I don’t know about you, but it’s always enjoyable to see Arsenal ‘do the goals’ and so when you watch a tanking like we did yesterday in day one of the Emirates Cup, it’s all a bit of good fun, even if it is a little meaningless.
It as a pretty grim day weather-wise and the Portuguese team were probably half stunned by the fact that summer had all of this wet stuff, but it was a game in which Arsenal pretty much looked on top from the start. A semi-first team was selected by Arsene and although Benfica took the lead, it felt more like an Arsenal performance that showed that we were getting closer to match fitness. These types of games are always just about seeing who has improved and so I tried to watch the game from an analytical perspective rather than a fan one, although I’m not sure how well I managed to actually do it. But what I did see was a few stand out performances.
Reiss Nelson has to take the headlines for one. The kid is 17 years old and looked like a seasoned pro. He jinked his way past the Benfica left back on countless occasions and looked totally at home out there on the Emirates turf. It was great to see. We have a real talent there and whilst there is always one player who everyone gets excited about each pre season and he is the one for this summer, it’s hard not to think that he’s going to go far if he continues his current trajectory. The question Arsene will no doubt have when the dust settles on this summer, is whether he should be going out on loan for a year and getting some first team experience, or whether he should be promoted to play in the first team as part of the squad.
With the future of the Ox still in the air, it’s not inconceivable to think that should he move on having not signed a new deal, Nelson could very well play understudy to Bellerin. That might be a step too far for such a young player, but he looks like he can handle the pressure, so I’ll be interested to see what happens next in his development.
Will he take a similar path to Iwobi, who also shone in an Emirates Cup a few years ago, and now finds himself as a first team squad regular? Or will he Carlos Vela himself? Hopefully its the former rather than the latter, but the signs are good.
Speaking of Iwobi, who scored a thunderbolt of a goal, I do think this season needs to see more development from him. I didn’t actually think he was that great yesterday if i’m honest; sure he popped up with a good goal, but before then I thought he looked a little out of sorts. I wonder if he’ll be given another opportunity today to show what he can do? His path may be blocked if Arsene is hot for Lemar and close to doing something, especially if Arsene’s comments can be read in to as much as we all like to do, with the manager saying “we don’t speak about negotiations”. If that was a dead line of enquiry the manager would have just dismissed the question, but that response suggests there might be some wiggle room for a deal to be done. Let’s wait and see on that one.
Who else is worth talking about who had a decent game yesterday…ahh yes, Theo Walcott, who had a hand in three goals, scoring two and forcing an own goal for a third. Walcott was in full Walcottian mode yesterday: absolutely absent for vast swathes of the game, yet finding himself in the right place at the right time, which is kind of his thing and the reason we so constantly see him getting the numbers I suppose.
The first goal was a tidy finish, but it’s fair to say it was made by Kolasinac, who had a belter of a game I thought, both getting forward and at the back. He looks like he could be quite a find on a free transfer and whilst watching the game at first I wondered whether Nacho should be worried, but having seen the Spaniard come on at centre half, I think we all know where Nacho might start to ply his trade when the season kicks off. It won’t surprise anyone to see both players on the pitch at the same time, methinks.
Certainly Arsene won’t be choosing to use Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a centre half, because he had a bit of a shocker, being at fault for the second Benfica goal. I don’t blame him too much though, because he’s still a young lad and he’s being asked to play in a position where he’s not too familiar. Like Mo Elneny though, I suspect that it’s more to do with making up numbers rather than trying to convert him. We have enough centre halves in the team right now to fill the three positions at the back, even without Elneny and AMN coming in as cover.
Giroud looked good too, and I’ve always thought that he seems to perform better when he’s under a bit of pressure, with last season being a prime example. He found himself on the bench quite a lot and responded by scoring time and time again, and I do wonder if we’re in for an interesting fight from the Handsome Frenchman, because I feel like the Lacazette arrival could spur him on to be even better.
The only negative of yesterday however, was an apparent injury to Coquelin, which I’m hoping was just precautionary. I’m not exactly Coq’s biggest fan but he started quite brightly yesterday and he will be part of the managers thinking next season, so we don’t really want to lose any player in summer training, because it does limit our options. Hopefully it’s just a short term knock and he can be back quickly.
I suspect today’s game will see those who didn’t start yesterday getting a run out today, with the same youngsters getting a go in the current formation, but part of me wonders whether it will be worth just playing our first choice team ahead of next weekend’s Community Shield. I know that is essentially a glorified friendly and that is probably the ideal time to be playing the best XI, but it wouldn’t hurt to get the players up and ready for the new season by giving the first XI two run outs, would it?
I doubt it will happen, but let’s see what goes down this afternoon, and whether or not Arsenal can lift their first ‘silverware’ of the season.
Catch you all tomorrow.