Arsenal 2 – 0 Lazio
It’s a watershed moment. Not x-rated and shown on television after 9 pm, nor did parental controls need to be turned off. At the final whistle, the pre-season officially ended.
Or it does in my mind. The players and coaches are all preparing for Manchester City next weekend. Proper football is back.
Last night continued Unai Emery’s unbeaten start to his reign. There’s nothing much to read into a run of three wins and two draws – you can count penalty shootouts if you want, I’m not bothered. Each of the games focussed more on fitness and tactics, and last night was no exception.
Unai Emery started with a 4-4-2, wasn’t happy with the outcome and switched in the second half. He didn’t mince his words about the first half:
Today we played with 4-4-2, to try this system and tweak our mentality, style and ideas, but for me in the first half the possession with the ball and control with the ball wasn’t as good as I wanted. It’s for that reason that we started the second half with three midfielders. I think in the second half we controlled the match better with this system.
He went on to say he was “happy with this performance because they are working very well and improving also.” That’s the crux of the matter: getting players used to change. For most it’s a new concept; gone is the rigidity of 4-3-3, it’s now what the match dictates.
The players on show in the first half contributed. Judgement on 4-4-2 only comes with Aubameyang and Lacazette up front, as well as the regular full-backs. Ainsley Maitland-Niles looks likely to face Manchester City next weekend with Nacho Monreal suffering “a little problem” in his knee, and tellingly, “he’s training every day but not with us.”
Big Game Hunter
There was a first runout for Stephan Lichtsteiner and Lucas Torreira, with Granit Xhaka also returning. When he left an elbow on an opponents face in an aerial challenge, you understand what Lichtsteiner brings to the squad.
Torreira quickly imposed himself on the game and looked comfortable while Xhaka was Xhaka: no surprises and you knew what to expect.
The trio was off the pace of the game while still being competitive. Emery offered no guarantees of inclusion in next weekend’s match but it will be a surprise if Torreira and Xhaka don’t start. Maybe you think Guendouzi has done enough to warrant inclusion. However, it’s a big leap from facing reserve players in pre-season friendlies to the defending Premier League champions.
Emery naturally played his cards close to his chest. For public consumption, he declared he didn’t know who his first choice goalkeeper is. Nor had he decided on his starting line-up next weekend. The ‘Pants-on-Fire’-ometer went off the scale.
Maybe I’m doing him a disservice, but I’m guessing he knows and has seen enough, to put Leno in the XI. Distribution under pressure is the deciding factor if he can’t choose between the pair on other criteria.
Talk after the game turned to Thursday’s deadline. He was suitably non-committal about signing anyone, pointing out we have a big squad. Lucas Perez is reluctant to take a pay cut to move to Sporting Clube. Arsenal are taking a bath on the fee, but that has more to do with how much we overpaid for him in the first place.
Another example of how badly we spent money in the latter half of Arsène’s reign; a failing not only on his part, but of the scouts and others who should have deterred the interest in the first place.
There are a number of players in the same boat. A quick glance at dot com shows 29 players listed in the first team squad without the youngsters such as Reiss Nelson or Emile Smith-Rowe who popped up on tour. It’s too big a squad and Emery knows it.
With another 26 days to go to sell, there’s plenty of time to alter that situation. We aren’t going to see any big fees coming in so we’ll be relying on volume to bulk up January’s transfer pot.
Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey is really vexing some people. I mean, really vexing them. Arsenal should sell him if he won’t sign! The small matter of not being able to force Ramsey to sign a deal or sign for a club which bid for him, is a complication not worthy of consideration.
In a move guaranteed to send his career into reverse at breathtaking speed, Chelsea are once again contemplating a bid for him. £35m. At least we’d be able to afford the £48m being demanded by Barcelona for Andre Gomes…
You see, you thought all this transfer talk was random, didn’t you? There’s a plan to it all. Not the one Arsenal are following, just one cooked up on a fag packet outside the pub where all the smokers stand. Once those sums are done, they get back to glaring at the vapers…it’s an update on West Side Story. Not the Jets and the Sharks, now it’s the smokers and the vapers. This could get nasty, but love will win through.