Arsenal 1 – 2 Lyon
I repeated the mantra so often yesterday that now I believe it: I will not lose my sh*t over a friendly, I will not lose my sh*t over a friendly…
Which is just as well because yesterday offered plenty of opportunities to do exactly that. Instead, I will begin with the positives, the biggest of which is Joe Willock. Physically and in his approach to the game, the youngster is a tremendous prospect.
His performances in the USA!USA!USA! and in this Emirates Cup clash reminded me of the enthusiasm we felt when Tony Adams, David Rocastle and Mickey Thomas broke into the first team. You knew they were here to stay and remember, those were the days when clubs only named one substitute.
The other younger players also offer the promise of bright futures. They don’t strike me as being as ready for the first team, with the exception maybe of Reiss Nelson. The winger gave his best performance of the pre-season after coming on as a first-half substitute for Alexandre Lacazette.
He is an amazing sight when in full flow. Nelson is hard to knock off the ball and extraordinarily quick. So quick that he leaves his footballing brain trailing in his wake or that’s how it feels with the inconsistency of his final ball.
Nelson wasn’t the only one whose final ball wasn’t always up to scratch. Granit Xhaka can strike a ball sweetly. Except when it’s in the corner quadrant. His delivery yesterday was terrible and routinely failed to beat the first defender. It isn’t good enough in this day and age to habitually fall short in a key facet of attacking football. We’re not particularly good at set-piece delivery full stop so picking on Xhaka may seem a little unfair.
The rest of the team were little better from open play. I typed that part just as Mkhitaryan thrashed a cross to Aubameyang for a deft finish. Maybe I should do that more often, reverse psychology and all that. Football superstition plays a big part in people’s lives. Lucky underpants and all that.
Our big ritual at Highbury during 88/89 was someone had to go to the bar five minutes before half-time. Invariably, we scored a goal in that time – probably once but that was enough for the routine to start – and it carried on throughout the season.
As for the rest of the young players, it was a mixed bag as you’d expect at this stage. Nketiah needs a goal, but unleased his inner Sanogo yesterday. It’s tough coming on as a sub as a striker; your touch must be golden from the minute you get on the pitch. Rarely do we see that but his time will come.
Martinelli had what looked from first glance a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside. Portly Jon Moss and his motley crew decided to ruin the Brazilian’s ‘home debut’. Honestly, how Moss passes the PGMO fitness tests is baffling; they can’t be that tough. It looked like he’d enjoyed one too many barbecues on his weekends off. Certainly, the summer break didn’t improve his decision-making. He remains consistent, however. Consistently crap, that is.
Two major concerns emerged from yesterday’s match. Alexandre Lacazette’s ankle knack looks certain to keep him out of the trips to Angers and Barcelona. He should, however, be fit for the trip to Newcastle in just under a fortnight’s time. Small mercies, etc.
Defence? Too Late Degate Was Left Wide Open
Which brings us to the defence and where the mantra really kicks in. Both Lyon goals highlighted our weaknesses. Lax marking, poor organisation and for the winner, poor concentration having ‘scored’.
That’s not to take anything away from Lyon. Memphis Depay delivered an excellent cross for the first and Dembele’s header was even better. The second saw the defence by a fine pass and better finish. Let’s be honest as well. Were it not for Leno, we would have conceded more. Might have scored more but that’s a different story.
Defensively, we remain a shambles. Yesterday surely reinforces the need for several defensive signings in the minds of the club’s hierarchy? If not, they can all take themselves off to a remote island, along with Enos and Junior.
The solutions aren’t all down to opening a chequebook. Something wrong on the training ground with the lack of discipline endemic whoever plays. Routinely, we are shambolic, out of position with no positional sense or knowledge of our opponents’ movement.
This isn’t all down to Mustafi either; he wasn’t on the pitch when Dembele equalised which you will struggle to believe given the mindless minority who jeered his arrival. The German is probably the most ill-disciplined of the lot and not good enough for the level of football we strive to occupy.
However, what exactly did you achieve? Other than making a player feel unwanted. Whether you like it or not, will feature for Arsenal this season. Eboue’s confidence was shot to pieces by a similar reception? It didn’t influence Wenger’s thinking and nor will it Emery’s. By all means, critique a performance, highlight the good and bad which I fully agree is mainly the latter. But if your instinct is to boo him, just think again.
Transfer Talks While Bullsh*t Walks
Meanwhile, can we talk about coaching? It isn’t achieving any tangible defensive improvement in this pre-season with the same weaknesses from last season evident. Are we going back to basics? If not, why the hell not? Frequently, I wonder if Emery should adopt George Graham’s training methods, including tying a rope around each of the defenders to teach them to hold their line and positions. When all else fails, etc.
Meanwhile, Sami Khedira’s presence gave rise to a slew of speculation. We are apparently considering an offer for the perma-injured German. I looked at his injury record yesterday and the simple answer is that signing him is gross negligence. He makes Jack Wilshere look like an ever-present.
By the way, if we’re looking at old-stagers, why was Mikael Silvestre talking to Gilles Grimandi…?
Nicholas Pepe is in a permanent state of 72 hours from signing. This is useful advice for those whose lives are dependent on the winger signing:
Following Unai’s admission that we’re looking for centre-backs, everyone and his uncle is giving advice on who to sign. Why one earth did we bother with StatsDNA and scouting software when we’ve got such a volume of feet on the ground doing the work for us?
That’s enough grumping for today.