After all the hype, all the money, all the dissent... Arsenal won their final pre-season friendly against Manchester City by three goals to one. The game was obviously still pre-season, nothing particularly meaty or controversial. The match was entertaining, with a few sideshows, and most of the attendees will have gone home happy.
At the final whistle
I'd started the day early, breakfasting at a BBQ diner in an abattoir in Kallio, with a Karhu of course. Shortly after the real boozing began, with €2.80 beers going down a storm. After a spot of bar-hopping, we found that the Olympiastadion had a fan area open, with plenty of bars, live music and people... At that point it was obvious that there were a lot more Arsenal shirts than Man City - the clear tone for the evening.
There was a good atmosphere, but with no amount of cringe. In the seats, under the big screen in the Pohjoiskaarre (north end), the teams came out... To the theme tune from Superman. Oh dear. From where I was, there were red and white shirts everywhere, and plenty of noise. Some of the older Arsenal chants were sung, in heavy Finnish accents. The jerseys had Wilshere and Cazorla on the back, while even Mrs ETS donned a 1970s home shirt.
Arsenal's early goal helped proceedings, Theo Walcott beating Joe Hart after Ramsey's great pass. It gave the crowd some momentum and kept the few City fans quiet. By half-time, everyone was thirsty for a beer, and although the option was Carlsberg, they did good business at €7 a pint. In the second half, goals from Ramsey and Giroud were lapped up, while Negredo's goal pointed out where the blue fans were (there weren't many).
Cameo appearances from Samir Nasri (booed heavily) and former Finland U21 international Carl Jenkinson added some more pantomime to the proceedings before the final whistle. The photo below will help cheer up any Gooner.
At the final whistle, the customary presentations were made on the pitch, to some music from Rocky IV... Walcott won man of the match, and the players trudged off - but there was time for Jenkinson to do a lap of honour before heading off. Carl had spoken to the Arsenal website about his difficult decision in choosing England, but was warmly cheered by the spectators. He threw his shirt into the crowd, and seemed pretty moved...
The aftermath of the game revealed some of the feeling in Finland - an attendance of over 39000 football fans who could have been elsewhere, especially as the much-hyped SuperMatsi in Jyväskylä got JJK's second lowest attendance of the year. There were even noises in HS that Finland would love to host a 39th game, if the Premier League ever rebooted that idea (surely not).
For me, it was nice to see my team in Finland, and a nice way to spend a weekend. There were a few familiar faces, and nice to catch up with friends and family. I was asked if I'd fly over just for Finnish matches, and of course I would - not this year though, I've seen four matches in Finland in the last 9 weeks and I'm skint.
Who's that handsome chap in the shades at the top of the group shot?
A nice weekend. Hopefully Arsenal will be back for real next time. Preferably in Kuopio!
In case you forgot
Highlights of Arsenal 3-1 Manchester City