This morning PBarany wrote:
“The club website shows only the starting line-up. But based on the video highlights this is my take on the guys played yesterday:
Starting XI: Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, David Luiz, Tierney; Guendouzi, Maitland-Niles; Nelson, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
2nd half XI: Martinez (assumed), Sokratis(!), Mari, Holding, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ceballos, Willock, Martinelli, Pepe, Nketiah
Absentees: Macey (3rd keeper), Saka, Torreira, Soares (injured), Chambers (started light training)
The 2 goals in the first half were beautiful, but in the 2nd half we didn’t even concede a chance (worthy of showing among the highlights) and the boys scored 4. Even taking the opponent into consideration it was a promising display.”
I agree with PB that it was a promising display, even if we have only the highlights for analysis. The scoreline is more than respectable and the team looked sharp. What is interesting is the way we lined up in the first half. It looks like that was Arteta’s strongest-11, and it could be the Basque’s favourite team to help him beat his former master on 17 June.
Let’s have a closer look at the first half starting eleven:
- Leno in goal is no surprise, but the CB pairing of Mustafi-Luiz seems to indicate that Arteta will continue with them when the season recommences. Sokratis, Mari and Holding may be seen as back up CBs, as they are all fit but did not start. If anything will get JW1 back on the blog, it will be Arteta’s inclusion of his beloved Mustafi 😉 Key is here that Arteta wants mobility in defence and players who can play the ball out from the back. Both Mustafi and Luiz have defensive frailties and their concentration levels is their worst enemy, but they are dynamic passers of the ball, and this may swing it for them at the moment.
- The thing I have been looking forward from the start of the season, which really feels an eternity away, is both Tierney and Bellerin in the full backs / wing backs positions. Both are very much Arteta-Ball players and to see them start ahead of other options is promising. These positions are so important to get right in the modern game, and we can only hope that Arteta will get this right now (and is lucky with injuries from now on).
- The biggest surprise is AMN in midfield. Xhaka did not start but was fit enough to play in the second half. Is this the moment we see Ainsley move into his beloved central midfield position? The other surprise was Guendouzi starting ahead of Ceballos and Willock and the (injured?) Torreira. So this left us with the combo of Guendo-AMN in midfield. There is high hopes for both players but can we really see them played in the heart of midfield v Guardiola’s globetrotters? I am a big fan of both Xhaka and Torreira but also realise that this duo has not been working that well together. Arteta will need to do something to make us more effective in this pivotal area. So this may be it!
- We need more goals from the deeper (D)M positions and AMN got himself into promising positions a few times from what I could see. Unfortunately, he did not convert but at least he was in the right place at the right time which is half the job. Joe Willock had a strong half from what I could see, however, with an assist and a goal, but I assume that was from the nr10 position rather than from the deeper midfield positions. But Arteta will have noticed how well Joe took his goal compared to the tamer efforts of AMN.
- Laca and Auba each scored and especially the former produced a beauty – together with Willock’s bullet in the top corner the pick of the bunch. It was good to see them hungry and sharp, and if Arteta can lift Laca up to his very best levels then we could finish the season strongly. Auba will always score but we all know that Laca is less prolific at times.
- Having said that, the biggest plus to take from this relatively tame friendly is of course Eddie’s three well-taken goals; and Arteta may now be in the luxury position of having real competition for the CF position between Laca and the academy graduate. A shift may be imminent.
- Nelson v Pepe. The promising graduate v the big buy from League1… Arteta went for the ball-tight Nelson in the first half and I must say I am not surprised. Pepe has underwhelmed until now, blowing hot and cold in each game he starts, and Arteta seems to prefer Nelson’s all-round footballing ability. It will be interesting to see who will get the preference for the remaining games this season..
- Finally, as per PB’s comment, we did not concede a goal and appeared to not have allowed Charlton many chances, perhaps even none in the second half. Keeping clean sheets or at least defending much better is of course also important going forward, and the team has to start somewhere if they want to turn things round…