Arsenal got back to winning ways in pre-season, albeit thanks to a penalty shoutout, as we defeated Ligue Un Angers in the Raymond Kopa stadium.
Strangely, it was former Gunner Jeff Reine-Adelaide’s penalty miss that handed us the win, but before the shootout we had ninety minutes that featured plenty of action at both ends of the pitch and some standout performances that give us hope for our squad this coming season.
Unai Emery once again rotated and made full use of his squad for this game. Emi Martinez claimed the gloves this time around after Bernd Leno played versus Lyon, and our defence consisted of Calum Chambers at right-back, with Shkodran Mustafi and Zech Medley at centre back, with Nacho Monreal on the left.
In the centre of the park, Matteo Guendouzi partnered surprise inclusion Robbie Burton, who has definitely elevated his standing during this summer with his mature performances.
Up top, there was definitely a young feel to proceedings, with Tyreece John-Jules, Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson playing just behind sole striker Eddie Nketiah. Emery had opted to fully harness the strength of his squad, and that meant gametime for his promising kids.
We had been starting well in previous friendlies, but this time it was Angers who took the game to us, testing Emi Martinez aerially, before they actually took the lead in the 13th minute. A through ball took out our defence and El Melali rounded Martinez before finishing.
We hadn’t really got going, but our first move of intent involved Martinelli and Nelson combining well, but to no avail. Angers weren’t quite finished though, and Martinez had to be alert to snuff out the French side scoring again. Their deliveries were causing us problems, but Burton gave us our best chance so far, a good ball through to Nketiah who dealt with his marker well before finding Nelson who couldn’t quite find the target.
We had one more chance before half-time, and it happened just after Angers had a second goal ruled out for a foul. Martinelli flew into the box to get on the end of a Mustafi cross, but his glancing header narrowly missed with the Anger keeper beaten.
The second half saw two changes, with Dominic Thompson replacing Chambers on the right, with Maitland-Niles swapping with Nacho Monreal. The impact was instantaneous, or at least the team talk worked, as on the 49th minute, we had levelled the score through Reiss Nelson, who followed up on Eddie Nketiah’s blocked shot.
There was plenty more action in the second half as the Gunners improved, but what pointers can we take from this friendly, especially as the season draws ever closer?
Robbie Burton Needs/Deserves A Loan
This kid was a surprise inclusion for this pre-season and the tour to the US, and he has shown he merited the selection. It was on Ljungberg’s recommendation that Burton came along and his displays in the centre have belied his tender years. Burton was a good balance in the team and his passing and tackling were spot on. He’s one for the future but if he wants to continue to progress, he needs games, and continuity in his minutes. A Europa League appearance here and a League Cup appearance there will not suffice, and the club level needs to be Championship level if we want to see if these performances are not just a peak, that they are actually his level.
Medley Overtaking Mavropanos?
Last season, our young Greek defender was on the fringe of becoming truly established as one of our first choice backups. Now, thanks to his injury woes recently, and in no small part to Medley’s displays, Mavropanos now looks like he has fallen behind the youngster and with Holding, Mustafi and Sokratis, as well as Chambers to contend with, Mavropanos could need a year of regular playing time to regain not only his sharpness but his confidence too.
Where Does Ceballos Go?
The Spaniard is a welcome addition to our squad, and his transition play is excellent. But does he play in our three behind the lone striker? Or does he play in the central pivot? If so, will he replace Xhaka, who is most likely our next captain, or could we play a midfield three? Versatility is key, so our tactics may be more fluid than last season, with more choices in our squad to facilitate changes, even mid-game.
We now have one last friendly left, Barcelona at the Nou Camp just one week before the first game of the Premier League season.