I know pre season friendlies aren’t supposed to mean anything, that you can’t read too much in to them and that had we lost yesterday’s ‘behind closed doors’ friendly at London Colney to Milwall then we’d all have shrugged and said ‘move along’, but I have to tell you I did enjoy watching the game yesterday on the official site.
There was a lack of replays and you could tell everything had understandably been hastily arranged, but I watched yesterday’s match and enjoyed it. No pressure because it’s just a friendly, a pretty close rendition of the Arsenal team that will probably line up on the first game of the season in a few weeks time away to Brentford, plus plenty of goals and positive play to witness.
Friendlies are about fitness and players getting ready for the big kick off, but as a fan you’re also looking for patterns, styles of play and what this season’s Arsenal team could look like. And what we were treated to yesterday might only have been a glimpse, but it was a good glimpse and that was of a team intent on pressing to win the ball back higher up the pitch, more intensity and a side not content to deliver the kind of slow build up that we had endured for large chunks of last season.
I thought there were some pretty good performances. Chambers continued to show why he finished last season as one of the first choice right backs and I thought he played well. There was no Bellerin to speak of which says to me that Arteta is already planning a life without him, but if that is the case, it’s good to see that in Chambers we have a very capable full back and I for one would have no problem seeing us start the season with him.
On the other side Tierney got some more minutes and as Arteta alluded to in midweek when speaking of some of the great young talent we have, I think Tierney will have a big impact on our season if he can remain fit.
It’s the same with Smith Rowe too and I thought he looked bright and was buzzing around looking like he’s got a point to prove. People have spoken about the burden of being our main man and new number 10 and whilst I know it is just a couple of friendlies, I have to say I’ve been impressed with how he has played in these last few matches. Again, like Tierney, I’m expecting big things this season if ESR can remain fit.
Those are the two biggest ‘ifs’ for me. Partey too, actually, because his season was punctuated with injury and in January we’ll be losing him for the AFCON, but between now and then we need to see the best from him and if he manages to maintain his fitness then I think we’d going to see a very different – and much better – Arsenal.
Goals from Chambers, Lacazette, Pepe and Balogun were the order of the day yesterday and once again I was impressed with Pepe. He looks to be ‘on it’ this season and when you think about last pre season where he had a knock, then the birth of his first child, which meant his pre season wasn’t as seamless in terms of prep for the new season, seeing him, ESR, Partey all looking like they have had relatively undisturbed pre seasons is all very positive stuff in my opinion.
I think we often underestimate just how important that pre season is in terms of a player preparing to start their season. I remember the season that Ramsey had his blinder and banged in all of those goals; I remember a couple of journos on the Arsenal beat writing pieces talking about how good he looked in that pre season. Perhaps my memory is betraying the truth, but I feel like it was the first season in years that Ramey had been able to have an undisturbed pre season and the result was his best in an Arsenal shirt. That’s why I feel like this pre season and seeing some of these players look ‘on it’ could be massive for us.
I do wonder if Arteta is slightly glad that he has the players for an extra week at home in London Colney. It enables them to better prepare, to spend more time on the training ground and less time travelling and whilst it’s harsh on all the US gooners out there because they don’t get to see the team live and in the flesh, maybe there is an up side in that Arsenal will be more prepared for the new season than they otherwise would have.
The high intensity pressing, for example, could be something that they’ve had a little more time to work on. Adrian Clarke was saying that during the commentary yesterday. He mentioned the high pressing but he also said you could see that Arsenal had clearly been working hard on their shape during pre season. Perhaps that is as a result of the extra time they’ve had on the training ground?
We’ll get a better indication of that next weekend when the Mind series takes place and we play The Scum and Chelski. That will pose an interesting challenge and one that will see just how much we have worked on that shape during this pre season.
A quick one before I go today – new signing Albert Sambi Lokonga looked good, didn’t he? Composed on the ball, some progressive passing, it was a solid debit. More from him like that please!
Right, I’m offski for the day, so catch you lovely people tomorrow.