Maitland-Niles Means Business, Auba-Laca Bromance, Unai Full of Beans, Cech nr.1? 8 Friendly Observations

Until now, I did not have any time to write about our friendly at Boreham Wood last weekend. It was great to see the boys in action and here are eight first observations (and please add yours if not mentioned below by me):

  1. The most obvious observation is of course the camaraderie between our combined £100m+ strike force: Auba-Laca. There was some healthy bromance going one with a genuine desire to create chances for each other and work in tandem throughout the first 45 minutes. PE wrote a good post about the Auba-Laca thread, so I will not elaborate too much. France and Croatia (and Belgium and England) have shown us that the big beast of a CF is not dead yet: Giroud, Mandzukic, Lukaku and half-moon face Kane are all examples of the classical CF. Auba and Laca are not of the classical sort, although both can be used in that capacity/role. But I am looking forward to the unpredictability and multi-functionality of the Auba-Laca duo. They will be a nightmare to keep quiet and the likes of Ozil, Mkhi, Rambo etc will find them a joy to work with. Sanchez paired badly with anyone Wenger put next to him on the pitch; there is high hope that Auba-Laca will work for each other and the team, and that can only be a good thing.
  2. Ainsley Maitland-Niles (AMN) meant business and he prepared perhaps the best assist of the game – the second goal for Auba. It is not too hard to make a good impression when expectations are low for a youngster; but it’s a lot harder to do so when expectations are beginning to rise. That’s when a player needs to step up and (re)announce himself. AMN did just that on Saturday: an athlete with great core strength and great ball skills – and now also with the vision to find the best pass? Let’s hope this will be his breakthrough season – he has everything going for him.
  3. Cech did not look like he is going to be our nr.2 easily this season. Petr looked fresh and keen and he played a big part in us keeping a clean sheet. I would imagine Leno will not have joined on the basis of being our nr.2 this season, but Petr will fight him for it all the way…. and the manager may have to make a difficult decision.
  4. I love the away shirt – so much better than the horrible double blue outfit we had last season (never to be seen again).
  5. There seemed to be a tactical change with more or less two sub-teams: one responsible for defending and one for attacking with limited overlap when it comes to the latter. This was picked up by the Arsenal commentators too and I wonder whether we will see this more in the coming games. There are two things we need to improve on desperately this season: shipping significantly less goals (home and away) and picking up a lot more points in away games. To achieve this we need to focus harder on our defending and this could be done by having two ‘sub-teams’ with their own goals and targets; and I have seen Arsene doing the same when getting results was all that mattered. Key for this – as always – is getting the midfield right and that is why we should be delighted at the new additions to this key area. Emery has options to tweak the midfield for every game we play, as discussed in recent posts.
  6. In the first half our defence did struggle quite a bit and Boreham Wood were a tad unlucky not to score at least once. Especially on our right (Bel-Sokratis) we looked vulnerable on the ground, and we were also making hard work of defending high balls into the box. This will need to be looked at over the next few weeks.
  7. The youngsters impressed with their hunger, discipline and effectiveness: with a fine goal by Reiss Nelson and good positional awareness of Smith-Rowe (and a couple of good runs with the ball on our left flank), Nketiah’s perfect poker and another powerful goal by Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
  8. Final observation goes to our new manager: I loved his involvement in the game and verbal guidance to the team when on the pitch. Unai is taking this job very seriously and his energy and instructions on the side-line is rubbing off well on the team. I know it was only a friendly and against a much weaker team, but I could sense real energy and determination in the team and the manger is playing a key part in this. That’s all we can ask for, no?

By TotalArsenal. 

17 thoughts on “Maitland-Niles Means Business, Auba-Laca Bromance, Unai Full of Beans, Cech nr.1? 8 Friendly Observations

  • Thanks Truly,

    Well, Cech might be going back to Chelsea if the rumours are to be believed. Courtois to Real, Allison joining Liverpool instead. Maybe Roman Abramovic really is cutting down his expenditure on Chelsea after all. (Hazard, Willian and Kante rumoured to be leaving too)
    Some fans suggested bringing Giroud back in exchange for Cech. I’d like that but I think we’re better off taking the cash. If at all we’re selling Cech that is.

    Agreed on AMN. I think he’s shown steady improvement since he first came on the scene and has served the team well everywhere he’s played. Now, he can step up and make himself a prime midfield option for the team (I don’t think he’s going to be a starter just yet)

    I have high hopes for Jeff this season, as long as he can stay fit. And also fo Eddie Nketiah. Goal poacher extraordinaire. The kind of player who can help us in certain games. Also playing with Auba and Laca should help his development. He’s one of the reasons I’m not keen on Giroud’s return (Though I appreciate his talents, and on an emotional level I would really want it) Not so keen on Reiss Nelson. He’s still got to prove what he can do. Great finish though. If he tries to blackmail the club to play him in the first team as a condition for signing the contract, I think he might be sold.

  • Shard, all the way with you re Nelson. He scored and caused a pen which is great – and yes it was a fine goal too – but not signing a new deal is at best annoying.

    Giroud in exchange for Cech?! Well that would be brilliant. Ollie as a plan B and experienced back up for Laca, Auba…. No brainer for me, as Eddie will get chances in the cups this season. But I cannot see it happening tbh.

