Arsenal lost another preseason game, to another London rival, on a rainy August afternoon at the bowl. No one likes to lose, no one likes to lose to Spurs, but this is preseason and nothing really matters bar the result on Friday night. If you spent last season campaigning that beating Liverpool in the Community Shield meant nothing, pardon me not caring much about how important Spurs is in the Mindfulness Cup.
So let’s reestablish what preseason games are all about.
- Bringing your fitness levels as close to perfection as you can. Reality is, for elite level athletes, it takes about 6 games to get fully fit, so these guys are going to be burning.
- Trying out new tactical approaches. Arsenal will have a lot of time on the training ground this season, so expect the football to develop
- Learning who you can trust and who you cannot. There were players out there today you’d hope to see the back of in the next two weeks
What we did not like:
Our forward line really was drossy today, it has been all summer long. It was last season. Nicolas Pepe loves a standing start and it interrupts his strengths. Lacazette is our best striker, but he can’t drop deep then make up the ground. Auba is the next point.
Auba has lost all his confidence in his thirties. That’s a major concern. He looks depressed and he lacks the ability to contribute at the level we know he can. He’s so far off the pace and that is a concern. I don’t think this is an Ozil issue, he clearly cares, but he’s nowhere near the level he should be right now.
We only have two centre backs that are acceptable to this system. It’s pretty clear that Pablo Mari and Rob Holding aren’t cutting it. Mari with a horrendous bit of WTF in the build-up the Son goal. That’s a concern heading into the season and one that we’re going to have to live with this year.
We’re getting the ball into good spaces and crossing like there’s a target man there. None of strikers are tall enough. None of them seem to have the desire to hustle to win those high balls. It’s pretty clear we need to sign someone with a height and playing style of Tammy if this system is going to work.
Our right side of defence needs the Tierney treatment. The most ideal candidate would be Ainsley, but he wants central midfield, and doesn’t seem to have people advising him to take the Arsenal offer. That leaves us Hector Bellerin, who wants out, but has no interested clubs. With Soares, who is lucky to be at Arsenal. Chances are looking sparse that we move on anyone in that position and that is a massive, massive L for the summer plans.
What we most certainly did like:
Lokonga isn’t going to need 6 months to make an impact on this side. We don’t need to see Mo Elneny in the starting 11 on Friday. The Belgian midfielder looks composed, his range of passing is stunning, and he moves around the pitch with ease. Mo came on and we looked week, Granit Xhaka barking at him because he wouldn’t play a pass that looked on the mild side of risky is exactly why Mo shouldn’t be anywhere near our midfied, but be real, who is taking him?
Ben White looks like the central defender we’ve been needing for a long time. Not sure there will be many doubting what he offers. He has great recovery pace, his ability to dribble with the ball if there is no option makes him dangerous, his passing range is like a midfielder… and he is lightning quick into the back of strikers and midfielders. There were moments he could have done better, there are partnerships to build, but for a full debut, against a decent side, he looked very solid.
Granit Xhaka has come back looking fit and ready. I know a lot of people wanted him gone, but playing next to people like Lokonga and Partey brings out the best of him. He’s going to have a decent season and start on the right footing.
We controlled the game for the most part, moved the ball into dangerous positions, but didn’t make our chances count. That’s the story of the backend of last season. It’s positive that we can do that, but we really need to see some movement on players that can help us be more incisive. Tammy Abrahams in this system gets goals. James Maddison gives us better set-plays and more incisive balls where they need to be. We’re not there yet, but the basics of a very good system are there.
Final thing I liked. It’s clear what needs to be done this week. It’s clear who should stay and who should go. It’s absolutely 20/20 on what the side needs as we head into the final 2 weeks of the window.
Can Edu, who has been on about 15 holidays this window make it happen? So far, it doesn’t look good. We’ve moved the squad forward with two signings that’ll likely be there for the start of the season, but there’s nowhere near enough work on exits and there’s still a massive, massive lift needed to land that #10, a back-up keeper that’s not dropping howlers, and a striker that gives us the right sort of options for the type of chances we’re creating.
It’s a big week, all eyes are on Friday, all hopes are on a big 3 points landing to calm the nerves.
See you in the comments.