I was in no fit state yesterday to do anything other than sit in the sun and melt a bit, so didn’t pen any post Rangers thoughts and, given that it’s a Monday and there isn’t really any massive breaking news from yesterday, I thought i’d jot down some musings from the game that I saw.
Firstly, the result is fairly meaningless, as I’m sure you would agree. We can all see that these matches are about fitness, shaking off any rustiness from the players given they’ve all had a month or so off, so that they can be ready for when it all kicks off properly in a month’s time. Having said that though, I did find it useful in looking at individual performances and seeing who might be exciting me next season, who might have kicked on, who might have a better season than they did last season. That kind of stuff is important because where we are now is that we have only made one signing and although Arteta was surprisingly open about new faces coming in, the current squad is at this point going to be the one starting the season against Brentford.
So I used Saturday’s games to look at individuals and on the positive side I thought Pepe looked really lively. If we cast our minds back to this time last year during the pre season period, Pepe was injured, then he had the birth of his child and his pre season was truncated and interrupted. It meant he wasn’t as prepared as he and probably Arteta would have liked and perhaps it is why he struggled before Christmas. But from about February onwards his form really picked up and having watched him closely in that Rangers game I must say I thought he was good. Good running with the ball, good movement, getting in behind once or twice, plus he was tracking back and even won a ball in his own box I remember.
We’ve been waiting for two years to see the Pepe that ripped teams apart at Lille and most people – it feels like – had thought we’d never get that player. After all, that Lille side was one that was designed for the counter and playing with less possession, whereas at Arsenal we often have teams that will sit back and let us have the ball. So many thought that we’d never get THAT Pepe. Perhaps we won’t, but his talent is there for everyone to see and what I hope is developing for this season is a player who is going to further improve and deliver even more end product than he did last season.
I also watched ESR play the number 10 role and do it very well I thought. Drifting in between the lines, jinking past players, going on mazy dribbles, we saw all of that on display and I’m excited to see what the new season is going to bring with Emile. His introduction to the team had an obvious and visible improvement on our overall play and so having him available for the start of the season as opposed to halfway like we did last season, is massive I think. The challenge will be keeping him fit but if he can get through this pre season then we have a player who will open up more space for the forwards and give them more opportunities too. Which brings me to my next musing on the game, forwards, and in particular….
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Our Rolls Royce centre forward who endured a difficult time last season but providing he remains fit and providing he gets the service from players like Smith Rowe, will surely score more goals than he did last season. What I found interesting about Saturday’s game was the hatful of chances that he missed. Sometimes he does that, but I’m not particularly worried. He was getting in to those positions and getting the opportunities, which I thought was more important than finishing them. Much like fitness, match sharpness and finding his scoring form might be something that Auba needs to build up and on Twitter I joked that he was getting all of these misses out of his system so he could bang come the Brentford game in August. Whilst I was saying that tongue in cheek, I do wonder if there is an element of truth in that, as he rediscovers his scoring touch. He will need to because next season we need him to be bagging the goals in again. Where we went wrong pre-Christmas last year was the lack of chances created for Auba and he became a peripheral figure at times in matches; isolated and unable to be found with any of his runs. So whilst it was all jokes and sniggers as he missed a number of chances on Saturday, for me it was just good that he got in to those positions and was found in the first place.
Those were the three main musings on individual player performances that I had. I won’t go in to too much detail on the fact we conceded two poor set piece goals, nor that Rob Holding looks like the love child of Philippe Senderos and Pascal Cygan, or that Nuno Tavares has a decent right foot on him. But suffice to say that it seemed like the trip did its job and now the team heads out to Miami to play a few friendly matches and maybe see a signing or two on the pitch as well.
Catch you lovely people tomorrow.