apart from the third choice goalkeeper, looked very familiar. They included recent signing from Real Madrid, James Rodriguez. Not surprisingly they started the match somewhat better than the Gunners in the humid climate. James was first to test Cech but fired his effort into the side netting. In the next attack the dangerous Muller also fired wide of the target.

Arsenal fashioned a response when Kolasinac, Ozil, and Welbeck combined to set up Xhaka who blazed the ball over from the edge of the box. We were behind in the ninth minute when the referee awarded a penalty against Maitland-Niles when Bernat threw himself to terra firma. Lewandowski blasted the penalty high to Cech’s left. It looked ominous at this point.

Welbeck’s glorious through ball put Ozil clear but the midfielder’s volley hit Starke in the Bayern goal. At the other end Monreal had to be at his sharpest to deal with a low cross in the centre of the six yard box. Coquelin, perhaps not surprisingly, earned the first yellow card of the contest when he sent Ribery tumbling. Moments later we survived a second Bayern goal when Tolisso was wrongly flagged offside as he stroked the ball home at the far post. Martinez found himself in the referees book for his show of dissent that followed.

As Arsenal appeared to get more into the match the referee signalled a drinks break as the half hour mark approached. That was a sensible precaution in thirty degrees. Immediately Ozil slid a pass into Lacazette but Starke was equal to the attempt.

In the minutes leading to the half-time whistle we had Cech to thank for keeping the score at 0-1. The goalkeeper made outstanding saves from Bernat, and James. Kolasinac, struggling to keep up with play was substituted, possibly another victim of the food bug. Another youngster, Reiss Nelson, got an unexpectedly early opportunity to impress. The last chance fell to James again, but Xhaka produced a wonderful clearance right in front of the goal.

Typical of the tour so far a number of changes were made at the break. The Arsenal brought on Alex Iwobi for Ozil, Joe Willock for Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott for Lacazette, and  Cohen Bramall for Bielik. Yet again the first opportunity fell to Bayern and James was again denied by an excellent Cech save. Elneny was unlucky to receive a yellow when he appeared to be felled by Tolisso, the Bayern man coming out of the challenge the worse. Alaba’s free-kick drew yet another diving save from Cech.

Just past the hour Aaron Ramsey came on for the excellent Xhaka. Almost immediately Cech raced from his area to beat Ribery to a through ball almost forty yards out. The man of the match made way for Emi Martinez with twenty minutes remaining. That would prove to be a significant change. Eddie Nketiah also came on for Welbeck as bodies tired.

With Bayern also having made a considerable number of changes the young Gunners went in search of an equaliser. Walcott cleverly found space on the left edge of the area but his curling effort was comfortably saved by the substitute goalkeeper, Fruchtl. Joe Willock, a little tiger in midfield, was next to find himself in the referees book for a trip on a breaking Dorsch.

Just as it looked as though we would finish a beaten side we produced possibly the move of the match to level the scores in the last of four added minutes. Iwobi got on the end of a Ramsey cross to head home having sent the Welshman clear on the left hand side. That set up a penalty shoot out that caught many supporters unawares.

What odds on us beating a German team, particularly Bayern, on penalties? That’s just what we did though. Martinez saved the first spot-kick although the advantage faded when Elneny saw Fruchtl save our second penalty. We nosed ahead again when Sanchez smashed their fourth penalty against the crossbar and Iwobi capped a fine performance by scoring his.

That left Bernat needing to score to keep Bayern alive but Martinez threw himself to his left to save and the Gunners had pulled off an unlikely triumph. At this stage of the season we should not read too much into that, however the youngsters in the squad deserve the plaudits for their part in a courageous comeback.

Another Chance To Win Emirates Cup Tickets

The Arsenal are hosting their pre-season tournament, the Emirates Cup, on Saturday July 29th and Sunday July 30th.

We’ve already teamed up with the Gunners to offer one lucky reader a pair of VIP tickets to the first day of the tournament, in Club Level at Emirates Stadium. Now we can offer another lucky winner a chance to attend the second day of the tournament on the Sunday.

