Arsenal faced Charlton Athletic in a friendly match on Saturday, and we can learn a lot even from the limited public information on the match.
After we cover the obvious details of the match like the goals and who still isn’t fit, there’s still more we can glean from the pictures, videos and highlights Arsenal put up. Let’s have a look at five things we noticed:
1. Tierney looks like the first-choice left-back
Mikel Arteta played two different sides in the two halves against Charlton. The first-half looked a lot like the first-choice team, with Leno in goal, Bellerin and Luiz in defence, Özil, Aubameyang and Lacazette in forward areas, and so on.
What’s interesting is that Tierney also made the team. The Scottish international hasn’t played under Arteta so far, so we had no way of measuring whether he’d usurp Sead Kolasinac and Bukayo Saka.
The early signs look positive for him, though. Even if the first-half team wasn’t all first-choice players, he certainly played more of the match than Saka, who was the starter before the break.
The 23-year-old also provided an assist for Aubameyang, which helps his case. He’s looking like the first-choice left-back Arsenal bought him to be.
2. Leno has still got it
One concern with the return of football is that some goalkeepers in other countries didn’t look ready.
Markus Schubert, for example, had a disastrous first game back for Schalke against Dortmund. Perhaps it’s more difficult to maintain your level as a goalkeeper in isolation, without any opponents to face.
That didn’t seem to be a problem for Leno, however. He made a fantastic save (0:54 in the highlights video) and kept a clean sheet. A solid start.
3. Nketiah is ready for more chances
After a solid first-half, Arsenal blew Charlton away in the second, despite wholesale changes. This was largely thanks to Eddie Nketiah’s influence.
The striker scored an impressive second-half hat-trick to increase the lead to 5-0. First, he turned home a Ceballos free-kick, then he finished confidently in a one-on-one, before heading home a cross from Willock to make it three.
He wasn’t done there, though. The young centre-forward also set up Willock’s goal for 6-0. Three goals and an assist isn’t bad for one half of football.
Nketiah is still unlikely to replace Lacazette or Aubameyang in the starting lineup against Manchester City, but he’s clearly earning more opportunities.
4. Maitland-Niles is likely staying in midfield
Around the time of Cedric Soares’ loan arrival, one of the big questions was over Arteta’s plans for Maitland-Niles. If the head coach was bringing in a new right-back, that presumably meant he didn’t see the academy graduate there.
Over the next few weeks, however, it started to look like Arteta just didn’t see Maitland-Niles in his team at all. He dropped him from the Premier League squad from February onwards and gave him three minutes of football in Arsenal’s last three cup/UEL matches.
Maitland-Niles was back in the team against Charlton, however, and clearly not playing at right-back. He played in the first-half alongside Hector Bellerin, and he appeared to have a midfield role.
Like Tierney, Maitland-Niles capped off his performance with an assist.
5. Lacazette can finish again
It’s impossible to deny that Lacazette went through a goalscoring drought in the early days under Arteta. It took until his ninth game with the new coach to score, and he didn’t seem able to put away any chance that fell his way in the previous eight.
Then, after a rather fortunate finish against Newcastle, his goalscoring touch seemingly returned. He scored three in his last four games before the break.
It was the same story against Charlton, as he scored one of the goals of the game with a powerful half-volleyed finish from outside the box. He just needs to keep it going when the competitive action returns.