By Richard Clarke
Arsenal completed their pre-season friendlies in England with a 0-0 at Underhill on Saturday.
Arsène Wenger's side leave for their training camp in Austria next week and, when they return, will be heading up to Glasgow to play Rangers and Celtic. The Community Shield against Manchester United on August 10 takes place at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. So the next game on home soil for Arsenal will be the opening Premiership game of the season against Everton at Highbury on August 16.
A bumper crowd of 4,778 people turned up in short-sleeve weather at the ground that hosts Arsenal reserve games during the season. Wenger's men were given a tough workout by their Nationwide Conference opponents. Last season, only a late goal from Matthew Upson gave Arsenal victory. This time the Bees held on for the draw they probably deserved.
In all honesty the first half was a bit flat. Wenger's team for the first 45 minutes included two triallists. The first was 17-year-old left back Gael Clichy from AS Cannes, who appeared in the 1-0 defeat at Peterborough last Friday. The second was Yaya Toure, younger brother of Arsenal midfielder Kolo. He has come from Belgian club Beveren, who enjoy a technical relationship with Arsenal.
Yaya has the build and languid touch of Patrick Vieira. The similarity was sealed by the fact that he started the afternoon in central midfield and was wearing Arsenal's No 4 shirt.
Older brother Kolo set up one of the few chances of the opening period, crossing for Jeremie Aliadiere to flick a header wide. Soon afterwards, Barnet suffered a blow when new signing Liam Hatch leapt for a high ball with Pascal Cygan in close attendance and landed awkwardly. He was stretchered off in some distress. The half ended with Ray Parlour's cross flicking off the top of the bar.
In similar fashion to the Peterborough game, Wenger changed most of his side at the break. The alterations helped Arsenal get on top. John Halls burst through and sent a low shot against the keeper's legs.
Then Jerome Thomas bamboozled two defenders on the edge of the area before unleashing a left-foot shot that Danny Naisbett acrobatically palmed aside.
Then came the clearest chance of the game. Substitute Quincy Owusu-Abeyie used his pace to scoot clear on the right. He reached the byline and clipped an intelligent cross to the far post where Yaya Toure, who was pushed up front in the second half, had taken position. It seemed a simple job to nod the ball home but Yaya sent his header wide.
With three minutes of normal time remaining, Steve Pankhurst came on. The co-founder of website Friendsreunited.com had paid £5,500 in an auction for the chance to play for Barnet against Arsenal. His arrival brought comfortably the biggest cheer of the afternoon.
It looked like the 39-year-old would not get a touch but he restarted the play after a drop ball and as he dribbled up field the referee blew for full time.
Barnet: Millard (Naisbett 46); Hendon (Freeman 84), Maddix (J Smith 80), Plummer, Taggart (Pankhurst 87); Rooney (Henry 60), Pluck, Gamble (Roach 69), Strevens (Bai Mass 60), Hatch (Williams 30, Cumberbatch 80), Grazioli (Smith 69).
Arsenal first-half: Stack; Lauren, Campbell, Cygan, Clichy; Parlour, Yaya Toure, Edu, Kolo Toure; Thomas, Aliadiere.
Arsenal second-half: Stack (Holloway 72); Volz, Keown, Senderos, Cygan (Chilvers 60); Parlour, Halls, Svard, Edu; Yaya Toure, Thomas (Owusu-Abeyie 60).