Who Was Faultless, Who Had a Touch of Class and Who Underwhelmed? Arsenal Player Reviews

The word that springs to mind when describing this game vs MK Dons is perspective, because it was in their previous friendly that MK conceded six goals against Norwich, so let us be supercool about what we saw. It was a case of practicing pressing, passing and playing out from the back, getting match fitness and sharpness and it was therefore a good workout.

Mistakes were made, passes went adrift, chances weren’t capitalised on and some players missed their opportunity but in general it encouraging.

Arteta will have used this game to try out some new ideas like Willock at right wing back, Smith Rowe on the left and then the right wing, Nelson in reverse, Elneny in the Ceballos role, Saliba in a trio with Holding and Tierney, plus a whole host of new youngsters – the next generation – from our talent machine at Hale End.

For many of us it’ll be the first time we’ve seen some of these players so, given the circumstances, it’s really difficult for me to give them a mark; and I’ll leave that up to someone else. But this is how I felt they played:

Leno: made one really smart save from a free kick and looked completely over his knee injury. Didn’t have much else to do as MK were poor in attack but was generally steady in all he did.

Saliba: very assured, very composed and comfortable among his new team mates, was never stretched and controlled pretty much all that came his way. A good debut.

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Holding: with the exception of his spectacular diving header he had a good game as the senior centre back, coped comfortably throughout his 60 minutes on the pitch but unfortunately most fans will remember the own goal.

Tierney: another faultless performance from our left back, he never has a poor game and I’m very glad about that. Keeps everything simple and under control, is fast becoming my favourite Arsenal player.

Maitland Niles: nothing too eye catching just did a solid job, it’ll be a shame to see him leave if he does in fact leave because he is such a versatile and valuable player.

Soares: had a steady 45, didn’t get forward that often, tended to hold back and keep us in a back four shape when we attacked, in fact the defensive organisation of the team was actually what really impressed me; the improvement in that area of play is remarkable.

Xhaka: good old steady Granit just keeps thing ticking over especially in this new age of Arteta organisation. Everything looks like a fine Swiss timepiece, Xhaka knows exactly what he has to do and where he has to be and that’s his job – a job he does to perfection. It just goes to show what some thoughtful coaching can achieve.

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Elneny: put in an energetic 60 minutes with maybe an eye on impressing the boss and you certainly couldn’t fault his effort. He scored a really good goal by keeping  his head as the ball came to him following a defensive mix up, he didn’t try to lash it he simply passed it into the net, a very composed finish. He did a lot of good work but gave away far too many daft fouls and that in the Premier League would have seen him in big trouble. Overall a good performance.

Saka: his part in our 2nd goal was excellent where he took a smart pass from Soares in one of his rare forward sorties and turned a superb cross into the path of Eddie who did his thing. He was a constant threat and took a few heavy kicks for his trouble during his 45 minutes but just got on with it.

Nketiah: Eddie was all over the place continually pressing and chasing, he looks stronger and fitter from last season and looks well set to be having another good season. Took his goal with the minimum of fuss and seems ready and able to be making quite a few more of those mobile phone celebrations this campaign.

Aubameyang: if I was giving out marks I’d give him a 4 as he pretty much just strolled through his 45 minutes, that said he could have still scored a couple. He has nothing to prove, we know he’s brilliant now sort out the contract.

Willock: half time sub for Soares and did ok at right wing back, got forward a couple of times to good effect. I wonder if Arteta sees him permanently in this new position?

Ballard: half time for Saliba, a bit rough around the edges but battled away, he’d be just the right man for a wet Tuesday night up in Stoke as he doesn’t hide and given that he’s had to fight tooth and nail for his Arsenal career I’d never write him off. Needs to polish his act up a bit, but if determination gets you to where you want to be then this lad has it.

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Bola: half time for AMN, had a very steady 45, he quietly got on with his job at one point saving our reserve goalkeeper from an embarrassment after he slipped over.
Not sure if he’s got what it takes but he’s certainly worth some more game time, maybe in the League Cup.

Smith Rowe: half time for Saka, big things expected from him and highly rated by Arteta but failed his audition. Didn’t do enough for me.

