Booed off after letting in a late goal – it's same old Arsenal

Familiar errors hit the Gunners as even Henry's return to the Emirates fails to lighten gloom. By Sam Wallace
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The Independent Online

Given they could not even win the tournament created for them by their sponsors – played at their own stadium with the opposition handpicked – then it is fair to say the portents for Arsenal's season are not good.

The Emirates Cup is a set of pre-season friendlies dressed up as a tournament in the robes of corporate sponsorship and no one should care who wins it – but context is all. The irony of Thierry Henry holding up the trophy with his New York Red Bulls yesterday after a 1-1 draw with Arsenal will not be lost on a club who have become masters of chucking away victories.

This is, after all, the same team that were in contention for all four domestic trophies in February and squandered them all and won only three out of their last 15 games in all competitions last season. Yesterday there were boos for Arsenal at the final whistle, which, even by the gloomy standards at the Emirates in recent years, must be a record in terms of early-season pessimism.

In classic Arsenal fashion, they took the lead through Robin van Persie in the 42nd minute, dominated the game, missed a bucketload of chances and gifted the opposition a late equaliser. In the 85th minute, Arsenal were undone by a clever pass by Henry that allowed Roy Miller to run down the inside-left channel in Arsenal's area and cross to the near post where Kyle Bartley could not stop himself turning the ball in. Different season, same old story.

Henry said after the game that he had requested to play for Arsenal in the second half but was told it was impossible. As the club's greatest goalscorer and arguably its greatest player, Henry is received with reverence. He is also a reminder of another era at the club when they were the pre-eminent team in the country, playing swashbuckling football that conquered all.

At times, they still play the same way but everyone knows this is a very different Arsenal team, seven years on from the "Invincible Season". Being booed off in a pre-season friendly is a terrible way to start.

Henry was the one man who seemed to enjoy himself, jogging a solitary lap of honour for the few thousand Arsenal fans who stayed around for the nonsensical trophy presentation. If he had played for Arsenal in that second half then maybe they would have won the Emirates Cup but, as they know too well here, there is no point clinging to the past; it is all about the future.