We had a short training period before the start of the new season as most
of the players were involved with the Confederation Cup competition. Arsenal
became the major item for pre-season transfer gossip. It was stated in a
local newspaper that major European clubs was courting Vieira and that he
has told his friend that he will be leaving soon. I wasn't on hand to sort
out the matter as I was with England at that time, but the news had riled
up the team and by the time I came back, Arsenal were having major problems
with the players.
First to go was Stuart Taylor (11/0). The arrival of Sean Allaway last season
has dented his hopes of playing for Arsenal's first team. An offer of £1.8
million by Division 1 side Aston Villa was soon accepted and off he went.
Next up, talented striker Joe Osei-Kyffour (17/3) who was just promoted
to the first team last season but failed to play much due to the prolific
record of Cassano and Calaio, joined Turkish side Galatasaray for £7
million. He might be facing us in the Champions League as Galatasaray had
just qualified for the competition. The prospect of teaming up with Mario
Jardel was too much for him to resist.
Steven Sidwell (8/1) went to Celta Vigo at the back of a £4.2 million
deal. The impressive midfielder was the back bone of our Reserves team but
I wasn't able to play him as much as I like since we have a couple of midfielders
playing in his position. The transfer to Celta Vigo would be a good experience,
as the Spanish club will be taking part in the UEFA Cup competition this
season. On the other hand, James Harper (15/1) and Alex Notman (53/7) went
down a division to play for West Bromwich Albion and Swindon respectively
in the Nationwide First Division. Both of them failed to make the grade
and I was glad to see them go. The first shock transfer of the season was
AS Roma's bid of £9 million for John O'Shea (80/1). The reason behind
the bid was that AS Roma has lost their race to keep Vincent Candela with
the team and had no choice but to sign a respectable defender to fill his
boots. So off he goes and I was happy with the deal as I had him for £325,000
when he first came to Arsenal.
The transfer saga of the season has just begun. Vieira came back from his
holiday saying that he needed a newer challenge. Winning the Premiership
wasn't what he wanted anymore. He says he would like to win the European
Cup with another team. I was reluctant to let him go as he was the club's
designated captain for 5 years already and has been the powerhouse in midfield.
Losing him would be a blow for us. Unfortunately he had his mind set on
leaving and I had no choice but to place him on the transfer list. In the
end, Real Madrid made the highest bid of £29 million for him and I
agreed to sell him to them, making him Arsenal's most expensive sale. Fans
turned out in droves to see him off and to thank him for his services for
the last 10 years. Patrick Vieira finally left the team on the 17th of August
a few days after he had won the Charity Shield for us, having played 289
games and scoring 35 goals. Fredrik Ljungberg followed soon after having
said that he has given Arsenal his best for 8 years already and he thinks
it's time for him to move to other clubs and try to win other trophies.
Juventus promptly followed up with a £20 million bid which I accepted.
There goes 2 of our most influential players. Ljungberg played 225 games
for us, scoring 58 goals.
Real Madrid soon came after another of our players, goalkeeper Paul Robinson
(48/0). They made a bid of £1.5 million, which I accepted since Sean
Allaway would be second in line after Sebastien Frey. Lastly, I let Ashley
Cole leave the club on a free transfer after he failed to impress me last
season. He joined Nancy of France after playing 123 games and scoring 4
My only purchase came as a surprise too. Pablo Aimar who had attracted my
eye ever since I took charge of Arsenal went from AS Roma to Fiorentina
after having a torrid time at the Rome-based club last season. A few friendlies
later, his agent contacted me requesting me to buy him from Fiorentina.
It seems that Aimar has a clause inserted into his contract stating that
he would be able to leave the club if Arsenal ever contacted him. A couple
of calls later and he was on his way over to Arsenal for £12 million.
His addition would add another playmaker to the squad in addition to Joe
Cole and Javier Saviola.
Due to international commitments and the transfer sagas, there was no overseas
trip for the team this time around. It was time for me to try out the team
before the start of the new season. Knowing full well that we would be weaken
by the departure of a few key players this season, I hope that the replacements
that I've drafted in would work well as they did last season.
First up, we went to Swindon for the first friendly of the season. A brace
from Cassano and another by Henry secured a 3-1 win for us. Further matches
include a run of 4 consecutive clean sheets with wins over Carlisle United
, Walsall (5-0) [ScreenShot]
, Telford United (2-0) and Birmingham City (3-0). Then
came the annual match against Tottenham Hotspurs. They were no match for
us as we won 3-1 courtesy of goals from Cassano, Henry and Ljungberg.
The Charity Shield would be the last match for Vieira and Ljungberg whose
transfers were settled a day ago. 75,000 spectators gathered at Wembley
for the match. There was a slight shower but it didn't deter the fans from
turning up. Banners were strung up high wishing all the best to the two
players who would be leaving. Arsenal started the match strongly but was
mostly held at bay by a determined Southampton side. It took us 70 minutes
before Saviola latched onto a long pass from Ferdinand before rifling a
dipping shot at goal. GOAL! It turned out to be the only goal of the match.
After the match, Vieira and Ljungberg did a lap of honour before bowing
to the Arsenal fans and thanking them for their support.[ScreenShot]
Next up we have to face Boavista in the European Super Cup. They were the
surprise package of last season's UEFA Cup competition. Beating Deportivo
la Coruna of Spain in the Final. Last season's win was their best ever achievement
in Europe. Stade Louis in Monaco was the venue as always and this time around
we had more support. 22,000 fans turned up for the match, which was held
under a hot sun. Arsenal was in full control for the whole 90 minutes of
the match and deservedly took the lead in the 18th minute via Henry spectacular
bicycle kick. Then, a 5-minute spell in the second half saw us scoring 2
goals from Henry and Joe Cole. End result, Arsenal 3 Boavista 0. Seems to
me that we will not be facing any major problems when it comes to defending
our Premier League title.[ScreenShot]
Pre-season results, 6 games yielded 6 wins. We scored 20 and conceded 2.