Things are looking great ever since our record-breaking season last year.
The departure of a few stalwarts was imminent. Arsenal's youth policy and
my tendency to buy future stars have increased the demand for places in
the first team. First to go was Arsenal's most prominent left-back in recent
years - Silvinho (176/9). The Brazilian has had a wonderful time with us
and he has decided to seek for newer challenges elsewhere with Lazio. At
£22.5 million, he became Arsenal's third highest sale after the £25
million Barcelona paid for Marc Overmars plus Emmanuel Petit and the £24
million Real Madrid paid for Nicolas Anelka. Next up, 30-somethings
Robert Pires (136/44) and Ray Parlour (367/55) left for Tyneside where both
of them joined Newcastle for £9.25 million and £6 million respectively.
Bergkamp went on to become coach at IFK Goteborg.
With the extra cash generated from these sales, I bought in 10 players.
Pires's replacement, Van der Vaart joined from Ajax Amsterdam on a free
transfer. Antonio Cassano, a highly rated striker came from Bari at the
back of a £7.5 million transfer. Other notable purchases were defenders
David Hunt (Huddersfield), Mike Poole (Sheffield Wednesday) and Simon McGowan
(Notts County). Midfielders Ian Reed (Tottenham), Peter Smith (Sheffield
United) and Junior Elliot (Lancaster). As for the strikers department, Craig
Flynn (Rangers) and Adam Cook (Havant & Waterlooville). These transfers
cost a total of £15 million. My last transfer bid was for Sean Allaway
of Leeds United, it would turn out to be quite a wait.
Transfer news over the course of the season, Michael Owen joined AS Roma
for £36 million together with Francesco Totti, who return to his former
club for £29 million. Christian Vieri joined Ajax Amsterdam for £13.25
million. Bayern Munich bought Claudio Lopez and Vicenzo Montella for £15.5
million and £22 million respectively. Barcelona bought Stefano Fiore
for £24.5 million. Celtic bought big too, with David Beckham and Michael
Bridges joining them for £16.75 million and £10.75 million.
Our title challengers Chelsea bought Francis Jeffers for £9.25 million
while selling Tore Andre Flo to Borussia Dortmund for £10.25 million.
Fiorentina bought Robson Pnte for £16 million and Alvaro Recoba for
£10 million. Figo and Ryan Giggs joined Inter Milan. Milan equalised
the transfer record by buying Raul for £42.5 million, they also added
£15.25 million for Gaizka Mandieta.
This season would be a tough one since a few of the more experienced first
team players had left for greener pastures. The players that I've promoted
to the first team will have to perform their best to ensure that we retain
the trophies this time around. I had arranged a trip to South Africa for
our pre-season friendlies. It wasn't the best start that I've wanted, we
came face-to-face with Orlando Pirates (2-1), Kaizer Chiefs (1-1) and Manning
Rangers (0-0). The youth team didn't do much better when they drew with
Telford 1-1. The poor run of form stopped when we thrashed Halifax Town
4-1, with Barrett scoring a hat-trick. Then came the annual meeting with
Tottenham, who had just got promoted after 1 season in Division One.
35,000 fans gathered at White Hart Lane for a match which have become a
traditional fixture ever since I took over at Arsenal. Arsenal started well,
threatening the Tottenham goal a couple of times but Hugo Tavares kept his
team alive. It took us 21 minutes before finding the net, when Van der Vaart's
exquisite lob was well controlled by Henry who laid it into the path of
Ljungberg. GOAL! Then in the 35th minute, Saviola produced one of his many
mazy runs into the heart of the Spurs defence. GOAL! We came out in the
second half with a pretty much-relaxed team and still had full control of
the match. Ashley Cole added to the tally in the 69th minute by scoring
from outside the box. The match ended 3-0 and we were victors once more. [ScreenShot]
The Charity Shield match pitted us against Chelsea who had been league runners-up
for 4 straight seasons. The match will be a good indicator of whether Chelsea
would be able to usurp us from the Premiership throne. Nearly 90,000 spectators
gathered at Wembley for the match. It wasn't a good start from us and within
10 minutes, we lost Henry to an injury, which will sideline him for 3 weeks.
Barrett came on to replace him and soon got on the score sheet in the 20th
minute after good work by Ljungberg. Arsenal then took control of the match
but found much resistance in the Chelsea's defence. Second half started
in the same fashion as the first half. Right on the hour, Zenoni failed
to retrieve a pass allowing Greening to send the ball into the area. Barrett
unselfishly passed the ball for Saviola. GOAL! 10 minutes later, Bowyer
failed to control the ball outside the penalty area, Saviola came in and
put the ball into the back of the net. GOAL! 3-0 to Arsenal and we are quite
certain that Chelsea would not be in the run for the championship title.
We were in for a record breaking 4 European Super Cup titles if we were
able to beat Real Madrid in Monaco. 20,000 spectators were there for the
match. The stadium was divided into red and white halves. Arsenal started
the match positively and had Madrid pinned inside their own half. The first
goal came when Ljungberg's clearance found Saviola 25-yards ahead of goal.
Saviola unleashed an unstoppable shot. GOAL! 7 minutes later, Raul managed
to shrug off the attentions of Michael Clegg before scoring. But on the
half-hour, Ljungberg became the provider again, this time into the path
of Calaio. GOAL! Real Madrid found it hard to penetrate our defences. Then
right before half time, Joe Cole latched onto Vieira's pass before dribbling
his way into the area. GOAL! 3-1 to Arsenal in the first 45 minutes. The
second half was a relaxed affair as Arsenal kept hold of the possession
and forced Real Madrid to fight for the ball. We had the upper hand and
during one swift counter attack in the 77th minute, Calaio scored from long
range. GOAL! We had the Cup and the record was ours! Arsenal 4 Real Madrid
Pre-season Statistics : Played 6 Won 3 Drew 3 Scored 11 Conceded 4