Taking part in this year’s competition alongside the Arsenal are Portuguese champions Benfica, 2016 Europa League winners Sevilla, and Bundesliga club RB Leipzig.

As with the previous Emirates Cup tournaments, fans will enjoy two matches each on both Saturday and Sunday, with one ticket giving access to both matches on a particular day.

For the opportunity to enjoy a day out in style at Emirates Stadium this pre-season, just answer the following question:

Those at the tournament will get an opportunity to see record signing, Alexandre Lacazette, in the flesh. From which French club did we sign him?

  1. A) Lyon
    B) Monaco
    C) PSG

Send your entry to competition@goonerholic.com to arrive by midnight, UK time, on Sunday 23rd July. Please include a contact email address and phone number so the Arsenal can contact you directly if you are the one drawn out of the hat.

Now for the important bit. If you missed out on the tickets for the Saturday, won by Pete Francis, tickets are still available for Day One and Day Two of Emirates Cup 2017, from £25 adults and £12 concessions.Visit Arsenal.com to buy.

Come back to read about our match against Chelsea in Beijing on Saturday.

Wizards Enjoy Aus

Once again I am indebted to our very own Sydney Red who saw his team for the second time in 48 hours and now after the feast faces famine until the Gunners make the journey down under again. I’m sure after this hugely successful leg of the pre-season tour it will not be anywhere near forty years before we make the trip again. Thank you SR for your excellent reports. Next time you come over to see the Gunners there will be a cool one waiting on the bar for you.

A bit of a chillier night in Sydney about 9 degrees c. Still it did not deter another bumper crowd of 83,000 entering the stadium to see the mighty gunners. A few more vocal WSW supporters but still max 4,000, the rest gooners of all shapes, ages. There were huge queues for the FA cup photo and merchandise stalls again. Gooners from Western Australia, Melbourne, Queensland South Australia had all made the trip to Sydney.

Pre match festivities were the same as Thursday night. A huge cheer went up as both teams strode to the centre. The Arsenal team had more of a EPL look about it including Ospina in goal for the first half. He had little to do in the first half as Arsenal again took the game to the hosts.

The WSW were a lot more physical than Sydney fc on Thursday and a few crunching tackles went it. Not always with malice more too slow to see what the Arsenal player was going to do. We had a mad WSW fan  a few seats in front of us who kept all around in laughter as he clapped every tackle by his team, and to be fair also cheered Arsenal with same very Aussie phrases.

Iwobi was very impressive, with mazy runs. Lacazette had a couple of early runs, but to be honest drifted out of the game a bit. Giroud was everywhere, looking an international player one minute and then a pub player the next. He was certainly causing the WSW defence problems and received a few tough tackles along the way.

In the 33rd minutes Nacho raced up the left and crossed for Giroud to flick the ball into the net. Much jubilation and singing of 1-0 to the Arsenal. It was no more that the Frenchman had deserved for his efforts up to this point.

We had only a few minutes to wait until Nacho against was the provider with a long 30 yard pass for Ramsey to latch on to on the edge of the box and chip over the WSW goalkeeper who had decided to come and stand in no man’s land, or as we Aussies say “go walkabout’’. A very nice goal to see, very simple but hard to achieve. 2-0 to the Arsenal rang around the ground, apart from the pocket of WSW fans behind the goal who were continuing to jump, sing, clap no matter what was going on.

A couple of corners ensued and from one the ball came out to Elneny who had been looking good in defence alongside Kosh. Elneny smacked the ball back into the area it hit a WSW player and went into the net. 3-0 at half time. Half time entertainment consisted of kids penalty shoots outs against gunnersaurus. I think the suit restricts him!. Romford Pele, who seems to be having a great time down under, appeared trying to master Aussie slang.

Gunnersaurus auditioning for Petr Cech’s job

The same Arsenal team came out for the second half except Martinez in goal. The second half started a bit slower and WSW came back into the game. They got a free kick in the area, and eleven Arsenal players stood on the line. The first kick went into the wall ,but WSW then scored from the rebound. This seemed to spur the Gunners on until the 65th minute when for the second match running 10 players went off and 10 came on. All received a standing ovation and the match started again.

