Arsenal won their first pre-season friendly 4-1 against MK Dons on Tuesday, as they prepare for the weekend Community Shield match.

Mikel Arteta at the friendly match against MK Dons (Photo via Arsenal on Twitter)
Mikel Arteta at the friendly match against MK Dons (Photo via Arsenal on Twitter)

Arsenal faced MK Dons in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday, getting their first proper run-out since the FA Cup final on August 1st.

The game ended 4-1 to the Gunners, with the only goal conceded coming from a freak Rob Holding header into his own net. A positive result without any injuries, a strong start to a short pre-season campaign.

There were a number of strong performances, but here are four that caught our eye.

William Saliba

William Saliba on his friendly debut against MK Dons (Photo via Arsenal on Twitter)
William Saliba on his friendly debut against MK Dons (Photo via Arsenal on Twitter)

All the talk pre-game was about Saliba’s debut. Arsenal fans couldn’t wait to watch the 19-year-old get going with his new club, and he didn’t disappoint.

For a centre-back, Saliba didn’t have too much to do defensively. He did win an aerial duel and made a nice sliding challenge when tested for pace. But mostly his defensive influence came from helping the team press, which he did well.

On the ball, however, he really caught the eye. He consistently picked intelligent passes and he played a good part in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal, sliding a forward pass into Cedric Soares’ path. A solid first 45 minutes.

Ben Cottrell

Mikel Arteta with Ben Cottrell at the friendly match against MK Dons (Photo via Cottrell on Instagram)
Mikel Arteta with Ben Cottrell at the friendly match against MK Dons (Photo via Cottrell on Instagram)

Cottrell was making his senior-friendly debut for Arsenal, and he had to play out at left wing-back. The midfielder generally plays in central areas for the u23s, often at 10, but to get a game he ended up out on the left this time.

It would’ve been easy for the youngster to hide, playing passively and blaming any mistakes on the fact he was out of position. But he was actually one of the brighter performers during his time on the pitch.

Time and again he wriggled out of tight spaces with smart passing and dribbles.

Reiss Nelson

Reiss Nelson in a friendly against MK Dons (Photo via Faisal HQ on Twitter)
Reiss Nelson in a friendly against MK Dons (Photo via Faisal HQ on Twitter)

Nelson certainly had people talking throughout his time on the pitch. At first, his decision-making looked a bit off, as he wasted a couple of good positions, but he quickly made amends.

The winger ended up with a goal and assist in his 40 minutes on the pitch. He got the assist with a nicely-taken corner, before winning and scoring a penalty with an impressive driving run into the box.

The 20-year-old finished the 2019/20 campaign strongly, so it would be great to see him start the new one in the same fashion.

Mark McGuinness

Mark McGuinness on his friendly debut for Arsenal against MK Dons (Photo via David Price on Twitter)
Mark McGuinness on his friendly debut for Arsenal against MK Dons (Photo via David Price on Twitter)

Another one making his senior debut, centre-back McGuinness made it count by scoring his first goal. He headed home powerfully from a Nelson corner to make it 3-1.

Playing in the centre of the back three, the defender also did well at the back. MK Dons only put together 0.03 xG in the final half-hour of the match, which was thanks to a solid defensive effort from the group of academy players.

McGuinness already has the physicality for first-team football, he just needs to keep developing the rest of his game this season. He missed out on large portions of 2019/20 through injury, but 2020/21 could be his breakthrough year with the u23s.

I’d also like to give a mention to the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka, who all performed well. There were quite a few players on their game already, which they’ll need to be again in a big way to beat Liverpool on Saturday.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.