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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I love the away shirt – so much better than the horrible double blue outfit we had last season (never to be seen again).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?