Quite out of the blue yesterday we all got treated to a little early evening entertainment, as the club announced a friendly against MK Dons which was to be at 6pm, which was a nice little boost to my Tuesday evening I have to say.
So I tuned in to have a little watch last night and sure enough it was a smattering of senior first team players with some younger players lining up on the bench. I did wonder if this would be like the time when I was a kid where an ‘Arsenal XI’ were heavily advertised for weeks over the summer in Harlow Town back in the 90s, for about 2,000 people to show up and pay an entry fee, to be greeted by a mixture of old vets and some really young players. But no, we got Leno, Saliba, Holding, Tierney, Soares, Maitland-Niles (??), Nketiah, Xhaka, Saka and evening Aubameyang all starting.
There was even an Elneny thrown in there! Unbelievable stuff! Especially when you think that he got himself on the scoresheet to put us one up. The forgotten man of Arsenal scoring from 35 yards after the Dons ‘keeper had fluffed his lines from a kick out. Real fairytale stuff…
And it was an opportunity to get that first look at Saliba who, I have to say, looked pretty good. in all truth he didn’t have too much to do in that first half, but what I did notice was a front-footed player who liked to step out from the back and play positive forward balls. There will be tougher and sterner tests – this weekend alone against Liverpool in the community shield for example – but this was at least a 45 minute cameo that can start to get us excited about what can be with this player. He also had a hand in a very good second goal to be fair. A good ball out from the back to Soares, who fed Saka who continued where he left off with his grand end product by cutting the ball back to Nketiah in the box to see the ball home. It was a good goal but the finish from Eddie was fine too. It was almost effortless. Again, I know we need to ‘caveat’ it by saying it was only a friendly against lower league opposition, but you’ve still got to show the composure and I thought he certainly did that.
In terms of the game itself we did look a fair few notches more polished and impressive against an MK Dons team who for most of the first half were chasing shadows. The inclusion of Maitland-Niles was a weird one given he’s supposed to be on the brink of a departure to Wolves, but perhaps Arteta just wanted to sew the seeds of doubt on that transfer, or perhaps Arsenal are not quite as far along in that deal as the Ornacle suggested earlier in the week.
Whatever the situation is, he played and until he is no longer an Arsenal player he looks like he’s part of the managers plans, as are a fair few players who didn’t even travel yesterday. There’s been rumours over Hector, Torreira and Lacazette, but whilst one could read in to the fact they didn’t travel yesterday as something, there were plenty of others who stayed at home. Luiz, Willian and Pepe weren’t there and we know they’re all going to be in the managers plans. Martinez wasn’t there but I suspect he might be around on Saturday. Likewise Lacazette because the rumours are just spurious ones from Atletico Madrid at the moment. They’re also a bit of a joke if they think we’ll take a failed Lemar or Vitolo in a straight swap.
I suspect that’s just journo nonsense because they can’t seriously look us in the eyes having supposedly repeatedly turned us away when we’re offering players for Partey, only to do the same if they truly are after Lacazette. So I’m not particularly reading too much into the number of first team absentees from yesterday.
I also think that Arteta was probably just trying to give a load of young players a taste of first team football and to their credit, aside from one or two shaky moments (a couple from Matt Macey in the second half stick out), the kids did alright.
Like Mark McGuinness, the centre half who at 19 looks like a monster. He’s got to be six foot four already and at 19 if he’s still growing he’s going to be a monster. he powered one heck of a header in to make it 3-1. There’s something about a powerful header that the traditionalist only us all love. And you can hear the thud and shout of celebration with no fans in the stadium so it adds an extra dimension of course.
We also saw Reiss Nelson in that second half and he popped up with a penalty win and conversion, but I thought he looked a little introverted in the game actually. He showed a couple of nice tricks and turns of pace, but I do wonder if he’ll get the chance this season, or whether he’ll be moved on. The arrival of Willian must surely raise that question. so I’m wondering if this was a bit of a ‘shop window’ exercise for the wide forward.
It might have also have been for the younger kids too, to be fair, because there were a few that I thought did already. Emile Smith-Rowe showed a couple of good turns of pace and beating of his man when one-on-one, but he’ll be in the managers plans I think. The likes of Azeez and Cotterill did well I thought and I wonder if there’s a couple of clubs that will have a sniff around them both for a loan. The club will need to have a think about it though I suspect; they’ll end up with nobody to compete in the under-23s if they do loan out all the promising youngsters!
So we’ve had a decent little fix for the week and now we can countdown to Saturday’s ludicrously scheduled Community Shield. Will catch you all tomorrow as I’m sure we’ll get more from Arsenal and Arteta over the next 24 hours.