Nelson: half time for Auba, tried a few mazy dribbles and tricks but it wasn’t coming off. One of the few we have who runs at opponents and tries to commit them and it finally came off when he drove into the box and was fouled. Got up and calmly slotted home the penalty. I like Reiss, he gives us something different but he needs to deliver more often as patience isn’t in abundance with so much on the line and so much competition. He took a lovely corner though and plonked it right on the head of the scorer of our 3rd goal.

McGuinness: replaced Holding on 60 minutes and scored our 3rd goal when he lost his marker and thundered his header past a stranded MK goalkeeper. He look composed, read the game really well, came out of defence and into the midfield when he needed to break up opposing attacks. For a big guy he is very nimble on the ground, has a sound technique and actually looks a very promising prospect.

Cottrell: small, compact and like a terrier because he never stopped running, tackling and competing. Skillful in tight corners and he always tried to play his way out of situations. He tackles like he means it and definitely looks like he’s got something to offer.

Olayinka: I’ve seen him a few times before and he’s always done well but this time he seemed a bit off of the pace. Just my view but I still like him.

Azeez: very tall, strong and technical lad, he’s got that touch of class, you know always has time on the ball, only had 30 minutes but has 1st team firmly printed on his forehead.

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John Jules: almost scored and linked up well with Nelson, he has a lot of talent but is probably a scorer of great goals rather than a great goal scorer.

Macey: he won’t be giving Martinez and Leno sleepless nights, but he made a couple of decent saves and almost dropped a couple of huge clangers. He’s a goalkeeper, it happens….

In the last 5 minutes George Lewis came on and Oyegoke came on, the former didn’t touch the ball, the latter looked pretty good.

Feel free to disagree.

By Allezkev

34 thoughts on “Who Was Faultless, Who Had a Touch of Class and Who Underwhelmed? Arsenal Player Reviews

  • Your welcome Total, I have no idea why you didn’t get it first time, but glad I could help.

  • Loved the Ballard description too. And agreed re Elneny: he did well but has to sort out to fouls he gave away. I am hoping that was a combination of eagerness and rustiness, so early in the new season…

  • The highlight of the game – from the bit I was able to see – was that sumptuous pass by Saka for Eddie’s goal. He looked up, saw that both Auba and Eddie were in the box, and when he passed the ball back to Eddie, he kept looking at Auba who was at the same level as Bukayo. The pass was so sharp that Eddie just had to make contact with it, which was made easy by the quality of the delivery. Such a joy to watch.

  • couldn’t watch the whole game, but based on what i saw, i feel free to agree with you completely
    i sure wish i could have seen this cottrell lad – i’ve always liked calf-biting youngsters, and this one looks like he has much more than that in his locker
    well, thanks for the good job, kev – by the way, i liked “the drinks on mcguinness” a lot too: i spent a year in dublin as an assistant and became very partial to the dark beverage. i’ve just watched the highlights: what a header!! (dear ol’ o’leary’s heir apparent??)

  • Total, I read on another blog that McGuinness has had a lot of injury issues since he was one of the stars of his U16 group, he is now 19. He missed over a year and according to what I read grew 6” in that time, so he’s now playing catch-up. Apparently BFG likes him and he signed a professional contract in mid 2019 so he’s very much being mentored by our Gross Friendly German. Another factoid is that he’s scored 4 goals and all of them have been headers!

  • Cheers LG, I think the whole game is still on You Tube mate.

    Ah Guinness, well spotted mon ami.

    I see that Chilwell is set to move to Chelsea for a fee in the region of £50m, if so then how is Maitland Niles valued at so much less in the media. We should just keep him.

  • Cheers Allezkev!

    Pretty much agree with everything and I’d like to add that Ballard and McGuinness really look like rugby boys who may end up being too stiff for prem footballers. My only exceptions to your observations:

    1) Willock was poor. Against a League 1 side, I expected him to dominate, but he seems as clueless as ever (poor positioning, misplaced passes, completely missed some 1-2s etc.).

    2) Azeez was awful. He’s 16 or 17, so I’m obviously not taking anything away from yesterday, but he misplaced several passes, let the ball run by him when he could have intercepted a pass, and lost the ball in our own half by holding onto the ball for too long. He needs a LOT of development with the U23s before being ready. There was no urgency to his game and he seems to have that nonchalant attitude that AMN also has.

  • Joe Willock has it all, just needs a run of games. Very few youngsters have that ability to be at the right place at the right time, but Joe has it and he scores regularly as well.

