It is only early days and there is still a good chance that Arsenal will strengthen (and or weaken) the squad further before the transfer window closes, which could still have a big impact of course, but there are definitely some interesting early observations to be made. Friendlies are of course just relatively meaningless friendlies but Arsenal have played these games with intensity and purpose, which in itself is a positive thing and may indicate that Emery and the squad are still (again?) in harmony.
Eight early, pre-season observations:
- Leno is looking strong and ready to be the undisputed nr.1 of the team. He made a number of strong saves but I also liked the way he talks to the team and imposes himself on the pitch. I reckon this will be his proper breakthrough year. But then I also liked Martinez’s appearances and I feel he would be a good nr.2 to Leno this season;
- I am hopeful that Emery will get the midfield balance and strategic positioning right this time round and was impressed with our midfield performance v Bayern (see also previous post). It will be interesting to see what he will do with his new nr.8 Ceballos, who some have described as the ‘Rambo’ replacement. I have already written about how impressed I have been with Willock, and especially the chemistry between him and automatic first teamers Xhaka and Ozil, but now Emery can also throw his RM loan signing into the mix. And what does this mean for young Guendo? He impressed many but I saw more areas for improvements then qualities, especially in terms of defensive awareness and interception skills. I reckon Willock is a more complete midfielder at this stage… a bit of a Wijnaldum if you ask me. Guendouzi is still young and maybe a loan spell for four to six months would do him good?
- It is really important that we have some spare firepower in the team other than from the super combo LacaMeyang. With Welbeck and Rambo gone we have only a few other players who can get the occasional goals. We need more from Ozil, Xhaka and Mkhi this season, but we also need one or two CFs to get the goals for us. I am really pleased that Eddie has scored three goals already and have a feeling that Emery will give him regular first team opportunities this season. The beauty of having Laca and Auba in the team is that the likes of Eddie and Nelson will be able to learn and express themselves without too much pressure on them. Bu we still may need to get an experienced CF to come of the bench occasionally…
- The Koz on strike situation is not good. It looks like he is just trying to force the club to let him go (and get a to him more lucrative contract in France) whilst leaving a gap in our central defence. I would imagine Emery’s strategy was to combine Koz and Sok at the start of the season and then ease Holding into the CB pairing, with a gradual reduction of games for the Frenchman, which, giving his age and proneness to injury, I could sympathise with. What is Emery to do now? Continue to use Mustafi as a regular next to Sok? I don’t think they form a good partnership and get the best out of themselves. Maybe a deal could be done with Koz: keep him till Christmas and then allow him to go home. Or is this now a great opportunity to buy a quality CB and let Holding and Sok fight out between them who gets to play next to them? A big decision to be made here in the coming weeks… that’s for certain!
- Nelson is struggling to impose himself and a new loan deal may well be the best option for him this season. With Gabriel Martinelli Arsenal already have a promising young attacker and surely he will be given a proper chance to play first team football this season. So it is up to Nelson to give Emery a luxury headache and I don’t think he is doing that right now.
- The left back situation remains unresolved. On the day Nacho M is as good as anybody but this will be another gruelling season for him and we need back up. Kola is a good option for a 3-4-3 formation (so ideal to come from the bench in many a game), but unless the opponents start flashing knives at the Bosnian beast his defending will remain below par. A great player to have for a Plan B, though.
- The most important early conclusion is that Mesut is staying and is playing with fresh mojo. I am really hoping that Ozil and Emery have reconnected and are aligned about the way they want to play football this season (see also previous posts). We have a top-three PL player in our midst and need to build the team around him, and show him the love. A hard ask for today’s Arsenal fan, I know… 😦
- A left back, potentially a centre back… do we need anything else? A quality winger would really, really help but maybe Martinelli is an instant hit. When teams park the bus we need players like Iwobi who can dribble past a player to get some momentum in our attacks. Ideally we get an experienced, 15-20 goals/assists a season, Hazardesque player before the window shuts. Zaha would be nice but I am still hoping we can complete the signing of Nicolas Pepe. However, I am also happy to see us use youngsters here and give them a chance to grow. As written earlier, an experienced CF to come from the bench would also not be bad – another loan deal perhaps?
All in all, I am starting to get excited about the coming season, and I hope you are too. Come on You Rip-Roaring Gunners!!!!