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Leyton Orient (0) 0 - 1 (1) Arsenal

Brisbane Rd. Saturday 12th July 1997



First half         Lukic
         Crowe Bould Grimandi Winterburn
          Petit  Platt Parlour Boa Morte
                Bergkamp Shaw

Second Half      Manninger
        Selley  Grimandi Marshall Petit
         Mendez Platt Hughes Boa Morte
              Shaw Bergkamp

     on about 65mins, Black and Rankin came on
                      for Shaw & Boa Morte

scorer:  Shaw (4)
As is so often the way with these things, it was a pretty dull game. Everyone seemed just a bit wary of injuring themselves, and with the injuries plus extended breaks for international players, we were missing practically a whole first team (Seaman Dixon Adams Keown Vieira Overmars Wright). Nevertheless it was a good opportunity to see most of the new signings in action (Boa Morte, Petit, Grimandi, Mendez, Manninger), as well as a few of the home-grown players who haven't broken through yet (Rankin, Crowe, Black).

Boa Morte and Mendez both looked very quick and tricky, and both hung onto the ball a little too long. But that's fair enough in a game like this, and it was nice to see Bergkamp being particularly unselfish throughout. I'm sure we'd have had a few more goals to remember from it if he'd decided he was going to go for it on his own a few more times (he was a class above the rest), but he was happy just to set things up for the new boys. He set up the goal for Shaw, straight from an Orient corner. The pass for the goal was perfect yes, but let's not kid ourselves: it didn't have to even be very good to put Shaw clear, he'd been left in so much space!

As it happened the best chances in the second half fell to Orient not us. It could easily have been a draw. But as these tentative affairs go it was unusually entertaining, for Arsenal fans at least, because of all the new talent on show and the fact that Boa Morte doesn't just look like Wrighty in photos but on the field too. Uncanny.

Crowe was rather disappointing, particularly defensively (he did have a good run and shot, but one has to wonder whether this means much against the likes of Orient). In a game where all the other Arsenal players were a bit quicker in thought and deed than their opposite numbers, Crowe stood out for me as the weak link. I was surprised, with our riches in midfield now, that Parlour didn't spend either half at full-back. Surely as things stand he has to be our first choice deputy for Dixon. As for the other youngsters, I didn't see Rankin do much to get excited about, but Black ran extremely fast down the right wing a couple of times. With the ball, as well!

Petit and Grimandi: sheer class and must be first choices. Grimandi is a strong central defender who looks comfortable bringing the ball out. Not as tall as most centrebacks though (but he gets up well to make up for it). Petit bossed things in the first half, good all over, joined in attacks and forced a save with an excellent long-range effort as well as clipping the bar with a header. He dropped out of things in the second half and on this eveidence we can only hope we see lots of him in midfield and rather less at left-back!

I'm not so sure about Mendez and Boa Morte, we've just got too many midfielders for either of them to be automatic picks (and we haven't seen them play Premiership defences yet). I don't remember either of them crossing the ball much, they were more run-till-you-get-pulled-down types, with some low drives into the box thrown in. It's also hard to judge Manninger from Saturday. He had one save to make and made sure it looked impressive with his arched-back flying tip-over. The Orient effort that forced the save was pretty special actually, the striker lifted the ball over one of our guys in the box, a la Gascoigne vs Hendry, but instead of blasting it he lofted it towards the (inside) top of the net.

We saw 16 or 17 players most of whom looked up to the grade, and we have (at least) another 8 players who didn't feature but are all either first choice or possibly first deputy (MK & NA) in their positions. So that's pretty positive.

Weird fact: This was Arsenal's first One-Nil win under Arsène Wenger!

comments by Rupe.

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