By Tony Attwood
The 2008 pre-season had the usual level of comings and goings with Mathieu Flamini, who had had a superb season in 2007/8 moving onto Milan at the end of his contract, Lehmann joining Stuttgart on a free, Gilberto signing for Panathinaikos, Hleb to Barcelona, and Justin Hoyte going to Middlesbrough.
Coming in we had a new physio Neal Reynolds who replaced Gary Lewin, and the signing of new contracts by Sanga, Song, Clichy and Adebayor.
Carlos Vela at last got a work permit, Aaron Ramsey came from Cardiff, Nasri from Marseille, and Silvestre from Man U
The club played nine pre-season matches:
- 19 July 2008: Barnet 1 Arsenal 2 (Simpson, Barazile)
- 22 July 2008: Szombathelyi Halads 1 Arsenal 1 (Walcott)
- 28 July 2008: Burgenland XI 2 Arsenal 10 (Wilshere 2, Bendtner 4, Vela 3, Walcott)
- 30 July 2008: VFB Stuttgart 1 Arsenal 3 (Vela, Bendtner, Wilshere)
- 2 August 2008 Arsenal 0 Juventus 1 (Emirates)
- 3 August 2008: Arsenal 1 Real Madrid 0 (Adebayor) (Emirates)
- 6 August 2008: Huddersfield Town 1 Arsenal 2 (Watt, Barazite)
- 8 August 2008 Ajax 2 Arsenal 3 (Adebayor 2, Bendtner) (Amsterdam)
- 9 August 2008 Sevilla 1 Arsenal 1 (Vela) (Amsterdam).
So once again Arsenal crammed in both an Emirates tourney and the one in Amsterdam.
And then they were straight into the play off match for the Champions League. The results were
- 13 August 2008: Twente 0 Arsenal 2 (Gallas, Adebayor)
- 27 August 2008: Arsenal 4 Twente 0. (Nasri, Gallas, Walcott, Bendtner)
As for the season, that had a mixed start, with the encouragement of a 1-0 home win against WBA on the first game being deflated by a 1-0 defeat to Fulham away in the second. Then three straight wins in which Arsenal scored 10 and rose to top position in the league, gave some encouragement, until on 27 September Arsenal ludicrously lost at home to Hull.
It turned out to be an up and down season, with Gallas soon being removed as captain and Fabregas taking his place. Then in December Fabregas was ruled out for four months with a ligament injury. By midway through the season Arsenal were fifth, but climbed back to fourth, and ended up a comfortable nine points in head of Everton in fifth.
Arsenal’s last three seasons had ended with the club in 4th, 4th and 3rd, and any hope of the club building on that third were ended – it was back to 4th. But still another season in the Champions League.
The pre-season series thus far
- 1996: The pre-season games as Rioch was sacked
- 1997: Before the second double – (updated)
- 1998: Back to sausages after the caviar.
- 1999: Games against Monaco and Saint-Étienne
- 2000: The big transfers but a poor pre-season
- 2001: Campbell arrives, and the prelims to the third double
- 2002: Gilberto’s first game in the tri-team tournament
- 2003: Before being unbeaten (revised & expanded)
- 2004: The Preseason in the midst of the 49
- 2005: The end of Highbury and the Arsenal-Chelsea bust up
- 2006: Pre-season and the opening of the Emirates
- 2007: A hectic round of transfers and a full schedule