We all know it’s a glorified friendly, but yesterday’s penalty shootout victory against Liverpool is still a nice little bonus to start the season and against a team with more prep time and who are clear favourites to win the league again, it was nice to see us competing throughout the game.
We were spritely, we controlled possession at times, we defended very resolutely at other times, we looked good on the counter and some of our big players really did step up at Wembley.
We do enjoy that ground and winning shiny silver trinkets, don’t we? That’s 16 I think we have now and as a Aubameyang said after the game Arsenal is a good place to be at right now.
And he’s a good striker to have on your team, once again bagging a very tidy goal by curling the ball beyond Alisson with a fantastic finish and tribute to Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther actor who tragically passed away this weekend.
The finish was good but the move and build up was also special and once again we saw what proper build up play from the back can deliver for you. It draws your opponent towards you, forces them to create more space either between lines or – if they press too high and compact then in behind – and means you get chances. The goal came from a good ball from Bellerin, a fine cross field switch from Saka and then the final finish from Auba just underlined how essential he is to Arteta’s plans this season.
I thought there were plenty of promising performances, not least from Ainsley Maitland-Niles again and with the player himself just receiving a call up to the England national team, it is reward for the way he finished the season and also how he looks to have started it.
And we now need to be looking in Wolves’ direction and telling them that the price has just gone up. You can’t pay £15million for an England international and assuming he gets some form of game time next weekend under Gareth Southgate, Arsenal should be making it very clear to suitors that even £20million feels a little low.
It’s also helpful that the player himself said yesterday that his heart is with The Arsenal and with him not publicly angle for a move (unlike those with agents like Torreira’s) it really does feel like teams have to prize him away from us, rather than us feeing like we’re ‘offloading’ him.
Martinez also started yesterday and having seen some of the rumours about Newcastle wanting to low ball us at £10million for his services, I hope Arteta starts with the Argentinian in two weeks time. He’s earned that and I was pleased to see him get that start in this curtain raiser to the new season. Whether or not he is still number one in two weeks time remains to be seen.
There wasn’t really a lot he could do about Liverpool’s goal though and I thought we were a little unlucky having defended resolutely for most of the game. It took a couple of deflections to get through to Minamino and if Lady Luck has been with us on another day it probably deflects a couple of times and is booted into touch.
So we go straight to pens on the final whistle and unlike the League Cup in which Liverpool beat us on pens, we did the business this time, leading Arteta to reflect on how little wins like this and the way in which they can build confidence for what will be another strange season.
But hopefully it’ll be a successful season. This will certainly help us all to get a little more excited for the start of it. There is still a lot of business to be done both in and out and I’m sure the club will be going into overdrive to sort it out during this international break. By the sounds of it Holding will be heading out and possibly Torreira too if we can find a buyer, but playing Elneny as we did does make you wonder how speedily the club will act to ensure we get the right upgrades in to the team as soon as possible. Surely we can’t be going into the season where the Egyptian is such an integral part of Arteta’s plans? I mean he did ok yesterday and he’s an ok type of player, but he won’t kick us into a Champions League spot, will he?
First get the Auba contract extension announced, then announce Gabriel, say ‘thanks and good luck’ to Holding and let’s look at strengthening that midfield, Arsenal. Arteta will need it because with Chelski looking stronger it’s feeling like this will be one of the toughest seasons to get into the competition via the league this year.
Catch you wonderful people tomorrow.