Barcelona won the Joan Gamper Trophy for the seventh year in succession when they beat Arsenal two goals to one on Sunday the 4th August. The final, which is always held at Camp Nou, Barça’s home ground, was watched by the biggest ever Gamper Trophy crowd – some 98,812 spectators.
As a welcome to the new football season, the result couldn’t have been better for the home team. Before kick-off, Barcelona’s manager, Ernesto Valverde, paraded out his two of his five new acquisitions: Antoine Griezmann ex Atlético Madrid and Frankie de Jong the new goalkeeper from Valencia. All were included in Barça’s starting line-up.
Arsenal, who some are predicting will finish seventh in the upcoming Premiership season, were without last year’s captain, Laurent Koscielny, who after a bad-tempered prelude has now returned to France joining Bordeaux, the French Ligue 1 side.
Barcelona are not as far advanced in the preparations for the new season as Arsenal – and it showed. Without Lionel Messi, Blaugrana did not pose much of a threat and they went 1-0 down to a well-taken goal from Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in the 36th minute.
As with all friendlies, they give the managers the opportunity to get as many squad members involved as possible. Accordingly, Valverde made seven changes at halftime and in the second half, the Spaniards looked a much more cohesive side.
A fine effort from Ousmane Dembele went just wide of the post, and Carles Alena brought a fine save out of Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno. Arsenal finally succumbed to an improved Barcelona side when in the 69th minute, midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles had a misunderstanding with his goalkeeper resulting in an own goal.
Luis Suarez came off the bench in the 65th minute. He had an immediate impact because in the 69th minute, it was his bullish challenging for the ball that led to the mistake, creating the Arsenal own- goal. As so many times in the recent past, it was Luis Suarez who again saved Barça’s bacon by scoring the winner with an instinctive volley in the 90th minute.
As well as Messi, Barça were without Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal. All three took part in the 2019 Copa America tournament and only got back to Spain the same day that the Gamper Trophy final took place.
Although they got the right result, Ernesto Valverde will be disappointed with his side’s performance. But they still have just over a week before their new La Liga season kicks off. They are currently in the US where they are playing two matches against the Italian Serie A side, Napoli.
Unfortunately for Messi and Barcelona, the Argentinian strained a calf muscle in training, and he was left behind as his teammates flew off to the US.
The first of the two games against Napoli in the US resulted in another 2-1 win for the Spaniards. The second friendly is due to take place on Saturday 10th August.
If they can win the second match too, they will have won all three of their pre-season games, ready take on Athletic Bilbao away in their first match of the 2019 La Liga season.