Football

Arsenal learn lessons in 7-0 pre-season opener

Arsenal fired in seven goals in their pre-season opener (©GettyImages)
Arsenal fired in seven goals in their pre-season opener (©GettyImages).

Arsenal can come back from their first pre-season friendly feeling positive as they demolished the best that Indonesia could offer.

Some young players impressed and Arsenal's tactics were interesting. Here we will analyse what the Gunners can take from the experience.

Arsenal's midfield in the first half consisted of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey. Each had different roles and played with great success.

The Ox played behind Chuba Akpom as a 'Number 10'. His directness and skill and decision making meant that he set up Theo Walcott for Arsenal's first goal in the 19th minute. His energy, speed and creativity meant that he was tough to handle, although when the defence was congested he was rarely able to find a way through.

Ramsey, my man-of-the-match, had the best of both worlds. His interceptions, tackling and tireless pressing meant that he controlled the midfield for large portions of the game. Not only this, his fancy flicks brought a whole new scope to Arsenal's attack which meant a break was found very regularly. His skill and confidence were also very good things to behold.

Arteta was more relaxed, defensively rarely called upon, he would usually back away from challenges and shield the back four leaving Ramsey to do the gritty work. A proper triangle when the Gunners were on the ball with Ramsey and the Ox around the area and Arteta would sit deep.

When off it, however, the triangle would become flat and the centre of the pitch would be very congested. The midfield, when it took on a more youthful look was also glorious to behold.

The Arsenal attack in the first half seemed to take a bit of a worrying tone at time. The Indonesian All-Stars would stack players in the middle and the Gunners would often miss the space on the wings as Walcott would want to move into the middle, and with Serge Gnabry mainly cutting inside with the exception of Arsenal's second goal.

The lack of width in this game is not that worrying; however, in this pre-season friendly Wenger would not force the team into the rigid tactical structure a competitive game needs, but even so Gibbs and Jenkinson were often the only wide options. Against a better team the spaces behind the full-backs would have seen the Gunners be punished. Either a more natural winger must be sought after or move the Ox back onto the flanks.

The highlight of this match for me, however, was the second half. The team played more youth players and were rewarded for it. Gedion Zelalem was astonishing for a player of just 16 years of age. He reminds me of the young Cesc Fabregas at times, drifting into the pockets of space in the midfield and really absorbing the pressure of the team.

He also split the defence a few times with fantastically weighted passes forward that would put a few men through on goal. And no matter in what situation he was in he would call for the ball to receive the pass and at times twist and turn around the opposition.

He would rarely play a pass backwards or sideways but his desire to move forward and attack was admirable, and he made the midfield look really good.

Gnabry played for most if not the whole game. The wide man was tricky to handle and his runs into the middle would open space out wide for Gibbs to run into. His powerful shots were fairly inaccurate, but still promising.

His desire to beat a man would mean that next season he could become an important substitute; his ability to cast defenders out of the game will be an important skill coming into next season.

His decision making at times did not show that of an 18 year old but of a maturing player; after endless cutting inside he moved outside and fed a fantastic cross into Chuba Akpom which led to a goal.

Akpom also had a good game and seems very promising. Comfortable on either foot, his left-foot finish for Arsenal's second was clinical and promising. He would rarely be too involved in the build-up in the attack but would stick to the last defender and make clever and perfectly timed runs to give himself a chance at goal.

His ability to also drift out wide and make himself available makes him a very mobile striker as well. The battle between Yaya Sanogo and Akpom will be an interesting one to behold. 

Kristoffer Olsson put in a real midfielders performance and one that Arsenal needed. His creativity meant that the Indonesian All Star defence found it tough to track his passes that were fantastically weighted in forward positions.

He can also truly recycle possession and kept the Arsenal attack going for a lot of the time with his tempo. Even for a pre-season game he didn't seem to lose the ball needlessly which means the future is bright. When he did choose to get forward, he was rewarded with a goal, and a good finish as well.

Thomas Eisfeld played a wider role on the right than he is usually accustomed to. However, he made good attacking runs and found the space between the midfield and defence to cause a lot of problems.

His intelligence on the ball to quickly move it on was also something good to see in a player and his shot was ruthlessly placed into the top left-hand corner clipping the bar as it went in. When Walcott came off it seemed he gave good deliveries in from corners and set-pieces as well.

A great team performance and also one that raised a few eyebrows; the Gunners managed to walk out comfortable winners and the team seems ready to trouble a lot of opponents in the league next season. At least Arsenal enjoyed a positive start to pre-season, unlike the two Manchester clubs. 

 

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Topics:
Premier League
Football
Arsenal

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