Henry makes up for Vieira's absence

Rushden and Diamonds 0 Arsenal 2 (Henry 69, Volz 87)
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Just the two goals and one from a Frenchman, Thierry Henry curling his shot inside the post after 69 minutes. But how the Arsenal entourage would have loved it to have come from his compatriot Patrick Vieira.

But there was as much chance of that as the Diamonds buying the Gunners' hugely influential midfielder, who was not among the 19 players listed on the team sheet before this match. It begged the question: if he was not in Northamptonshire for this friendly, was he, perhaps, in talks with Real Madrid, negotiating a Spanish transfer? His manager, Arsène Wenger, reiterated after the match that he was staying put.

However, Vieira was not the only absentee for this match against the newest member of the Football League. Indeed, Wenger could virtually have fielded a whole team from those who were not present. The summer's new acquisitions, for starters, were not involved – all £21m worth of Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Francis Jeffers and Richard Wright – let alone Sol Campbell.

This was not North London but it is north of the capital and Wenger clearly was not going to take a risk either with his fitness or that Campbell might face the wrath of any expatriate Tottenham fans wandering in to Nene Park.

But then add in the missing Robert Pires, Nwankwo Kanu, Ashley Cole, Silvinho and you realise what strength Arsenal have in depth. At the same time the fear of losing Vieira – even for extravagant sums – also reveals how fragile their team is.

Arsenal finished last season second in both the Premiership and the FA Cup and it was a campaign marked by an inability to take their chances when presented. The Cup final against Liverpool proved that frailty time and again.

Henry was the main culprit on that May afternoon but for his performance then, read Dennis Bergkamp here. The Dutchman, whose goal contribution to Arsenal has gently been receding over the last three seasons, had more than one chance to shake off the summer rust, four weeks before the Premiership begins.

On half-time, Matthew Upson found Bergkamp but his shot was headed off the line by Paul Underwood. He also let another chance slip by after just 12 minutes. The substitute Moritz Volz showed him how it should be done with a good finish three minutes from the end.

Meanwhile, Diamonds, managed by the former Gunner Brian Talbot, stood by and watched. Or at least until the 29th minute when Shaun Carey hit a rising shot over the bar. For a team financed by the founder of Dr Martens, that could have been a real shot in the arm for the new boys and a much-needed kick-start for the visitors.

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