By Tony Attwood
Having settled into the Emirates for one year Arsenal’s 2007 pre-season was one of the most extensive – not just in the number of games but in terms of the sizes of audience that the club played to.
As for the transfer window that was hectic too. Fabrice Muamba went to Birmingham City and Mart Poom to Watford. Jérémie Aliadière went to Middlesbrough and Thierry Henry went to Barcelona for £16m in a deal which eventually cost Barce over £250,000 every time Henry played. Fredrik Ljungberg and José Antonio Reyes also went.
Henry was one of the first players to have a dig at the rising chatter of the anti-Wengerians by citing his uncertainty about Wenger’s future as a reason for leaving.
Łukasz Fabiański, Eduardo, and Bacary Sagna joined the club, and Lassana Diarra was purchased on transfer deadline day from Chelsea, but it was a troubled transfer in a very curious transfer history, and he left in January.
As for the pre-season games, the arrangements fell into four sections. The prelim against Barnet in front of 5000, two games in Austria (the second of which in front of a capacity 31000 crowd), two Emirates Cups games (for the first time) and then two games in the Amsterdam Tournament before opening the season against Fulham.
The first tour was particularly notable for Bacary Sagna and Eduardo making their debuts in the games in Austria.
Here’s the schedule.
- 14 July 2007: Barnet 0 Arsenal 2 (Adebayor, Barazite)
- 19 July 2007: Gençlerbirliği 0 Arsenal 3 (Van Persie 2, Walcott)
- 25 July 2007: Salzburg 1 Arsenal 0
- 28 July 2007: Arsenal 2 PSG1 (Flamini, Bendtner) [Emirates Cup]
- 29 July 2007: Arsenal 2 InterMilan 1 (Hleb, Van Persie) [Emirates Cup]
- 2 August 2007: Lazio 1 Arsenal 2 (Bendtner, Eduardo) [Amsterdam Tournament]
- 4 August 2007: Ajax 0 Arsenal 1 (Van Persie)
The annual Barnet match, although a very relaxed affair, usually had some moments of interest, and this year we saw Kolo Toure as captain, and what people were talking about as our new front two of Robin van Persie (returning again from injury) and Adebayor (yet to show his petulance and difficulties). Many saw Alex Song as a future possible and there was talk about Mark Randall being a 17 year old prodigy. It just shows you never know.
Eduardo was in the stand, Havard Nordveit and Lukasz Fabianski on the bench, and there was Richard Evans grinning like mad on the bench for Barnet. He was described as a “doctor”, aged in his “late 40s”. He had paid Barnet £10,000 for the privilege of coming on for the last 15 minutes.
After the friendlies, Arsenal went the first 15 league games unbeaten, winning 12 and drawing three. There was a lot of noise about Jens Lehmann after he made slips to let in goals in the first two games (a 2-1 home win over Fulham and a 1-1 away draw with Blackburn) but as Arsenal dominated at the top that was forgotten.
Arsenal were first or second from the fifth game onwards and it wasn’t until March when they slipped to third, their final position.
The pre-season friendlies
- 1996: The pre-season games as Rioch was sacked and Wenger appointed.
- 1997: Before the second double – including Norwich 2 Arsenal 6 (updated)
- 1998: The Pre-season games. 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 from Tottenham, and the prelims to the third double
- 2002: Gilberto’s first game in the tri-team tournament
- 2003: Pre-season warm ups. Celtic v Arsenal (revised & expanded 1/7/15)
- 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