  • TA, agree to disagree. Willock offers little to nothing for me. I’d love to loan him out and give him some first team minutes elsewhere, he looks lost out there even against MK Dons.

  • Hi HH, just goes to show how differently we can view games, funnily enough Jeorge Bird was also quite critical of Azeez, but it’s probably because he’s seen him more than me, it was my first time seeing him in action and I was impressed – hey it’s cool man, it wouldn’t do for us all to agree on everything, but yeah, on reflection Willock should dominate more as you say, he’s very experienced now but I guess I just gave him some extra latitude as he was playing in an unfamiliar position. But in general it was a encouraging performance by the lads.

  • These multiple chances friendlies are far from ideal. It is just the first 45 minutes that count if you ask me. But happy to agree to disagree with you, HH.

  • Ta, my problem with Willock is that he also showed me very little in his cameo appearances after the restart (it’s not just one friendly). It’s been a series of frustrations, but I do agree that he’s a young player who needs to play more, it just shouldn’t be at Arsenal this coming season unless it’s purely for cup and Europa league group stages.

  • Allezkev, I’ve seen Azeez play way better and am in absolute agreement with Jeorge. First time with the first-team squad maybe led to some jitters and the deer in the headlights effect.

  • Fantastic job Kev. Really. I feel like I didn’t miss a thing. I learned a lot about the younger players too, though I’m gonna try and watch the game now if I can. Thanks.

  • Fair enough, HH. 🙂

    It is your opinion and probably not Arteta’s but nothing wrong we seeing things differently. I predict a very bright future for JWill.

    Night night all. 🙂

  • It’s worth the effort Johnno if you can get to see the whole game and the commentary isn’t as intrusive as we usually get on the major channels, glad you enjoyed my scribble.

    How’s things in New York these day J, I see it’s now kicking off in Denver, whatever happened to social distancing?

  • Apparently Fiorentina have submitted a bid for Torreira and are waiting to hear back from Arsenal.

  • I love the stand NBA players took yesterday against racism and the structural issues that exist in our society.

    Feels awful talking about sports today when so many other things are going on, but did want to leave you all with some good news from Arteta’s press conference when asked about Ceballos: “He (Dani) was pretty clear with me that his intention was to remain with us.”

  • doesn’t look good on the dani front …

    Dani Ceballos has already communicated to Real Madrid his desire to play for Real Betis next season.
    5:15 PM · 27 août 2020

    The player who was pictured wearing the Real Betis top on holiday, has already made his wish clear: to play for Real Betis. He is now waiting for Real Madrid to agree a deal with Betis.
    5:18 PM · 27 août 2020

    with lucas seemingly on his way out too; might be time to give Joe W. playing time in his favoured B to B position, alongside Granit
    most of all, I think we’re in for endless speculations about partey; but atleti’ll know we’re eager now, and the price might soar (as may aouar’s, for that matter)
    I, for one, vote Joe

  • Mundo Deportivo is middle of the road in accuracy with transfer news, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in it yet. Dani’s also been liking and commenting on all Arsenal posts, so you can extrapolate what you will from his social media activity (the equivalent of him wearing the Betis shirt on vacation).

    Arteta’s comments on Dani in today’s presser were pretty clear. If he didn’t think Dani wanted to come back, he wouldn’t have said what he did.

  • Interesting listening to the positive things Arteta was saying about Maitland Niles, Guendouzi, Elneny, Aubameyang and Ceballos. A mixture of messages I’d say, from I’d like this player to stay to we all start from fresh this season and I’ve played with him and I know he’s a good player.

    This sends messages to agents as well as players and clubs who we may or may not do business with, therefore Guendouzi could be reintegrated if he conforms and it also means if you want to sign him on the cheap you can jog on! Repeat and rinse with Maitland Niles and Elneny.

    The Elneny statement also tells Real Madrid that we aren’t going to be ripped off for Dani as we know Zidane won’t play him and Betis can’t afford him and if you play hard ball we’ll keep Elneny. And that also sends a message to all those Turkish clubs who want Elneny on loan, because if you want him this time you’ll have to buy him.

    At last, it seems that Arsenal have grown a pair insofar as transfer dealings with other clubs.
    Atlético want all the money up front for Partey it seems and they also want Laca, so if they want Lacazette then Arsenal should demand the whole fee up front, quid pro quo…

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