Tomas Rosicky’s return to action in an Arsenal jersey highlighted the Gunners’ opening preseason match on Saturday, a 2-2 draw with Barnet at Underhill that featured plenty of reserves and youth team members in the encounter that now annually marks the start of preseason competition for the club.
After 18 months since last appearing on the pitch for Arsene Wenger’s side, Rosicky was given the captain’s armband and played the opening 45 minutes for Arsenal, and narrowly missed on a couple of goal-scoring opportunities in the first 20 minutes.
As arsenal.com’s Chris Harris noted in his match report, “Rosicky’s return was the big news before kickoff but he was not the only mouth-watering name in the Arsenal lineup. New signing Thomas Vermaelen made his debut, William Gallas returned from his own lengthy lay-off and Andrey Arshavin also started.”
It was the Russian Arshavin who notched the game’s first goal (in minute 42), slotting home from three yards out after being set up nicely by Sanchez Watt, who performed very well in his 45 minutes of action.
While Barnet equalized just before the break on a header off a corner, Arsenal again assumed command early in the second stanza, even with 10 changes at halftime. Wenger replaced all but new boy Vermaelen, inserting mostly youth team players for the closing 45 minutes.
Among the substitutes was Nacer Barazite, who was all over the pitch in the second half and scored a beautiful curler of a goal early in the stanza to regain the lead for the Gunners in the 49th minute.
As Arsenal gained control in the second half, Jay-Emmanuel Thomas and Jay Simpson had chances to extend the cushion but were denied, before Elliott Charles struck with eight minutes left after a scramble in the box, to earn the hosts the draw.
“Barnet gave us a good run out and for the first game it was quite good,” said Arsene Wenger after the match. “We played basically with the Youth Cup-winning team in the second half, and in the first half it was interesting because we were challenged physically. Barnet were well organized, committed and to improve our fitness it was just ideal.”
The manager thought new signing Vermaelen’s debut was a good one, remarking that “I think he had a good welcome to English football because he got some good challenges here. I think it was a good start for him overall. He is strong, solid, calm and when he became more confident in the second half you could see that he passes the ball well. He should be a good addition to the squad.”
Addressing the prospect of further additions to the squad, Wenger added that, “At the moment we are not very close to bringing anybody else – we are not on the verge of signing anyone.”
Not long after the match, media reports announced that striker Emmanuel Adebayor had finally completed his move to Manchester City after passing his medical and signing a five-year deal.
Arsenal looks to gain a reported £25 million from the sale of Adebayor, who will join Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz in a new-look City frontline.
But it seems Wenger is in no rush to replace the Togo international, saying that ”We’re not in a hurry because we have a big squad. We’ll see in pre-season if we need to make any additions.
”We have Rosicky and Eduardo back so we’ve lost a big striker but have gained two offensive players who were absent last season,” continued the manager. “We also have Nicklas Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott who can play striker. We have top players we can use as strikers.”
And Arsenal supporters may see some of these names in the team lineup as early as Tuesday, as the Gunners head to Austria for the next stage of their preseason with a match against SC Columbia in Vienna on July 21st.