For the first fifteen minutes the game drifted a bit with Arsenal having lots of ball but not doing much. Then it livened up with Elneny hitting the cross bar, Ozil who looked very sharp hit the post from great free kick. The goalie made a terrIfic save from Walcott, who does tend to telegraph his shots beforehand. Nketiah looked quick and was assisted in by Nelson and Willock in keeping the game alive.

Ozil hits the post with a peach of a free-kick.

The game ended to loud cheers and that was it…all over. What had  I learned from the two games?

The Aussie teams are tryers, lack in top flight skills, but make it hard for you.

Arsenal seem to have a good squad.

The young players need to be given a go.

Giroud should stay.

Lacazette is very fast.

Ozil is a different level.

BFG is a natural leader and represents the club very well.

Arsenal are a class act both on and off the pitch.

You in the uk are very lucky to be able to go to the games every week.

Hopefully it not another 40 years before the Gunners come to Australia. I believe they have been very very surprised by the reception here.

Two crowds of 80,000 plus. Indeed yesterday was a record for the venue, beating the crowd for England’s rugby union World Cup triumph in the same stadium.

20,000 at the fan day on Friday.

Thank you Sydney, and thank you Arsenal.

And from me, one last time, thank you Sydney Red. It’s as if we were there. (If only!)

A huge thanks to one of our own, Sydney Red, for his take on our opening tour match in the city he now calls home.

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Where do I start?

As we parked close to the stadium, and walked a short distance it was very clear that Arsenal were in town. Thousands of fans milling around the merchandise and food stalls. After a quick purchase of a cap for son and a Sydney Tour t shirt for me, went through the security quite quickly and up to seat.

The stadium was built for the 2000 Olympics and has been updated a few times since, so a great stadium. Everybody has a good view. As we took our seats the players were out on pitch doing prematch training routines. Singing was coming from various parts of the ground , Ozil chant, Giroud and even we hate Tottenham, much to amusement of my 15 year old Aussie son.

To fireworks and rendition of Fat Boy Slim “right here right now” both teams strode out to pitch. Match underway. Immediately it was Arsenal on the attack with very quick passing and movement. Sydney looked unable to match the precision Arsenal showed.

A quick attack led to a corner, and after four minutes the Gunners were ahead. The BFG hooked the ball over his head and into the corner. A great roar went up in the 80,000 crowd, which must have been 79,000 Gooners and 1000 going for the champions of Australia, Sydney FC.

Pictures of Wenger on the big screens got huge cheers and renditions of only one ”Arsene Wenger’’. For much of the first half it seemed to be only matter of time before Arsenal added another couple. Theo missed a few, and seemed very rusty…lots of speed but no finish. Danny ran everywhere and Ozil played some lovely passes .

The star for me was Rhys Nelson playing on the right wing. He gave the Sydney defence a bigger run around than they would have received all season. On this showing he must be given a chance this season, perhaps in the Europa league. Also getting a mention are Willock, Saed and Bielik, all looked assured and hopefully get a good run in the team.

Late in first half a rare attack by Sydney forced Cech into a good save and the ball was put into the side netting by the Sydney follow up….a warning had been given.

The second half started with only one change for Arsenal, Martinez for Cech. Martinez seems a big unit and made a couple of good low down saves as Sydney came back into the match over a 15 minute period.

Arsenal were then given a poor penalty as the replays on the big screen clearly showed the ball hit a Sydney defender’s back. The replays were quickly taken off screen as on the pitch the ref struggled to convince anyone in the stadium it should be a penalty. Justice was served when the goalie (ex trialist with Arsenal) palmed away Welbeck’s penalty.

We were then treated to the strange vision of Arsenal replacing ten players at once! On came Giroud and new man Lazcazette amongst others. The changes did not slow down the game and again Arsenal got many chances but the goalkeeper continued to have a great game.

A huge cheer went up as a paper plane from the crowd landed on the pitch, this was quickly followed by many many others flying around the crowd….An Aussie version of the Mexican wave?

