Just two days after our impressive result against Bayern Munich, we go again as our pre-season intensifies.
This time the opponent is Serie A’s Fiorentina.
The teams in our previous friendly fixtures were contrasting to say the least. Versus Colorado, Unai Emery predominantly went with youth. For the recent win over Bayern, it was a blend of both the young talent and the established stars. All have had a run out and this game could be more of the same.
There seems to be two grades of Academy graduate at Arsenal right now. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Dominic Thompson, James Olayinka, Robbie Burton? They are pushing forward and fighting to gain a permanent spot in the squad. If they impress as they have so far, then they will achieve it, or at least remain in Emery’s thoughts. If not? Then a departure or loan spell could beckon.
Then there is Jo Willock, Eddie Nketiah and Zech Medley. These kids have taken their chances and now seem to be part of the furniture in regards to the squad. They are now very much in the reckoning for a start in each game and with Jo Willock, perhaps even nailing it down. His performances have prompted Mesut Ozil to laud his displays – he seems to have elevated his performances and now stands toe to toe with the other midfielders.
It seems highly likely that Willock and Nketiah will start, but what about the rest of the eleven?
Bernd Leno started versus his compatriots. That could mean Emi Martinez gets the nod for this game. In defence though, a spot is very much for grabs.
Zech Medley is one who could do with the game time, and the same goes for Calum Chambers. Then there are Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis who will be eager to shake off more rust.
Midfield presents even more dilemmas. Jo Willock shone versus Bayern and definitely deserves another start. Who could partner Willock though? Granit Xhaka is primely placed, as are the youth prospects James Olayinka and Robbie Burton.
Then we come to Eddie Nketiah. The striker made a superb cameo versus Bayern and won us the game. His previous match was an underwhelming performance versus Colorado Rapids. Does Emery give him another shot? Or keep him on the bench and see if he can reproduce his supersub heroics? If so, then Alexandre Lacazette will take the sole striker spot.
Player to Watch
One-time Arsenal target Veretout has progressed since his season with Aston Villa. The French midfield man has a superb range of passing and can carry the ball too. If given space to run into, Veretout could load the bullets or fire them himself. One to watch.
How this could go
Fiorentina have a pretty youthful squad, and may well shuffle their pack too. This could start out cagily as both teams will most likely carry plenty of changes. That means if we can get to grips with the game early, then we can take advantage. We have started well in our previous two games and scored early, putting pressure on our opponents. If we do so again, then we could put them under our boot.
Our pace could prove to be key, but it all depends who plays. If Saka and Nelson play out wide, we could really make the most of our strength. If not, then we will likely settle for possessional play and the game could simmer until changes are made.
It will be a test for us to create as Fiorentina have a rigid backline, but Mesut Ozil showed signs that he was approaching his best against Bayern and a flick of his boot should provide our attack enough to trouble Fiorentina’s goal.
Anywhere near our display a couple of days ago and this game is won.
Let’s hope the kids continue to impress Emery and we continue our great pre-season.
Martinez, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Medley, Kolasinac, Olayinka, Willock, Nelson, Ozil, Aubameyang, Nketiah
Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal