I’m not that old. But I can remember Dennis Bergkamp’s first pre-season games. Or when we played the Old Firm at Celtic Park and Ibrox respectively in 1996, and lost both games.
Or regular games at St. Albans City, Barnet, Luton Town, and Borehamwood.
Yet now, due to the money of course, it’s about “International Champions Cups” in China, Australia, and the USA.
Or our own Emirates Cup, which of course is just to promote both ourselves and Emirates Airlines.
Commercialisation is ubiquitous in modern football, and somewhat to be expected. Every major sport these days is pretty much so. 20/20 cricket emerged in part to capitalise on the global sporting gravy train. So pre-season football, in contemporary times, has morphed in kind. I have a strongly ambivalent view towards this, as there are some positives, but FAR more negatives.
Arsenal is one of the world’s biggest and most supported football clubs. Along with Man U, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea, we are a global English football club, and a brand of British sport (and the UK itself in many ways).
So these overseas tours are understandable. However, why is a match in China vs. Bayern of such grand consequence? And why was our game vs. Chelsea on ITV of all channels? I can understand if it were on Quest TV (it’s nice to know how to polish antique doors, after all…) but the major commercial network is telling.
Without sounding like an old fogie, it never used to be this way. Pre-season was always about training, conditioning, and enhancing fitness. Nothing more, or less. I have lived overseas for several years, and I’m sure people back there would kill for Arsenal to visit. So I can appreciate why and how these things happen. But the overhyped fanfare that goes with it, including televised games that are overly analysed and scrutinised, is frankly bull.
Back “in the day”, ITV would never show one of our pre-season games, or those of United, Liverpool, or Chelsea and City. This naturally has changed though.
So Ozil had a supposedly bad game vs. Sevilla in the Emirates Cup. Lacazette, bar the goal he got in the same game, was poor. The team were not at 100% in the Sevilla game, and defended crappily in the Benfica match. So this means we’ll finish 8th, and get battered by the all the other top teams 6-0 apiece, right?
Well, no. Arsenal is not the only top English team to have suffered bad defeats. Chelsea lost to Bayern and Inter. Spurs lost to City. City lost to Man United. Real Madrid lost to Barca. I doubt Pep cares he lost to Mourinho at this stage. I doubt even Pochettino cares he lost to Pep, at this stage. I doubt Zidane cares he lost to Barca, at this stage.
Yet to see the rants and meltdowns on social media is pretty comical, as it is bizarre.
Life doesn’t have to be taken seriously, and pre-season football is certainly one of these facets.
This “international champions cup” BS (of which our game vs. Bayern was a part) adds to this. It’s funny that Spurs are in it, and have done worse, despite us only playing one game in it.
The hype about pre-season only detracts from what really matters, in getting fitness and ironing out the creases prior to the proper season.
As I write this though, pre-season has virtually ended, however this is something that’s become a big bug bear of mine lately.
Lacazette’s debut goal will be in either the Community Shield, or the Leicester game. Not against Sydney FC, nor Sevilla.
So let’s hope we can get off to a good start. And leave the anger AND joy to real game occurrences, not games that our sponsors and the club gain mutual financial benefits from.