By Richard Clarke
Arsenal cruised to a 4-0 victory at Barnet on Saturday in their opening pre-season friendly of the new campaign.
The tone was set after just 90 seconds when Andrey Arshavin waltzed round home keeper Jake Cole before tapping home. Jay Simpson added two more before the break as the visitors dominated.
Laurent Koscielny made his debut in the opening period while Arsène Wenger's other new signing, Marouane Chamakh, made his bow in the second half as the manager changed his entire XI.
The alterations made Arsenal less potent as an attacking force. Samir Nasri capitalised on a defensive error to grab a fourth in the 75th minute.
That was the last hoorah in a game that had long since petered out.
This was a decent run-out for both sides but it was not much of a contest. As curtain-raisers go, it did its job.
Bearing in mind that Arsenal's World Cup stars have not yet returned to training, Wenger put out the strongest squad at his disposal this afternoon. Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky, Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere started the first half. Nasri, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs were on show after the break. Although Manuel Almunia and Eduardo were named in the original 22, they were replaced on the day by Simpson and Wojciech Szczesny.
Barnet's Underhill ground has hosted Arsenal's first friendly for most of the Wenger era. It is always jam-packed, lively and sprinkled with talking points. Today was no exception.
The status quo would also be maintained in terms of the scoreline this afternoon. Barnet's best result in this fixture has been a couple of goalless draws. Today that was never an option.
In fact, it took less than two minutes for Arsenal to take the lead.
Arshavin darted in from the left and found Rosicky just outside the area. The pair then played a neat one-two in the tightest of spaces to send the Russian clear. He took his time, fooled the keeper and tapped home.
It was a ‘settling' goal and, as a result, Arsenal oozed confidence for the remainder of the half. Three minutes later, Emmanuel-Thomas cut in from the right and stung the hands of Barnet keeper Jake Cole with a rasping shot from distance.
Arsenal's control was complete. They grabbed their second goal in the 16th minute and, up to that point, Barnet still not mustered an attack worthy of the name.
The home defence afforded Jack Wilshere the luxury of time and space on the right of the area. A fatal mistake. He chose to find Simpson eight yards out, who slotted home with simplicity.
Shortly afterwards Vermaelen saw his shot booted off the line and, in the 35th minute, Wilshere hacked an effort wide from just outside the area.
Three minutes from the break, Arshavin teased his way into the area before curling a shot on to the bar with Cole beaten.
However, Arsenal would get a third before the whistle. The ball fell enticingly for Barnet midfielder Mark Byrne just outside the area but he could only produce an airshot. The ball eventually found its way to Arshavin, who broke quickly before feeding Wilshere in the left-hand channel.
His cross was low, immediate and straight to the feet of the unmarked Simpson at the far post. His tap-in was straightforward.
Wenger changed his entire team at the break. It made little difference to the tide of the game. In the opening minutes, Walcott burst through and his clip forced a fine save from Cole. A couple of minutes later Nacer Barazite tested the keeper once again.
Walcott went close once more on the hour but, in truth the sting had left the game. Just to prove the point, Arsenal took until the 75th minute to get their fourth and even that was handed to them. Barnet centre half Daniel Leach failed to control a lofted backpass on the edge of the area. Samir Nasri stole in, steadied himself and slotted home.
Byline crosses from Walcott on the right and Conor Henderson on the left threatened to provide a fifth. But there was never anyone on the end of them.
When the final whistle went, the game had been entertaining but, at the same time, far from even.
Referee: Mick Russell
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