Arsenal’s kids continued their impressive pre-season showing, as a brace from Eddie Nketiah and a late goal from Jo Willock was enough to comfortably see off Serie A’s Fiorentina.
Somewhat surprisingly, Unai Emery opted for a more youthful approach than the one which ousted Bayern Munich a couple of days ago. Out went the likes of Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, and in came Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, James Olayinka and Robbie Burton.
We made a decent start, much like we did in our previous friendlies in this US tour, and it was Eddie Nketiah. Kolasinac teed up the striker, who evaded his marker and swept home via the bottom corner.
Fiorentina weren’t without their moments before the goal, and the game was pretty open. We had the goal advantage though and Nelson set up Olayinka just after the goal, which came agonisingly close to making it two.
Jenkinson was finding joy down the right and twice could have extended our advantage, but even without the extra goal, we were starting to find our groove. Nelson was involved heavily, and Nketiah’s movement meant that he was always a willing outlet for attacks. Dropping deep to pick up or finding the ball to feet in the box, Nketiah was doing the right things.
Just before the break, Martinez stood up well to deny Sottill when clean through, but largely, we were the better side.
Half time saw two changes from Emery, with Lacazette coming on for Sead Kolasinac, and Leno taking the gloves from Martinez. It meant a shape change for our side, but it didn’t affect our levels.
The first ten minutes or so presented chances for both sides, but goalkeepers in both teams proved the equal. The game was picking up pace early after the break, and with twenty five minutes or so to go, Emery once again shuffled his pack.
Willock, Mkhitaryan and Sokratis were the fresh legs for Olayinka, Saka and Chambers and just two minutes later, we had the crucial second.
This time it was Laca who provided the assist, but the result was still the same, as Nketiah finished confidently to give us a two goal cushion. Fiorentina made a host of changes post-goal, but Arsenal remained on top.
Emery once again made more changes with about ten minutes to go – six in all. Granit Xhaka, Martinelli, Ozil, Medley, Thompson and Maitland-Niles came on for Robbie Burton, Nelson, Nketiah, Mustafi, Monreal and Jenkinson.
Just before we scored our third, Martinelli had a golden chance to score but shot wide, but Willock would show the young Brazilian how it’s done. Laca again turned provider, giving Willock the chance to bury his close range shot.
It’s a third win for our team, what can we take from this friendly?
Nketiah has the mental fortitude to succeed
Nketiah has recovered from a poor display against Colorado to make the difference in the last two games. Does he realise the opportunity that is in his grasp? He has the chance to be Arsenal’s backup striker at such a fresh age. If he does, he shows no signs of wilting. Instead, he is taking to the pressure like a duck to water. If he maintains this, then he will be in Emery’s plans.
Laca is more than a number9
Laca came on for the second half and played in the hole behind Nketiah. He then proceeded to lay on two goals. His movement, his thinking, it gives us much more depth than a conventional number9. He is so valuable to our cause.
Martinez shines again
Before this season, Martinez had enjoyed more loans than a struggling European country. It has all added to his experience though, and now Martinez is showing he is ready to play for the badge. He pulled off a number of saves for us in the first half that kept Fiorentina out, and he surely is confirmed as our backup for the coming campaign.
Emery trusting youth
The promotion of Freddie Ljungberg to Asst Manager was stated as a signal of our focus on youth. Since then, Emery has given extensive gametime this pre-season to Robbie Burton, James Olayinka, Tyreece John-Jules, Bukayo Saka and Zech Medley. It is a sign that our club is keen to aid these kids become as good as they can be, and their performances are aligned with our bigger stars. Their composure and talent is quite amazing at such a young age, and Emery could well lean on them this coming season.
A fantastic result, and our unbeaten summer continues. Next up? Real Madrid.