Ten minutes from the end Iwobi had a good run down the right and squared back for Lacazette to stroke in. Again the roar went up and the scorer was clearly pleased with his goal….more please. He certainly kooks very fast and dare I say it reminds me of Henry from a distance.

The game finished and the players came out with a large banner thanking their Aussie supporters. A great end to a great night.

My final thoughts. As first game a good run out. Arsenal should have won 4 or 5-0. The opposition had the game of their life…where have we read that before. Young players look good and must be given a chance this season. Theo is still rusty. BFG looks class at the back. Saed looks very stable. Coquelin is going to get a lot of yellow cards this season!

The smiles on faces outside stadium and singing was sight to behold. A great night and 90,000 will be back on Saturday v Western Sydney Wanderers.

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Come back at the weekend for SR’s view on the second leg of the tour. Have a good one, ‘holics.

Forty seven days. That’s not even seven weeks for goodness sake. The ‘never-ending’ close season is, erm, ending. It’s gone by in a flash and we can celebrate a new coach, high performance guru (how many is that now?) and two shiny new players who look as though they will be going straight into the first team. So good has it been that it can only go in one direction from here!

Mesut Ozil has said that he is happy at Arsenal and wants to stay, and whilst that is encouraging let’s wait and see if our idea of his worth and his coincide when the tourists return. The uncertainty over Alexis isn’t likely to be resolved while we are in Australia or China and is a cloud on the horizon. Can we avoid it? It’s certain that we will try everything before allowing him to leave.

Then there is the situation that Olivier Giroud finds himself in as we enter a pre World Cup season. Now it would be wonderful to retain his services. He remains a very effective striker and if we are serious about developing a strong squad then letting him go would make little sense. However the player himself will know if he finds himself playing second fiddle to Alexandre Lacazette at club level then the France manager, the former water carrier Didier Deschamps, might make a similar decision.

Added to those conundrums are the presumed exits of many of those not on the tour. Sanogo has gone to Toulouse where he will probably be working for Airbus after Christmas, and we have to negotiate the sales for the likes of Debuchy and Campbell. What of the British core? Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs are looking likely to be available to potential bidders, and if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain refuses to sign a new deal he is likely to find the club will not stand in the way of a move for him. Oh, and how do you solve a problem like Theo?

That’s three paragraphs of potential misery right there, sorry. I’ll try and do better. Let’s hope that those with the stomach for the fight sign on the dotted line and prepare to be part of a deep and strong squad. Let’s see Thomas Lemar, at least, pave the way for others to move from Monaco to the Gunners. He would be quite the addition and can get in the ear of Kylian Mbappe should football’s hottest property stay at his club for another year.

There is an opportunity to build two teams to fight on four different fronts in the coming season. Teams that will feed each other as and when injuries and suspensions kick in. Hopefully they will be in place before the first competitive ball is kicked in anger against Leicester City, but it’s certain that the speculation and negotiating will be rife right up until the 31st August.

It all starts at 11.00 am UK time on Thursday when we play Sydney FC in the ANZ stadium. Comfortably the best team in the A League, which they won for the third time in 2017, they should provide the toughest test of the Aussie leg of the tour. The match is being shown live on Arsenal Player for those not excluded from watching at work. Fear not though, we will have a match report with snaps from our very own Sydney Red, so there is that to look forward to too.

Last chance to win VIP tickets to the Saturday of the Emirates Cup

As I type there are less than four hours to get in your entry for Club Level tickets to see RB Leipzig v Sevilla and Arsenal v Benfica on Saturday July 29th. Click here to see the details.

Tickets are still available for Day One and Day Two of Emirates Cup 2017, from £25 adults and £12 concessions. Visit Arsenal.com to buy.

So that’s it for now. Thank you to our partners at ArtofFootball.com as well.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

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The end of another glorious weekend, weatherise, and whisper it softly, but the last weekend without Arsenal football until next May! Seven pre-season matches kick off with a tour of Australia and China in the next fortnight.

