2012 Pre season. Nigeria cancelled, Akpom and Bellerin make their mark

by Tony Attwood

After the chaos of the 2011 pre-season we were all looking for a spot of relief and re-assurance, and we got it with the announcement before the old season was over that Lukas Podolksi was joining.  Olivier Giroud was added to the rosta in June.

The release notices came the following month with Almunia, Carlos Vela, Gavin Hoyte, and Klye Bartley going, later followed by Van Persie and Alex Song – which gave rise to fears that another summer of disaster was on hand.  Almunia heard not long after he moved clubs that he was suffering from a rare illness that meant his playing days were now over.

On the non-playing front Pat Rice retired, Steve Bould became assistant manager and Neil Banfield joined Boro Primorac as joint first team coaches and Terry Burton as reserve team manager.

While not everyone yet realised just how brilliant a find Laurent Koscielny was, Wenger certainly knew, and he signed a new contract.  Wenger later said he was the best value transfer he’d completed.

Santi Cazorla then came from Málaga whose venture into oil wealth had gone seriously wrong as Thomas Vermaelen became captain and Mikel Arteta was given the vice-captaincy.  Nic Bendtner and Park Chu Young went off on year-long loans.

There pre-season however was disrupted by The London Olympic committee, who bent the knee to the insatiable demands of the Olympic organisers who insisted that Arsenal did not hold the now traditional Emirates Cup.  Threatened with legal injunctions Arsenal had no choice but to give him, as London’s roads shut down and the equivalent to Zil Lanes were installed to whisk to organisers from one venue to another.

Instead Arsenal found themselves a game that was to be played in Abuja Nigeria but which then suddenly vanished from the list.  We started with…

14 July 2012: M Liebherr Cup (two 45 minute matches, played at Southampton)

  • Arsenal 1 Anderlecht 0 (Lansbury)
  • Southampton 1 Arsenal 1 (Gervinho) (Southampton won 5-4 on penalties)

And then the more traditional…

  • 21 July 2o12: Boreham Wood 1 Arsenal 3 (Watt, Okpom, Olsson) (Wrongly reported on Wikipedia as 1-9!!!)
  • 24 July 2012: Malaysian XI 1 Arsenal 2 (Eisfeld, Aneke)
  • 27 July 2012: Manchester C 2 Arsenal 0
  • 28 July 2012: Stevenage 0 Arsenal 0
  • 29 July 2012: Kitchee 2 Arsenal 2 (Hong Kong) (Walcott, Eisfeld)
  • 1 August 2012: Dartford 2 Arsenal XI 1 (Watt)
  • 4 August 2012: Chesham Utd 2 Arsenal 6 (Roberts 2, Neita, Jebb, Akpom, Lipman)
  • 5 August 2012: Nigeria v Arsenal – “postponed” (in effect cancelled)
  • 12 August 2012: Köln 0 Arsenal 4 (Vermaelen, Podolski 2, Gervinho)

One little detail to mention here – the game against Chesham.  On the list of scorers is a certain Chuba Akpom who came on as a sub.  In the starting XI was also Hector Bellerin.  From Chesham to the Cup Final in under three years.

There has never been a full explanation for what happened to the Nigeria game but the Arsenal web site said, “Bringing a top-level club to an international market is always complicated and logistically challenging. With the proposed match in Nigeria planned for early August, we could not get comfortable on everything needed to satisfy our requirements, so we have reluctantly taken the decision to postpone the team’s visit.

“We have a huge and loyal following in Africa, and we are sorry that the team will not be visiting this summer. However, we have a long-term commitment to Nigeria and we are already making plans for a visit next summer.”

In fact the visit didn’t happen in 2013 either.  Instead Arsenal went to Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and Helsinki.

What happened next?

Two goalless draws against Sunderland and Stoke were not really what was wanted at the start and 5 wins in the first 15 showed the club was struggling.  It wasn’t until mid-April that Arsenal secured their top four place, having only once entered the top four before then, after a 6-1 win over Southampton in mid-September.

The opening goalless draw was only their third such in an opening league game since Arsenal entered the league in 1893, while this is the only occasion in Arsenal’s entire league history that the season has opened with two 0-0 draws.

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