Arsenal 1-1 New York Red Bulls
I have been to pre-season games before. I stood on the terraces at Underhill one July afternoon and though the memory is a bit hazy now, I’m sure I have also paid visits to Borehamwood and Stevenage in my time. Solid pre-season turf on all counts.
Craning my neck further back, I even remember going to the Makita International Tournament at the old Wembley in 1988. It was about as full as it was hearted – that’s to say, around half.
But I’ve never before been to the Emirates Cup, so today was a new one for me. I’m not sure I saw it in its best light.
Once the game started – we didn’t bother with the first match because we didn’t want to push our luck with the attention spans of two small boys to consider – I was quickly reminded that it’s only when you attend one of these games in the flesh that you realise just how inconsequential they are. Maybe it was different against Boca Juniors, but today’s game, though committed, lacked the obvious competitive bite. The opposition was weak. The pace was slow. Quite frankly, and this is putting it mildly, the edge of my seat was at no stage being put under any undue pressure.
The materialisation of a Mexican Wave that rippled round the ground not once, not twice, but about eight times tells you all you need to know. We had been advised on the tannoy to do it in order to avoid deep vein thrombosis.
As a slickly-marketed money-making exercise, it’s a winner. The ground was full and the Arsenal shops were rammed with punters. I took my 5-year-old and two seats cost almost £50. At half-time I bought three hot dogs and two plastic bottles of beer (I’m a weak man: I’ve broken the merchandise promise I made to myself after the ticket price rise already) and it set me back £21. So that’s a £75 day-out. The outlay didn’t really match in the input, but there you go, it’s a pre-season game, not the European Cup final. All the same, I had hoped for a bit more excitement than we got.
Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to be there with a mate and it was a good opportunity in a benign environment to bring my still-learning littl’un.
But really, I find it hard to read too much into individual displays or the collective performance when so little was at stake, and it was so obvious that was the case. It was my first glimpse of Gervinho – he looked sharpish and direct. There was Wilshere’s injury and Chamakh’s form to ponder, van Persie’s goals-scoring prowess to marvel at, there were Afobes and there were Bartleys to assess, there was Henry to applaud to the rafters but the bottom line is, it was a pre-season game, and there wasn’t much else to conclude. Booing at the end? There was some. Amazingly, there was some. Not exactly a great portent, is it?
We’re off to Benfica next (what’s that one in aid of?) before the season’s start in two weeks’ time. What will the starting XI be that day? That’ll be when it gets interesting.