On Thursday morning at 11.00 (it’s 8pm local time) we play Sydney FC. Hopefully the work laptop will stretch to the audio coverage on the Arsenal Player but there is no chance of me catching a live stream. Hopefully someone will have the match on Thursday evening over here. Next Saturday at the same time we face Western Sydney Wanderers. I’m very pleased for our really great supporters down under that they will catch the Gunners in the flesh.

In China, if the good folk of Sydney will forgive me, the opposition ramps up a notch. We face Bayern Munich, who I’m sure will be offered Alexis on the spot at a discounted price to that we would demand from Citeh, if we had any interest in selling to Premier League rivals. Unless they finish third in their Champions League group this will be our only opportunity to suffer our nigh on annual beating from the Bavarians. At least the kick-off is at lunchtime over here!

Then it’s the first of two FA Cup Final repeats before the League season gets underway. On Saturday week we renew our acquaintance with the bus stop in Fulham at the Birds Nest Stadium. Again it’s a lunchtime kick-off so that should be a second match I can watch live. Can you imagine how elements of the support of our friends in the west will behave towards the locals out there? We should have a huge fanbase in China after that particular match.

We return to finalise our preparation back in London with the Emirates Trophy on the weekend of 22nd/23rd July. Don’t forget if you want to win a pair of Club Level VIP tickets on the Saturday to watch RB Leipzig play Sevilla before we entertain Benfica then you can do so here. After playing Sevilla on the Sunday we have a one week break before once again going head to head with our vanquished FA Cup Final opponents at Wembley. Can you imagine how elements of support of our friends in the west will behave towards the locals there too!

Roll on Thursday. It will be great to see  Kolasinac, Lacazette, Lemar, and Mbappe make their Arsenal debuts in Australia. What? Oh, sorry!

Art of Football

Thanks to Clockendrider for his comment in the drinks on the recent ‘Nearly’ post about the quality of service and products from @ArtofFootball to which I responded praising their packaging too.

Lest there is misunderstanding of my support for them it is because I have one of their tees, and will be buying others when the wardrobe needs replenishing, and know well the quality is excellent. More importantly at my request they provided some prizes for the Grenfell fundraiser @TheGunnersPub in exchange for me promoting their business here for a month.

Today we are featuring their excellent ‘Just Done It’ tee or sweat design. Chaps and chapesses of the Ian Wright vintage will love this. It brings back memories of a truly amazing day. Whoever thought Wrighty’s achievement would be surpassed so soon?

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The Arsenal are hosting their pre-season tournament, the Emirates Cup, on Saturday July 29th and Sunday July 30th.

We’ve teamed up with the Gunners to offer one lucky reader a pair of VIP tickets to the first day of the tournament, in Club Level at Emirates Stadium.

Taking part in this year’s competition alongside the Arsenal are Portuguese champions Benfica, 2016 Europa League winners Sevilla, and Bundesliga club RB Leipzig.

It will be the first time we have hosted the latter club, although I did make the trip to Leipzig when we played Lokomotive in 1978. They boast a young and exciting side who briefly topped the Bundesliga last season. They, like us, will face Sevilla and Benfica.

As with the previous Emirates Cup tournaments, fans will enjoy two matches each on both Saturday and Sunday, with one ticket giving access to both matches on a particular day.

For the opportunity to enjoy a day out in style at Emirates Stadium this pre-season, just answer the following question:

Which Gunners star made his Arsenal debut in the 2014 Emirates Cup?

  1. A) Alexis Sanchez
    B) Mesut Ozil
    C) Petr Cech

Tickets are still available for Day One and Day Two of Emirates Cup 2017, from £25 adults and £12 concessions. Visit Arsenal.com to buy.

Send your entry to competition@goonerholic.com to arrive by midnight, UK time, on Wednesday 12th July. Please include a contact email address and phone number so the Arsenal can contact you directly if you are the one drawn out of the hat.

Thank you to the Arsenal for providing this opportunity for one lucky ‘holic to catch the first sight of Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette in Arsenal shirts. By the way, wasn’t yesterday truly a good news day for the Gunners? Welcome Alexandre, and possibly as important welcome home Mad Jens. The signs of the promised ‘catalyst for change’ are becoming very evident.

Hopefully there will be more good things to chat about at the weekend.

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