The Centre can be found in leafy Hertfordshire, just 45 minutes drive from Emirates Stadium. It has 7 training fields, one indoor field, an indoor pool, a sauna, a weight room, locker rooms, and a cafeteria.
During our down time in between sessions, we had a chance to check out Arsenal vs. Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium. We were privileged to witness first hand a culture most will never see or even imagine. Chanting fans stood in a packed house cheering their colors on and with Arsenal sitting a top the table and Villa in Fifth, it was sure to be an intense affair.
With Man Utd (my team) playing just down the road against Fulham at Craven Cottage and looking to catch the Gunners, everything was on the line. To be honest it wasn’t Arsenals best football as Villa was giving them a difficult time by keeping things in front of them and playing to the counter. With the Game 1-0 in the 93rd minute in favor of Martin O’Neill’s side, I was sure they would escape with all three points.
The Gunners had other ideas as Nicklas Bendtner equalized in what was literally the last play of the game, sending 60,000 plus into a frenzy and Villa supporters into agony.
It was something else seeing tens of thousands singing and chanting together trying to cheer there team to victory. Every player had a song, every defensive breakdown or offensive chance received an applause from the crowd and you could tell they understood the game, took it very seriously and it seemed as though their lives depended on the outcome of this match.
After the game we were in awe of what we saw. If you have ever seen the movie Green Street Hooligans, then you can get a feel for what I am talking about as supporters groups (or “Firms” as they are called were everywhere) were taunting and provoking other Firms into action. Police on Horse and on foot stood ground keeping everybody at bay.
We had a handful of players who bought Arsenal scarves and as they were walking through a group of Villa supporters, they were greeted with not so nice words. It was really an eye-opening experience for all of us, if not a little scary.
In the last few days we have had a couple of Exhibitions against a two local clubs. On Wednesday we played
To be honest the score was a little misleading. We completely dominated the match, and in fact our only defensive miscues resulted in goals against, which was something we addressed afterwards as it’s obviously better to get these sorts of things sorted out now rather on opening day.
Our second game did not go in our favor on the score card, but I feel we got more out of as we played the Arsenal Reserves, who had five first team players in their starting lineup. Among them were Gilberto, Bendtner, Van Persie, Theo Walcott, Denilson and I can tell you first hand there is a reason why Arsenal sits a top the Premiership…. They are damn good!
The squad’s depth was undeniable as their play was fast and with purpose. It was a good test for us and for myself, even getting into the mix and playing the first 30 minutes. I wish I could have done more, but Doctors orders are Doctors orders.
2-1 in favor of the Gunners was the final score, but we left with many positives. You see, when you play a team of this quality you have to take care of the ball, possessing and picking and choosing when to attack. I felt we did just that and we were rewarded with a goal late in the match by Colin Clark. The outcome was secondary to the valuable lessons that the match provided to our young team.
Now as we look forward to finishing out the week strong, we are stepping up our 2008 MLS preparations with an upcoming game next week in
Expect my next post to come from beautiful
image via Isiphotos