Pre-season results should be taken with a pinch of salt.
In the 2014 Community Shield, when Arsenal went out and hammered Manchester City 3-0 in the seasons inaugural “competitive” game, it didn’t mean by any stretch that Arsenal were going to walk their way to the title.
Nonetheless, there are a lot of positives to be taken from pre-season performances and results, in the right circumstances. When Everton play a fifth tier Austrian side and defeat them 22-0, maybe not, but when Unai Emery came away with a 5-1 win against his former club Paris Saint Germain, there is reason to be pleased – even if it was against an inexperienced team.
The game seen second half substitute Alexandre Lacazette score two goals, with captain Mesut Ozil, Rob Holding and Eddie Nketiah getting the other three for the Gunners.
Christopher Nkunku's second half penalty briefly drew PSG level, but otherwise they were no match for Emery's much stronger squad.
In what has been a very difficult week for Ozil having left the German national team for good, he captained the team. It was also the diminutive playmaker who opened the scoring, slotting the ball past Gianluigi Buffon in the PSG net to score the only goal of the 1st half.
Early in the second half, Timothy Weah earned a penalty, which Nkunku converted to draw the teams level… but then the floodgates opened.
Seven minutes later, the stand-out player from the first game in the National Stadium in Singapore against Atletico Madrid Emile Smith-Rowe teed up sub Lacazette for his first of the day. A fine finish from the Frenchman, but perhaps even more exciting to see the quality shown by 17-year-old Smith-Rowe over the two Asian matches.
Just a few minutes later, Lacazette had got his second and the game had effectively reached it’s finish, with Arsenal looking far the stronger team against an inexperienced PSG team that lacked several players involved in the World Cup – most notably Neymar of Brazil, Edinson Cavani of Uruguay and Kylian Mbappe of tournament winning side France.
It was defender Rob Holding who crossed the ball for Lacazette’s second goal, and the provider turned into the scorer for Arsenal’s 4th towards the close of the match when he headed in Reiss Nelson’s ball in.
Before the referee blew his whistle, Nelson had time for another assist, this time teeing up Eddie Nketiah, who made no mistake.
The game ended soon afterwards, a perhaps slightly flattering based on the team sheet, but no doubt deserved on the day, 5-1.
The game had an enormous attendance of 50,308, and those at the game got to see some fine football from the Gunners, among the plentiful chopping and changing you would expect from an exhibition game. They also got to play witness to Emery getting one over on his old team, to the dismay of his also newly-installed counterpart.
Following the game, Thomas Tuchel was close to outrage over the result. He believed Arsenal had played too strong of a team, and said that he knew in the moment he seen the team sheet that his side, missing so many of their key players, didn’t stand a chance.
When asked if Arsenal had an advantage over his team, he responded: “Yes of course. Are they in Europa League or not. Europa League okay, yeah,”
He then deflected the blame from his young side, saying “We wanted to control the game, we wanted to have the confidence to control, it was my approach today and I take this on my shoulders because the guys were training very, very well”
While this outburst was unusual in what was an exhibition game, there may be some sense behind it. If Tuchel’s start to his new managerial career in Emery’s former helm does not get off to a glowing start when the season begins, perhaps games like the Singapore showpiece against Arsenal may be referenced, harshly and out of context, as a sign of writing on the wall.
So, what can be drawn from the game? Well, it is unfair to say that Arsenal are a better team than PSG based on the result, due to the nature of PSG’s available selection.
What one can say is that Arsenal had many young players that performed excellently in Singapore across the two matches – with Nketiah, Holding and Smith-Rowe all registering plenty of goals and assists between them over the two matches.
It was also great for Ozil to get the chance to captain his side to victory following the Summer he has had – pre-world cup controversy, the disappointing tournament itself, and most recently his controversial exit from the national side – and the play an integral part in the win. If he can bring this form into the new season, it will be good news for Arsenal fans.
So, that’s it for the Gunners trip to Singapore. Not a bad showing – a 1-1 draw against Atletico and a win over PSG.
Next up for Arsenal is a friendly closer to home against far more familiar opposition – the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland is the venue and the team is Chelsea.
With Maurizio Sarri taking over at the Blues, even though it’s a friendly, both new London managers will be hoping to lay down a marker against their city neighbours, while also fitting in some valuable preparation for a rapidly-approaching season.