Barnet 0 - 4 Arsenal: Match Report

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Arsenal opened their pre-season with a breezy 4-0 win at the Underhill against League Two side Barnet.

The Gunners had a 21 to 4 shot advantage over the course of the game.  As one would expect from the first competitive play of the preseason, the tackling was light and the play thus pretty open.

Arsenal fielded their usual 4-3-3 formation for the entire match.  They began with Lukas Fabianski in goal, a back four of Havard Nordveit, new signing Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen, and Armand Traore.  Emmanuel Frimpong played defensive midfield (and pressed excellently all half), while Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere handled the more creative midfield duties.  Andrei Arshavin played on the left, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the right, and Jay Simpson played center forward.

Arshavin opened the scoring after only two minutes, combining with Rosicky in a nice 1-2 on the edge of the box before rounding the keeper and poking the ball home.  Arsenal then proceeded to dominate possession for almost the entire half with both good midfield pressing and their usual display of one-touch passes.  Barnet struggled to hold onto the ball, persisting in their attempts to play out from the back despite Arsenal's high pressing game.

That pressing paid off again for Arsenal's second, Emmanuel-Thomas tackling high up the pitch and regaining possession.  The ball eventually fell to Wilshere on the right and the midfielder was able to drag it back for Simpson to pass it into the bottom corner.

The Wilshere-Simpson combination also combined for Arsenal's third goal just before halftime, Arshavin leading the counterattack, finding Wilshere running through the Barnet back line with a through ball which Jack squared across the face of goal for Jay Simpson to tap in at the back post.  All in all, the first half eleven for Arsenal completely outplayed Barnet, with the Bees only having one good chance on goal when Armand Traore got a little sloppy with his marking and left his man free to run through behind the defense.

Arsène Wenger changed the entire squad for the second half.  Vito Mannone came in at keeper; the back four featured Craig Eastmond, Johan Djourou, youth team player Ignasi Miquel, and Kieran Gibbs.  Henri Lansbury, Conor Henderson, and Samir Nasri formed the midfield trio, and Nacer Barazite, new signing Marouane Chamakh, and Theo Walcott led the attack from left to right respectively.

Barnet began the second half much more brightly, pressing harder to regain possession and attempting to get passes in behind the Arsenal defense.  Twice Mannone had to rush forward to break up the Bees attack; the Arsenal midfield in the second half was pressing with less urgency, allowing the Barnet creative players more time to organize their build up play.  Good play from Mannone and Djourou kept them at bay, and in the 67th minute, Wenger brought on Wojciech Szczesny for Mannone.

Arsenal began to reassert their control of the match after about the 70th minute as the Bees pressure in midfield grew weaker, and Samir Nasri added a fourth goal after Barnet defender Daniel Leach stepped on a backpass and tripped, leaving Nasri free to run onto the ball and slot home past Jake Cole.  Arsenal threated numerous times after the goal, Walcott in particular finding a lot of room to run to the byline but unable to pick out a good cross (although Barazite and Chamakh were rarely home on the far post).  Chamakh showed glimpses of why he is so highly thought of by Wenger; his ability to hold off defenders while dribbling and create his own shot or set up players making runs was apparent.  It remains to be seen whether he can do the same against full-strength opposition.

All in all, it was a solid runout for the squad and a good way to begin the season.  No injuries occurred on either side.

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