With the new Premier League season just five days away, here are six things we learned from Arsenal’s pre-season.
It’s been a pretty successful pre-season for Arsenal; as successful as pre-season could ever be, anyway. We won more games than we lost, picked up two trophies (three if you count the bonus trophy we got for beating Bayern Munich) and didn’t suffer any major injuries. It can’t get much better than that.
Arsenal will now hope that the Community Shield triumph will give them a boost going into the opening game against Leicester on Friday. In the meantime, here are six things that we learned from Arsenal’s pre-season.
1. New formation, but same old Arsenal
Arsene Wenger confirmed before the first friendly against Sydney FC that we would continue to use the back three that served as well during the run-in last season and indeed, we used the formation in every friendly, even when we didn’t quite have the personnel to do so.
Yet while the formation is very different to what we’re used to, it looks like we’ll be seeing the same old Arsenal, for better or for worse. The 5-2 victory over Benfica showed us the exciting attacking potential the team has when it uses explosive wing-backs, while the 2-1 defeat to Sevilla the next day showed the lethargic and slow passing that are hallmarks of any poor Arsenal performances. The games against Bayern and Chelsea in China demonstrated Arsenal’s lack of defensive discipline, though it should be said that they were playing midfielders at the back at the time.
The shape may be different, but tactically it’s looking the same as always.
2. Sead Kolasinac will be a fan favourite
Hulk, Tank, Tractor – whatever you want to call him, Sead Kolasinac is fast becoming a fan favourite at Arsenal. His bulky frame is striking enough, while the sight of him bombarding up the flank really is spectacular. The Bosnian arrived with a reputation for tough play and a willingness to fight for everything, and he’s lived up that in his short time in an Arsenal shirt. If the fans love anything, it’s a wholesome, fully committed and physical player. A goal against Chelsea always helps.
3. Reiss Nelson could be Arsenal’s next breakout star
There’s always one youngster who stands out in pre-season, and this year it’s 17-year-old Reiss Nelson. The winger played as a wing-back in our friendlies and impressed with his explosive pace, quick feet and dangerous delivery. A superb performance against Benfica capped-off a wonderful pre-season for him, and he’ll certainly be one to watch in the games to come this season.
4. Alex Iwobi will relish the competition
Another impressive performer in pre-season has been Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian started last season very well, but faded to the extent that he was barely involved towards the end of the season. With just two attacking midfield spots up for grabs, and four players to fight it out with, Iwobi will have to be on the top of game to get first team minutes this season. Based on his pre-season showings, it’s so far so good.
5. The Lacazette-Giroud rivalry will be one to watch
Lacazette may be Arsenal’s record signing but we know Giroud won’t give up his spot in the team without a fight. The former has huge expectations to live up, while the latter will feel like he plenty to prove. All being well, it should inspire both players to play to the absolute best of their abilities, something Arsenal can only benefit from.
6. Arsene Wenger will play centre back roulette
Three centre back spots, six first team centre backs, two auxiliary centre backs and one emergency centre back – it’ll take a brave soul to predict just who will form Arsenal’s backline this season. Arsenal went through just about every possible combination during pre-season, including fielding midfielders Mohamed Elneny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles back there. Wenger may have a preferred trio in mind, but injuries could prevent him from using it. In which case, who gets the nod is anyone’s guess. With Wenger talking up Elneny’s ability to play there, perhaps we should be concerned.