- 8 July 1997: St Albans 1 Arsenal 4 (Grimandi Rankin Shaw 2)
- 12 July 1997: Leyton Orient 0 Arsenal 1 (Shaw)
- 20 July 1997: Stade Nyon 0 Arsenal 4 (Mendez Boa Morte Overmars Bergkamp(
- 25 July 1997: Strasbourg 1 Arsenal 2 (Garde Wright(
- 30 July 1997: PSV Eindhoven 1 Arsenal 0
- 4 August 1997: Norwich 2 Arsenal 6 (Grimandi 2 Wright 3 Bergkamp)
Please note this list was corrected on 3 August 2015. It previously had an error for the Eindhoven game
So, focussing on this final game…
This was the final friendly in what was to become the second double season. Although as usual the run up to the start of the season wasn’t particularly strenuous it felt good to have won six of the seven, including away wins at Stade Nyonnais and Strasbourg. The only defeat was against PSV Eindhoven where we lost 0-1.
This game was a victory that was considered to be Arsenal in cruise mode. It was also a match that gave us both sides of things – including what the old timers used to call “argy-bargy” with Kevin Scott having a go at Ian Wright, although when Wright was involved it tended to be argy-bargy-bargy-bargy.
On the other hand Wright scored a hattrick and the football gave a true indication of what was to come, especially during the second half of the season.
To see Bergkamp playing with Overmars… it was as if the two had been in the same team for years and years and years on end, rather than this being the start, and it was no surprise Arsenal were 1-0 up after just six minutes. For the second Bergkamp decided to see if the leg muscles were still up to it after the summer break, and hit the ball as hard as he could. It looked for all the world as if the Norwich City keeper was really trying to get out of the way, but didn’t quite. The ball hit him, he went down and Grimandi tapped it in.
Bergkamp put the third goal away with a free kick – and still only 18 minutes had gone.
We then had a pause for 12 minutes before Ian Wright scored with an overhead volley, and Norwich went into defence mode waiting for half time.
Platt and Upson replaced Petit and Winterburn, and the remourceless attacking continued with Grimandi scoring a second with a header, to everyone’s amazement, including his own.
Two minutes later and Wright, who had left both the argy and bargy behind, received a superb through ball from Bergkamp in full pomp and majesty, and put in the sixth and his third. And it isn’t that I have omitted the Norwich goals – it really was 6-0 at this stage.
But there is always someone out there to spoil things and reveal the thuggish side of football that has harmed Arsenal players for year after year. This time it was Daryl Sutch who took Grimandi out quite ludicrously, and threatened to keep Grimandi out of the team for a long time with a serious ankle injury. Arsenal took the hint, backed off and let Norwich score a couple.
In fact Grimandi was not as badly hurt as we all feared, and he was available for the opening of the season on 9 August.
What happened next…
Arsenal went 12 games unbeaten at the start of the season, but in drawing five did not look like serious contenders. Two wins in eight from mid-October to Christmas made the season appear completely lost.
But then the masterclass started, and the second double was achieved, the league being won with two games to spare.
Arsenal: Seaman, Garde (Marshall), Grimandi, Bould, Winterburn (Upson), Parlour, Vieira, Petit (Platt), Overmars (Hughes), Bergkamp (Anelka), Wright (Boa Morte)
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