Arsenal kick off their pre-season friendlies against Barnet on Saturday at Underhill at 3pm.
Ahead of the game, Arsenal.com spoke to Bees manager Paul Fairclough about his side’s approach to the game, their pre-season preparations, his admiration for Arsène Wenger's young players and the player in his team that is destined for the Premier League. Remember the game is being shown live on Arsenal TV and Arsenal TV Online.
Well Paul, how are Barnet’s pre-season preparations going?
Preparations have been good. We are in the midst of making a lot of changes in our approach with the players this season. We are looking closer at new fitness regimes and taking a much more serious look at the diet and nutrition of the team. That all has to come within the confines of the resources we've got but progress is good. We have a small squad at the moment, a very young squad, and there is some manoeuvrability for two or three additional players.
The team have played once already. How was that for the players?
We played with two teams in that game at St Albans. We had a group of established players, ones that had been with us last season. They played the first half. Then in the second half we played with some of the newer players to sign contracts, and some trialists.
How is the squad looking at the moment — you seem quite low on numbers?
Well there is investment available for us, there is no doubt about that. What we get in all comes back to the football club. It doesn’t equate easily though because we do have a a very strict pay structure at the club. For example if I were to go and spend £100,000 on a player, they will want a lot of money for wages and that would be way above our pay structure. So it is almost a Catch-22 situation. We can get the money in but we have to use it wisely. As I say if we get in a £100,000 player that will be on a four-year contract and that ties us in to a lot of wages for a long time.
One way around it is looking at loan options. Have you made any enquiries on that front?
Well Arsène did say to me, when we were in the Conference, that if we ever reached the Football League that he would loan us a player. That hasn’t happened yet, although we have asked. So I think that by demonstrating that we want to do things the right way, maintaining the quality of the pitch, playing the right style of football, and hopefully demonstrating that on the weekend then Arsène might reconsider and send some of the young players. I have studied them and I think there are several players at Arsenal who would really, really benefit from a spell with Barnet. Tottenham are very anxious for us to take some players and we took a young lad from Charlton last season. We would welcome it from Arsenal, of course we would.
And how does the process work of getting a player in like that?
We watch, we enquire and then get an answer. Normally the main answer comes from Liam and if he thinks that it’s right for that particular player then it will happen, but as yet it hasn’t.
Turning to Saturday, what do you make of the Arsenal team that will be on show?
I have seen the squad and it is mostly made up of younger players. There are young established first-team players there. I noticed that Nacer Barazite is in the squad; he is a player I have seen, a player I admire, and one I certainly think would benefit from a spell in the Football League. He is a very interesting character and reminds me a lot of Berbatov in his style of play. There is a lot of interesting young players at Arsenal, another one is Paul Rodgers who I think is down to play. He has impressed me. It is a strong side for Saturday and will be a very interesting contest.
And your team as well, there are is a former Gunner in the ranks in Adam Birchall. How pleased are you with him?
Adam is a tenacious young player, still quite young. He is playing at this level simply because his goalscoring rate needs to be better. His overall play, his link play, his technique, his passing are all very good. I believe that if Adam was scoring goals on a more regular basis then he would be playing at a much higher level and we are trying to help him achieve that.
Which players should the Arsenal fans coming down look out for?
There is a relationship between players in both teams actually. One of our players is very good friends with Gael Clichy. Kenny Gillet is his name and I think they went on holiday together this summer to Martinique. They are very close and I think you will see that before the game starts. Thankfully they are on opposite sides of the pitch, both left backs! We have got some good players here though. At the back is a player called Joe Devere who reminds me of a younger Martin Keown — rock solid steady, great reader of the game.
If you are looking for a player that is going to catch the eye that will unquestionably be Albert Adomah. Albert Adomah will play in the Premier League one day, I am confident of that and he is one to look out for. He is a young, vibrant, fearless player who is a sort of winger but I believe will end up as a centre forward one day; we may even give him the opportunity on Saturday. There is a link with Arsenal, too, in that we have a goalkeeper called Rob Beckwith who Arsenal took a serious look at about three years ago. A young player playing for Luton at the time but sadly did a cruciate ligament and was out for two years. He trained with Arsenal and there was an interest. He will be playing for us on Saturday.
How have you found keeping hold of your players this summer?
There has only been speculation of Adomah and Neil Bishop in the midfield. But both are here, back in line and although I would never say never in football, they are being guided by myself and the club and are fully behind what we are trying to achieve, which is promotion.
Looking ahead then. What are your hopes for the up-coming campaign?
There has been a gradual and continual improvement since we returned to the Football League. In the first season back we struggled and it went down to the final game of the campaign. The season after that was a consolidation period and then last time out we moved up and secured a better finishing position. I have bleated on about my young team and I can’t say that anymore. They are still young but they have experience. All those players I have of 19, 20 and 21 have all played a full season in the League. So it won’t be something I refer to certainly if we suffer defeats. They are young but do have experience and that will help them this season. We will be looking to push on and certainly grab promotion one way or the other. Ideally if I had a choice I would do it through the play-offs because that means a day out at Wembley stadium.
So what is the ingredient you need in order to achieve that?
The big ingredient is sadly resources. In most leagues money is directly correlated to finishing position, but I want to break that mould and get a team promoted who do so because they are hungry, not just because they get paid the most. I want them to be hungry, have energy, desire, passion and ability as well. I firmly believe that the current group of players have got that and should we be able to strengthen we will be in with a shout.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source