Monday, July 27, 2009

This Match Brought to You by Chlamydia

I was at the Underhill a week too early to see Charlton's youngsters ripped apart by the Bees, but just in time to watch Andrei Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky, Manuel Almunia, Mikael Silvestre, and new signing Thomas Vermaelen feature at a packed stadium in a match sponsored by Chlamydia screening. Perhaps not the best way to improve tourism in Barnet (or the local dating scene).

No matter. The football was great. And the quality of Arsenal's youngsters is insane. Nacer Barazite, the 19-year old man Dutchman, scored the goal of the match to start the second half (mobbed by teammates in the photo below).

Another 19-year old, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, former captain of the U-18 squad and Adebayor clone, was another impressive reservist featured during the second half.

Arsenal's supporters were also treated, in the first half, to runouts by two extremely talented 17-year olds, Englishman Jack Wilshire and Ghanaian Emmanuel Frimpong (both pictured below).

But the real treat for me was getting to see Andrei Arshavin up close. Physically, Arshavin is unimpressive, just slightly taller than me, with the same build (but far more fit). But in the run of the play, his anticipation and movement is unparalleled. Arshavin sees angles and lanes before anyone else can and is able to get himself substantial space. Throughout the first half, Arshavin lined up Barnet's center halves and spliced them apart. And I don't think it made much of a difference that the opposition was Barnet; I'm looking forward to catching the occasional fixture this season to see what he can pull off with a bit more experience in the EPL under his belt.

And yet, despite the quality of Arsenal's squad, Barnet played valiantly and thoroughly deserved the 2-2 result. The packed stadium filled with Arsenal supporters, designed for supporters that weigh no more than 10 stones, rang out in appreciative applause for Barnet's efforts at the end of the friendly.

Loved the experience, loved the match, loved the stadium, loved the supporters, love football tourism.

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