Arsenal concluded their pre-season sojourn in Singapore with a thumping win over Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint Germain, with a resounding 5-1 scoreline and some assured performances from within the team.
Unai Emery had seen their first match in the International Champions Cup end in a defeat on penalties to Atletico Madrid, but wasn’t swayed to stick all the big boys in the side, as a subtle blend of youth and experience saw the Gunners coast to victory over the French champions.
Bernd Leno was preferred in goal, and a defence of Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi and Kolasinac held firm in the first half, but in truth they weren’t too stretched, as Tuchel’s fresh-faced side didn’t pose too many problems.
Also, Arsenal’s midfield of Mohamed Elneny and the again excellent Matteo Guendouzi ran the show. with the young Frenchman showing a fabulous range of passing and drive.
Our attack comprised Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top, and they linked up well and showed impressive movement, and it wasn’t long before the scoreline was altered in the Gunners favour.
A great ball from out wide after a sizzling breakaway from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found a lurking Mesut Ozil, who finished calmly past Gigi Buffon to give Arsenal the lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish during the first half. Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and Auba all went close to doubling the lead, but Buffon showed there was life in the Italian, as he denied all other attempts.
The second half had inevitable changes, and for the second half, Emi Martinez replaced Leno in goal, Aaron Ramsey swapped with Elneny and Lacazette took the place of Alex Iwobi, with Auba moving out wide to accommodate our number 9.
PSG started to get into the game in the second half, with the effervescent running of Tony Weah and Nkunku causing Kolasinac in particular, a load of grief. It was through this avenue that PSG equalised, Kolasinac nicking the trailing foot of Weah in the box, with Nkunku hitting the spot kick home.
Another round of changes, as Emery sought to use the whole squad, and it saw Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith-Rowe take to the pitch with about twenty five minutes to go. Off came Sokratis, Mustafi, Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Auba.
Instantly, we regained the lead, and it was that young man Smith-Rowe who made the difference again. His experience playing out wide with the youth sides paid dividends, as he delivered a fantastic ball that Lacazette powered home at the front post.
Minutes later, Laca got his second. Holding lofted a header across the box and Laca headed in from inside the six yard box.
Yet more changes followed, as Maitland-Niles replaced Kolasinac and Jo Willock came on for the impressive Guendouzi.
Inside the last ten minutes, we really rammed the point home, as Rob Holding headed a corner home, and Eddie Nketiah finished well on the 90 minute mark.
It would be easy to get carried away with this performance, but it is key to remember that this PSG side only had a few first team regulars in its eleven. Still, we would have most likely struggled to register this kind of scoreline in our recent history.
Also, Emery’s tactics are starting to shine through, with the press effective across the pitch and when we are on the front foot, we are zipping the ball far faster. It is so pleasing to see.
We should embrace the optimism this result and our boys are creating. The real test begins when the Premier League starts - but we are looking in great health.
Long may it continue. Next up is Chelsea in Dublin.