2005 pre-season – the end of Highbury and the Chelsea/Arsenal bust ups.

By Tony Attwood

After years of an on-off transfer Patrick Vieira was sold to Juventus where he won a title, and then lost it because of match fixing, and was immediately sold again as Juventus changed from being champions to a relegated club.

Alexander Hleb was purchased from Stuttgart. Nic Bendtner and Vito Mannone also came in. Alex Song and Mart Poom came in on loan.  The main transfers happened in the winter transfer window bringing in Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott.

Arsenal made a big thing of this being the last season at Highbury, with a change of colours supposedly (but not actually) matching the colours worn in 1913 and there were special themes throughout the year.  How different to the move away from Plumstead in 1913.

Here are the pre-season games…

  • 16 July 2005: Barnet 1 Arsenal 4 (Hleb, Henry, Bergkamp, Hoyte)
  • 20 July 2005: SC Weiz 0 Arsenal 5 (Flamini, Henry, Bentley, Bergkamp)
  • 24 July 2005: SC Ritzing 2 Arsenal 5 (Bergkamp, Henry, Reyes, Hlev, Larsson
  • 27 July 2005: FC Utrecht 0 Arsenal 3 (Pires, Reyes, Henry)
  • 29 July 2005: Ajax 0 Arsenal 1 (Lupoli)
  • 31 July 2005: Porto 1 Arsenal 2 (Ljungberg 2)

On the day of the Utrecht game, and knowing what was to come with the community shield match, Peter Kenyon, the Chelsea chief exec called Arsenal FC “insecure” and said  they were “hypocrites”.

He went on a what in other circumstances the papers would have called a “wild rant” (but they were already bending the knee to Chelsea, so didn’t) and said all the problems over the Ashley Cole tapping-up affair (in which Chelsea and Cole were both found guilty of breaches of the rules) were caused because Arsenal were worried about the rise of Chelsea.  Wenger said he didn’t have time to answer such comments and there was a recognition that the number of tickets Chelsea had sold for the Community Shield game was small, and this may have stimulated Kenyon’s outburst.

But Wenger simply said he was more concerned about preparing his side for the forthcoming Premiership campaign than about criticism from Stamford Bridge.

After that, things quietened down and Arsenal prepared for the last two games which were once again in the Amsterdam Tournament, which Arsenal duly won.

But then having won the cup the previous year Arsenal played in the FA Community Shield against Chelsea – just like this season.

Arsene Wenger did not put out a full strength team – which Chelsea, with its much smaller trophy cabinet did.  Gilberto Silva was omitted, but Flamini and Fàbregas played in the middle of midfield.  Gilberto, van Persie and Hleb came on at half time and Bergkamp, Robert Pirès and Flamini went off.

Dorgba got two in the first half  Fabregas got one back in the second half and the Shield was Chelsea’s for the third time in their history.  After the match Mr Wenger made one of his classic comments.   “Why should I worry? Did you see the game? You can worry for the Chelsea supporters.”
What happened next?
With two defeats in the first four league games however it looked like being a tough season ahead.  On 21 August 2005 Chelsea beat Arsenal for the first time in the league for just on 10 years, and the on 10 September Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Middlesbrough, a team we were used to beating easily.
Arsenal won four and drew one of the next five and things picked up but Arsenal were never seriously in contention for the title.   But there was one matter that will always stay in the mind.  In the home game with Man City Robert Pirès tried to recreate the penalty taken by Johan Cruyff and Jesper Olsen in which one player taps the ball and the other runs forward and scores.  Pirès touched the ball which was intended for Henry, but he touched it twice, and so Man C got a free kick.  Cryuff commended the players for wishing always to increase the entertainment value in a match and do something different.


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