  • “If he tries to blackmail the club to play him in the first team as a condition for signing the contract, I think he might be sold.”

    Nelson would be wise to ask for a 1-year deal here. If he gets chances and stars– he wins. If not, he can work elsewhere in a year. Serves both sides actually.


  • It was just a friendly and our first in pre-season but the pre-season is the window into what to look forward to in the coming season, in terms of who stays, goes (loaned or sold), team outlook, structure and maybe who is going to be No. 1. Itis the reason players who have extended holidays hardly feature in the early fixtures while others lose their first team places altogether.

    So, no surprises that the younger players will try to impress the manager. I also liked the Laca-Auba combo which I believe has been helped by Auba’s humility in not throwing tantrums when asked to play from the wings for Laca, being the new buy on a bigger pay package. You feel Emery will be looking at our right side to find a good fix; not a problem as I expect Torreira will be playing round about that zone in midfield and may have to help with “loading” the area from midfield. The young players all did well, to varying degrees. Willock may be the only one who will need to show improvements.

  • Looks like we had a closed door game vs Crawley Town tonight and won 9-0. All the players you’d expect to got game t8me, with Bernd Leno playing his first game for Arsenal. The Singapore tour would be crucial for most of the lads.

  • I think that so many people out there are screaming to buy a pacey wide midfielder/forward. ….i think Reiss Nelson could do the job. I was really annoyed that Arsene didn’t give him more time last year, when we weren’t really playing for anything. Preferring and persisting with my 2 least favorite players, that I don’t even have to name.
    I know you will all say that maybe Nelson didn’t earn the time, maybe something didn’t look good in practice to Wenger.

    I watched many videos of his and Nketiah and think there’s really something there, . I hope we don’t buy an inferior player, and lose a young talent. If we do lose him, I’ll blame Nelson himself though, and Arsene a little.

  • I can’t quite understand why the loan spells are never really successful for the younger players. A 17 to 20 yr old able to break into the 1st eleven of a top team must be a player of the highest talent and there are very few of them. The logical step to take, is to send them on loan to smaller clubs, to continue with their development until they are able to compete for 1st team spots. For whatever reasons its success rate is so low.

    As a big team, we naturally have many senior capable players and any junior who is unable to bid his time, has to be allowed to go.

  • ,Eris, for adding an observation. Yes Willock struggled a bit but I wasn’t going to mention it in my (mainly) positive observations. He tried and hopefully he played better yesterday

  • TA–
    With all due respect to your view on the previous thread? I’m not one to quantify a victory where silverware is involved. Sure, I realize one is viewed with more prestige than another– but it is another opportunity to celebrate Arsenal (and I do!). Those 3 Shields were, in fact, won against the previous season’s PL champs. I get that 8-0 v Boreham Wood and 9-0 v Crawley Town are different animals in preseason. But to play at Wembley for a medal and trophy against the champs is a positive.

    Don’t you too see the irony– in Emery winning 3 straight Europa Leagues– being promoted to PSG– then on to Arsenal. Contrasted with 3 FA Cups and three Community Shields in 5 years getting AW run out of town?

    Furthering that bit of irony is Klopp starting his 4th season at Pool, Pochettino his 5th at Tottenham. Each of whom would pay a ransom for one solitary trophy to show. Those sets of fans are happy with unfulfilled hope. Some of ours? Furious with trophies.

    (As jgc) My 2¢.

  • Bittersweet note:
    Read elsewhere that Ox has been ruled out for much of the upcoming season requiring knee surgery.


  • Poor lad. But these (Ox injuries) are the things you can’t prepare for; something most forget plagued him while at Arsenal while Wenger kept the faith, hoping for him to fulfil the potential. Wish him as quick a recovery as he can hope for.

  • Hello, one and all, 😇

    (How’s life treating you Jnyc? Well – I hope.)

    Totally agree aboutt Nelson and Nketiah — but if I am honest, the latter has been making my eyes whirl with his speed and goal scoring abilities — and then out of the blue Emile Smith-Rowe comes thru — and our brilliant young players have even more competition. He is special!!

    Love it!!

  • Hello Redders,
    How’s your health holding up? Good I hope.
    Hope you’re good as well, Total.
    Can’t wait for the new season to start, in spite of what has gone before most Arsenal fans are on the same page in terms of our collective excitement.
    From what I’ve seen, Emery looks very methodical and likes his team’s to play good football.
    Klopp has shown how to beat Pep, and Emery has beaten Klopp in a major European final.
    But it’s a free season for Emery – or at least it should be. Of course we’ll lose games, but it’s how you lose and what you learn from those set-backs that defines your character, and we start with a clean slate. As long as we’re all realistic with our expectations and don’t expect too much too soon, this could be a very pleasant journey.
    For the first time in a long time, Arsenal and the fans are in a good place, and it feels great.

  • Thanks for asking Herb — fingers crossed, I am still in ‘consultation’ mode.

    Hope you are well too.

    I am hoping that Emery turns out to be as good as we are all hoping — after all the arguments to and fro, it is ironic that even Arsene has admitted he stayed too long, and regrets it.

    Oh, well, we all make mistakes in life.

  • A big hello to two fellow blogging old timers, Redders and Herb. Hope you are both well and looking fwd to the new season. Agreed with Herb’s sentiment to give the manager time.

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