8th August 2008
After suffering the narrowest of defeats against Juventus on Saturday, Arsenal bounced back with an extremely impressive performance against Spanish giants, Real Madrid, and a comeback win against Huddersfield Town. It was good to see the scrupulous passing and the exquisite movement back in the Arsenal play during the Madrid game, as it hasn`t been on full display during most of the pre-season games. Ajax will be another difficult test for the Gunners, which will hopefully prepare them for the Champions League qualifier against fellow Dutch side FC Twente, who ironically eliminated Ajax from the qualifying round of Europe`s finest tournament.
Some Arsenal fans that travel to the Netherlands will be looking to see and greet the new youth coach of Ajax, the legendary Dennis Bergkamp. I know this really has no bearing on the game tonight, but it is still an interesting sub plot to the whole shebang.
After another season on the injury table, Robin Van Persie is looking to get back to his best. He told ATVO "I played 45 minutes against Stuttgart, 65 [against Madrid], and hopefully [this] weekend I can play 80 or even a whole game. So that`s it for me, I just need to improve in every single training and every single game and hopefully I can get back as soon as possible to the top level."
He spoke about the Amsterdam tournament this weekend too. "It`s always a nice tournament and it`s always nice to go there, and I love to play against Ajax and I love the whole tournament."
The Dutchman also gave the inside scoop on our opponents for next week, FC Twente. "They have a good pitch there, everything is okay with it."
"Twente did really well last year but they lost two good players, El Ahmadi went to Feyenoord and Engelaar went Schalke, so that`s a big blow to them, but they were really making the game last year, those two left now but they brought in two or three players."
"In the end it looks like a good draw, but you never know or otherwise they wouldn`t be here"
Ajax Team News:
This will be Ajax`s third game against British opposition in eight days. Ajax played Aaron Ramsey`s old side, Cardiff City, on the first of the month and surprisingly the Welsh side came out the better in a tepid 0-0 result. Their next game was against Wearside opponent Sunderland FC on Sunday and in this game the Dutch side played better but still not to the total football standards we`ve become accustomed to from Ajax. Marco Van Basten has promised that he will bring the flair to the Ajax team that the whole world saw in his Euro 2008 Netherlands team, and Van Basten will be looking to make true of his word against a couple of top-class opposition this weekend and that starts against the Arsenal.
Player to watch: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Who else could I pick to watch for the Amsterdam club other their captain who has scored 70 goals in 82 appearances for Ajax. Huntelaar has been linked with a move to many big European teams, including Arsenal, for years now but somehow Marco Van Basten has managed to retain his skipper`s services at the Amsterdam ArenA for the upcoming season. His knack for scoring goals will need to be kept under wraps during this game.
Arsenal Team News:
Personally I expect the strongest possible side for the first game of this tournament, so the team can get acclimatised to Dutch football before their Champions League qualifier against FC Twente. Though, Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby did not travel to Holland because of knee/thigh injuries. Nasri is just out with a precaution and will be ready for the game against FC Twente, but Diaby`s is more of a serious injury. On a more positive note, Cesc Fabregas will probably make an appearance. Denilson will probably be his partner in the centre of the pitch.
Player to watch: Robin Van Persie
The former Feyenoord Rotterdam player is hated by the Ajax faithful for the simple reason of playing for Feyenoord, but Robin reveled in the hatred during last season`s Amsterdam tournament. Van Persie, who was even assaulted by Ajax fans while playing a match for the Rotterdam club, will certainly be looking to have a repeat performance from last year after scoring a late winner against the Dutch side in the 2007 edition of the tournament.
2-1 to the Arsenal. Van Persie, Adebayor, and Huntelaar to grab the goals in an entertaining display of football from both sides.