LOOK AROUND THE CORNER AND YOU MIGHT SEE HOPE’
Well, I wasn’t expecting that.
The first pre-season game is normally a mess, full of mistakes and general rustiness.
That is not what happened at all.
Arsenal were very sharp and completely dominant against a team in mid-season.
A team with an average age of about 20 flashed a spotlight on the area of an athlete’s game that gives fans hope… confidence.
They played as if they expected to win which for me is highly impressive considering most of them would be excused for being nervous/over excited on their first team debut.
As many of you have already heard, these youngsters are good.
* The opening period of any game reflects the instructions that players have just been given.
We started with a hi-tempo, 2 touch passing game and a high line and quick press defensively.
The hi-tempo is particularly encouraging as last season lacked this.
* I love pre-season. I love seeing what changes have been made on the coaching field.
Here are four that I saw…
1) 4-2-3-1. I would prefer 4-3-3 but the four at the back was what excited me most. It looks like we are preparing for wingers to arrive.
2) Last season we started with a very compact back four but not a compact defensive block as a whole. The Rapids struggled all night to break through a compact 10.
3) The route to playing out of the back seemed to be one touch one two’s on the sideline. Worked well.
4) The only times we went more direct were on switches. When the ball was with our defenders on one side, Nketiah would often stay between the furthest full back and centre back. We would switch it and find his feet before they could shift. Interesting tactic to look out for this campaign.
* In a game of high levels of competency throughout the team, it is a big compliment to Saka that he was still the MOTM.
The confidence that I spoke of earlier was seen all over his game. His ability is unquestioned but it is his guts to make something happen that stands out for a 17 year old.
He is fast, quick and tricky on the ball but it was his movement off the ball and his combinations with Eddie that stood out.
* Martinelli has an interesting game.
He was one of only two players (Macey) that looked naturally nervous in the first half.
He lost the ball often but what was exciting to me was his off the ball work.
Fans will often judge you solely on your ‘on the ball performance.’
Off the ball, he was hard working defensively (rare for a youngster) and dynamic in his movement in the box.
Nerves will vanish. Be encouraged by his willingness.
* Nketiah will clearly be a very good footballer for someone. I hope that it is at Arsenal. He has so many strings to his bow. He reminds me of what I would imagine Ian Wright looked like at 20.
* Thompson is a skilful, probing, athletic left back. Another to keep your eye on.
* Olayinka’s stunning goal was a product of impressive anticipation. This performance will give him so much confidence, I’m sure.
I am watching him closely. In a group of so many eye-catching players, he can be overlooked. Sometimes in football, it is not the most talented (Jay Emmanuel-Thomas) that makes it but the one rises to the challenge.
* I’m not sure if Burton lost the ball all night. I am also not sure if he took any risks either. Plays like Cesc but without the creativity. Very reliable and safe. Would like to see his hips turn more.
* Auba was very lively on the left. Looked excited to be back, sharp, and as rapid as usual.
* Chambers playing centre back was very interesting.
I did not know if he is going to be a Bellerin fill in, a DM option or a way to keep Mustafi from getting on the field.
The decision to play him at CB tells me we will sign a RB. As I have said for months, it should be Dani Alves.
* Matt Macey needs to see the field earlier. He took too long with both his feet and hands to distribute.
* Medley missed an opportunity tonight. He did not use his huge frame to win headers or anticipate well enough when balls were played over his shoulder.
* I wonder if the compactness of our attack is intentional to suck the defence in and leave a big gap for overlapping full backs.
We did not utilize this tonight but may later.
* Kolasinac’s performance was last season in a nutshell.
Put in two good crosses but was very slow to sense danger defensively and looked a liability.
* The long-range shooting in the second half looked like we were playing with a beach ball 🤣
* I hope Martinelli works out.
If he does, it will encourage other young Brazilians to choose Arsenal at a young age. I am sure Edu knows a few!
* The #WeCareDoYou campaign is a very intelligent way of getting the fanbase to respond.
I am proud that Gunners Town are a part of this.
The imminent threat to Arsenal’s future is the threat of Leicester, Wolves, Everton and possibly West Ham and Watford.
In particular, Leicester City have built very shrewdly. Go through their first eleven. It is arguably better than ours is and certainly has more sale-able assets.
I think that all Rogers needs to do is give that team the belief that their team sheet reflects and let them play on the front foot and then teams like Arsenal and UT are in trouble.
Two years in the EL after over twenty years in the CL may be overlooked but three will not.
I hope that the Kroenke family realize that their ‘high dollar franchise’ could lose value quickly if they do not change the perception.
Yesterday was a good day. Fans spoke and the youngsters spoke too.
I even saw what looked like the birth of ‘an Emery style’ on the field.
Big teams coming up, bigger decisions to be pushed through off the field but if
look around the corner and you might see ‘hope.’