No Fairy Tales In New York But Fantasies Realised
Thierry Henry and the New York Cup Arsenal Football Club's much publicized three-day visit to the United States came to an end on Saturday with a 0-1 loss to New York Red Bulls. By all indications, fans in the New York Metropolitan area were not disappointed despite the loss to the perennial Major League Soccer minnows. Personally, the best part of the visit was to see the congregation of thousands and thousands of Arsenal-loving crowd cladded in red and white and taking over the Grand Central Terminal in New York City and the European-styled Red Bulls Arena in New Jersey.
For die-hard fans and keen observers though yesterday's game presented perhaps the strongest argument against the commercially-driven transcontinental exhibition games. If a club is preparing to challenge for the title in perhaps the world's most competitive league, the last thing you will prescribe is a journey across the ocean to play a pre season game. Now, being the second outing for the team and given the fact that few of the players are playing in their first pre-season game no one was terribly disappointed with the display. To some degree, fans were rather amused to find Jenkinson, Gibbs, Hayden, and Monreal in front of Szczesny.
The frontline was equally 'experimental' to use Wenger`s characterization of the backline, and Rosicky could not be bothered playing in the center forward position. The midfield of Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Wilshere, and Zelalem was just a reflection of the talent amassed in that area. A notable point about Zelalem: there were huge expectations among American fans (hoping he commits to play for USA) but the teenager's display was rather pedestrian. It must be pointed out though that despite the score line and the below par performance, there were the occasional Arsenal's signature flashes especially in the first half.
The morning after the game I still hear the echoes of two animated topics of conversation by the mostly expat fans around me. The first topic of course was about Thierry Henry. This was a pseudo-testimonial match for him. The standing ovation before the start and after he came off brought goose pumps. And he was gracious in return. The other dominant topic was more of what-ifs and not surprisingly it was about Abou Diaby.
If you were a scout at the game and concentrating solely on Arsenal, you would have noticed Ramsey who was busy and gave plenty to be admired and perhaps Wishere who was aggressive but for most part errant; you would have surely noticed the display of Gibbs at the back. But the player who would have intrigued you the most will be Diaby. Obviously, this was just a pre-season game and should be seen as such but his commanding presence even before the Red Bulls rang in their changes was singular in its effect. After he`s drawn the loudest cheer from the stadium polishing off a fine finish later to be ruled offside we all bowed our heads, sighed, and wondered wistfully as the game cantered to the end.