Millwall’s boss, Gary Rowett, has admitted Arsenal weren’t really the type of opponent they were looking to face in pre-season but felt the game provided his side with a lot of positives.
Arsenal beat Millwall 4-1 on Saturday in a hastily arranged, behind-closed-doors friendly after they cancelled their tour of the USA and their participation in the Florida Cup due to a number of positive covid results in the travelling party.
Most clubs already had their pre-season games arranged, so finding suitable opponents could have been tricky for Arsenal. Luckily for them, Millwall didn’t have a game and agreed to play this one, despite it not really fitting with their manager’s preparation plans.
Speaking to Millwall’s club website, Rowett said: “That was the main focus of the game [players getting minutes]. We had no game organised and Arsenal asked us if we wanted to play.
“The quality of opponent didn’t quite fit into our pre-season plan, we have quite a few players missing. But we decided to play the game anyway and get those valuable minutes in.
“Actually, a lot of good things came out of the game. In the first half we were excellent, we should’ve scored a few goals ourselves, we missed some good chances, we hit the post and their goalkeeper made a great save off Benik [Afobe].
“There were some really bright performances against a really strong Arsenal team, who you know are going to move the ball well and keep running you around. It was a good exercise for us defensively.
“The second-half was difficult, when you start to make a lot of changes and have quite a few young lads on the pitch, it almost becomes a ‘let’s get through the game and not worry to much about how the score ends up’. But overall it was a good workout all round.
“Unless it’s a cup competition, we’re not going to play anyone near as technically efficient as that type of team. We can’t measure ourselves off comfortably beating Motherwell or Barnet, just like we can’t measure ourselves off losing to Arsenal. It’s more about little bits that I want to see and bits that I’m encouraged by.
“Also young Alex Mitchell, he’s living the dream at the moment, he’s had a really quick rise to the first team. He comes in every day and has a massive smile on his face, he just wants to go and play, he wants to test himself and although the plan for Alex Mitchell was to go out on loan again, at this moment in time, he’s benefiting so much from being in and around the first-team. He’s given me some food for thought as to whether I keep him with us for longer.
“Pre-season is all about giving players opportunities and minutes to show what they can do, building that fitness, building some player principles that are really important. We have to make sure the squad is ready and we have two games now with fans there, which will be a slightly different atmosphere. Both are quite close to a Championship type of game, so we’re looking forward to it.”