We started the new season by unveiling our new stadium - Ashburton Grove.
This 70,000 all-seater stadium cost the club £180 million and took
2 years to complete. It houses 8 restaurants, 5 pubs, a Gunners Megastore
and a shopping mall. The Arsenal Museum is also part of the stadium. Furthermore,
the offices for the Arsenal Sports and Community Centre are located within
the building. With a new stadium, everyone was looking forward to the new
season. Our chances of repeating the successes of past seasons depend on
how the team performs on the new pitch and how our rivals adapt. The stadium
was filled to the roof for the opening ceremony and I paraded Sebastien
Frey who was signed from Inter Milan for £14 million.
The arrival of Frey saw Richard Wright joining Liverpool for £5 million.
Rhys Weston and Paul Robinson were promoted to the first team together with
Graham Barrett and Alex Notman. Players leaving the club include Ryan Garry
who went to Lierse for free and Steve Simonsen to Chesterfield for £825,000.
I strengthened the Reserves with Anthony McCann (Weymouth) and Robert Clare
(Stockport) joining for £7000 and £750,000 respectively. Unsettled
Celtic midfielder Mark Fotheringham was signed for £400,000.
The first team started pre-season training with a tour of the Orient. We
lined up against 3 teams, Kashima Antlers (2-0), Nagoya Grampus 8 (4-0)
and Jubilo Iwata (2-0). On the other hand, the new look Reserves went head-to-head
against Wrexham and Cardiff City, winning 2-0 and 1-0 respectively. Highbury
was the venue for our match against Barnet, due to renovation work at Ashburton
Grove. Barnet was totally blown away with a 4-1 drubbing, with Saviola scoring
a brace. Then came the traditional visit to White Hart Lane despite the
fact that Tottenham Hotspurs is in the First Division.
Spurs showed us why they are favourites to make a quick return to the Premiership
when they took the lead just before halftime. We failed to convert our chances
and were kept at bay by their young keeper, Martin Jordan. Tottenham even
had a player sent off before we struck back with 2 goals in the dying minutes
from Bergkamp and Greening. 2-1 to Arsenal but it was the closest fight
we ever had. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they are now
a league below us.
The season opener Charity Shield match pitted us against staunch rivals
Chelsea. 90,000 spectators crammed inside the newly rebuilt Wembley Stadium
to watch the match. Claudio Ranieri has promised the ardent Chelsea supporters
that he will put a fight against Arsenal and he proved that with a couple
of new signings. Arsenal started slowly at first and Ferdinand limped off
after 9 minutes. Frey did a great job in holding off the multi-million Chelsea
frontline and I was quite pleased with his performance. Arsenal drew first
blood when Bergkamp made a solo run into the box and scored. GOAL! But 6
minutes later, Larsson scored at the other end. Before the Chelsea celebrations
had died down, Parlour lifted a cross into the path of Pires. GOAL! We were
back in front again and in the 32nd minute, Parlour threaded a pass towards
Henry who then struck the ball from 25 yards out. GOAL! Chelsea's defense
was totally torn apart and they had to get men back to defend. We started
the second half in cruise mode after having a 2-goal cushion. No matter
how hard Chelsea tried, we just held on. Just after the hour, Greening who
came on for Joe Cole pounced on a lose ball and tucked it a way with ease.
GOAL! 4-1 the final score and Ranieri wondered what would stop us from running
away with everything again. We have now registered a new record by winning
13 Charity Shield matches![ScreenShot]
The European Super Cup saw us facing an English side twice in 3 years. This
time around it's Southampton. Arsenal started the match aggressively and
we won ourselves a few corners before Woodgate rose highest to head home
the first goal after 7 minutes. This prompted Southampton to play defensively
and for the next hour, we were thwarted time and time again by their solid
defense. Just when Southampton were getting back their share of the possession,
we earned another corner and this time Vieira made no mistake, plunging
the ball into the net. GOAL! The match ended in a 2-0 win for us and we
were tied with AC Milan at 3 wins each.[ScreenShot]
Pre-season Statistics : Played 7 Won 7 Scored 17 Conceded 2