Arsenal play well twice, nearly score



By Myles Palmer

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SOME REFLECTIONS on the Amsterdam tournament.

Against River Plate, Arsenal did well to get a 0-0 draw with the side they had out.

The starting team was Almunia; Eboue, Senderos, Cygan, Clichy; Pennant, Fabregas, Ne, Reyes ; Jeffers, van Persie.

PENNANT defended very well.

GILBERTO came on as a sub and headed wide from a superb right wing cross by Reyes.

HOYTE came on as a sub and picked out Bergkamp with a marvellous flat cross.

Dennis headed it from 16 yards and it bounced a yard wide of the post.

REYES found Bergkamp with another floated cross, but Dennis took a second touch and his shot was blocked.

We have seen him volley harder chances than that,against England at Wembley, but DB10 is such a perfectionist that he did not want to sky it in his hometown.

SENDEROS is huge, but very cool and tidy.

If the Swiss Alp stays injury-free, he will feature quite a lot this season, I reckon.

AGAINST AJAX last Sunday night, Arsenal fielded a much stronger side

Lehmann made a blinding save from Zlatan, the big Swede whose surname takes too long to type: Ibrahimovic.

It was a typically tidy Ajax move and it looked a certain goal as the striker met a low, early cross from the right, but Lehmann parried away his pointblank shot.

On 16, Arsenal almost scored a spectacular goal.

Gilberto played it square to Flamini inside his own half and Flamini hit a 35-yard pass forward into Ljungberg’s run and Freddie backheeled the ball towards Reyes and when it popped up off a defender’s foot he managed to head it to Reyes, who half-volleyed against the bar.

GREAT MOVE !

FLAMINI is very energetic and brave, like Grimandi. I love that.

On 18, Freddie’s low cross just beat Reyes.

On 33, Ashley Cole kicked a Van Der Vaart free-kick off the line.

MAXWELL, the Ajax left back, is a Brazilian I like.

On 39, Reyes dribbles down the middle, straight as an arrow towards the goal, and is badly fouled by Nigel De Jong, who is booked.

In this game, Reyes is playing as a striker, not as a left winger, but he is still getting the ball too far from the box, so the free-kick is not in a dangerous position.

Reyes goes off on a stretcher, but comes back on after 42.

Then Zlatan clips a low cross into Lehmann’s body.

For a pre-season friendly, it’s fast, skilful, good fun – a good game.

ROBERT PIRES looks superfit and fast, but his weight of pass is only 95%.

Pires needs two more games to be near his most deadly form.

ON 64, REYES hits a phenomenal crossfield pass into the run of Pires, whose header is brilliantly saved by keeper Marteen Stekelenburg, a tall lad who could become as good as Edwin van Der Sar.

STEKELENBURG dives to palm a backpass off the line, but the ref does not blow.

A bizarre incident, which I have never seen before.

It’s a good save with his right hand, but the rules don’t allow him to handle that ball, so Dennis complains bitterly to the referee.

On 75, Reyes breaks and bangs in a shot, Stekelenburg saving.

A minute later, van Persie replaces Reyes, and the crowd give the former Feyonoord kid a hard time.

ALIADIERE can’t quite volley home a Bergkamp knockback.

OVERALL, Arsenal are full of energy and ideas, but the execution of their finishes is 10% off.

Even so, these two pre-season games clearly show the huge potential of an exceptionally gifted squad.

FLAMINI fits in well and looks a fine athlete and a midfielder who can do everything.

It was his first game in seven weeks, but you would never have guessed that that if Arsene didn’t tell you.

JUSTIN HOYTE is a very good passer, and fast.

While you can see he has never played against players as clever as the Ajax players, Hoyte can learn quickly.

Hoyte has a lot going for him.

Does Arsene really need Trablesi?

Only he can answer that question.

ON MONDAY NIGHT THE BBC sent a car for me at 10pm.

There is no receptionist at Stage Door, as they call it, but a man appears and says, “Are you here for Newsnight?”

We go through a double door and down a corridor.

I say, “Oh, are we on the ground floor?”

“Yes, it’s the same studio that Breakfast use in the morning.”

He leads me towards Studio Seven and into a Green Room which has three chairs, a coffee machine, a water dispenser and a TV monitor.

Matt Lawton of the Mail has arrived, so we chat about Sven, Palios and the FA.

Matt is close to the FA and knows more than most about what is going on.

He has written a story saying that Brooking will become acting chief executive and David Davies will be moved sideways.

He reckons that the arithmetic of sacking Sven is possible, in that they could hire a new manager, like Steve McClaren, for £1.5m a year and pay off Sven at £2.5m milion a year for the next three years.

We are joined by MP Alan Keen of the All-Party Football Group.

Alan has already been at the BBC for hours yesterday doing radio and TV pieces about this FA fiasco.

On the monitor, Kirsty Wark is interviewing a Democratic Senator in Washington.

We are joined by Steve Moxon, the immigration whistleblower, who has been sacked today.

He is taken in to be grilled by Kirsty.

Soon it’s our turn.

Off-air, Kirsty says I should feel free to come in when I want.

She says, “I want it to be like a conversation.”

Then we start talking.

Matt’s done plenty of broadcasting, so he holds it together.

Oddly enough, the talking is the easiest part of the night.

Four people talking is OK.

Then Kirsty shows the front pages of Tuesday’s papers, closes the show, the credits roll, a technician comes to unclip my mike at 11.20 pm.

“How long was that?” I ask.

“Nine minutes.”

Back in the Green Room, a twentysomething blonde appears in the doorway and says, “Well done, it went down well in the gallery.”

We stroll out to the foyer and shake hands and join our drivers and a black Merc wheels me home by 11.40 pm.

From a guest’s point of view, Newsnight is the most enjoyable broadcast I’ve done.

And the most efficient.

Everything is trimmed down, reduced to essential functions, and it runs like clockwork.

Well, it did that night.

Live TV, a lot can go wrong.

They have to do this five nights a week, so they have evolved an efficient modus operandi.

The Green Room is tiny, but does the job.

It’s a holding cell, not a hospitality suite.

I would have liked to stay a while, chatting to the producer about Bush, Osama and Iraq, but it can’t be like that unless you are Gordon Brown.

ON TUESDAY, a massive thunderstorm starts at 3 o’clock and, incredibly, goes on till 4.30pm.

Daughter Caroline calls to say there’s an armed siege outside her office in Willesden.

Plain clothes police in body armour have come in and told everybody to lock the doors and stay away from the windows.

Maybe a drug gang is being grabbed.

At 10.30pm we watch Newsnight and Kirsty says, “Just before we begin, the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that we’re not in our normal habitat. The tropical rainstorm that hit London this afternoon sent water flooding into the Newsnight studio.We’ve decamped to another studio in the building.

“First tonight, in a dramatic series of raids across England, police have arrested 13 men under special anti-terrorism legislation. The men were detained in Blackburn, Hertfordshire, Luton and North West London.”

Yes, I love London.

Always something happening.

August 5th 2004.