Arsenal – 5 talking points from the Gunners’ final pre-season friendly

Arsenal - 5 talking points from the Gunners' final pre-season friendly

Arsenal completed their pre-season preparations with a 2-0 win against Serie A side Lazio. Here, we look at the 5 major takeaways from the Gunners’ final pre-season friendly.

Unai Emery Experiments

Arsenal began the game with a 4-4-2 formation with the striking duo of Lacazette & Nketiah, Nelson and Iwobi out wide and Torreira and Xhaka in the central midfield. This formation is likely not Emery’s first choice as he prefers the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formations which would mean either pushing Aubameyang out wide or benching Lacazette, which the fans would not like. During the 2nd half, the formation shifted to 4-3-3 when Aubameyang replaced Nketiah and moved to the left, Iwobi moved to the right and Lacazette stayed central. The Arsenal boss has used every possibility to try out different formations and partnerships.

In the post-match interview, Emery said: “Each match is giving us information to continue to improve and continue to develop. Today we played with 4-4-2, to try this system and tweak our mentality, style and ideas, but for me in the first half, the possession with the ball and control with the ball wasn’t as good as I wanted. It’s for that reason that we started the second half with three midfielders. I think in the second half we controlled the match better with this system.”

Guendouzi already a fan favourite

The French midfielder has clearly been one of the standout players in pre-season for Arsenal but it his popularity extends beyond the pitch. Matteo was at the heart of the fun and games when the players were doing the passing drill in training, at one point diving and pretending to need medical attention, making all his teammates laugh.

His celebration after his teammate Iwobi scored the winning penalty was a highlight as well. 

Unquestionably, the 19-year-old is already a strong fan favourite.

Leno or Cech?

After a strong performance by Petr Cech against Chelsea, it was clear that the no.1 spot at Arsenal was in strong contention. And against Lazio, Bernd Leno put in a brilliant performance as well. The 36-year-old or the 26-year-old, one thing is certain, it will be a formidable choice for Emery. 

In the post-match interview, Emery said: “The best for the team is to have the best goalkeeper with the best performances. Every match we’ve had good performances from Petr Cech and Bernd Leno and also from Emi Martinez, and for that I am happy. I am on the lookout for who will start in the first XI.” 

Torreira exactly what Arsenal need

Lucas Torreira’s crunching tackle on Marco Parolo left the Lazio man yelping in pain on the touchline. But the Uruguayan proved that he is more than just a scrapper in his unofficial debut for the club. The 22-year-old fills midfield holes swiftly and efficiently and screens the centre-backs and his touch is sure and he uses the ball well.

This was a regular start for Torreira, but with the fans expecting him to pull-off similar performance as the ones he did for Uruguay in the World Cup this year, he has much to live up to.

Maitland-Niles is good enough

With Sead Kolasinac out for up to 10 weeks and Nacho Monreal not featuring in any pre-season matches or training sessions, it seems like Ainsley Maitland-Niles will get the nod in their opening Premier League match against Manchester City.

However, this shouldn’t be a cause of worry for the fans. The young midfielder proved that he has plenty of pace and calmness against Lazio. Not lacking confidence or experience at the left-back position, Maitland-Niles carries the hopes of the Gunners’ fans.

Arsenal: Ainsley Maitland-Niles earns a new contract and shirt no.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Ainsley Maitland-Niles signed a long-term contract extension with Premier League side Arsenal. The midfielder broke into the Arsenal team on a regular basis last season under Arsene Wenger as he made 28 appearances in a variety of positions. And now he has been rewarded for his efforts.

As announced on Tuesday, Maitland-Niles has agreed to a new long-term contract to keep him at the Emirates for the foreseeable future. In the announcement, Maitland-Niles revealed the interaction that he had with new manager Unai Emery and what it felt to be named in the press conference by Ivan Gazidis as one of the players that Emery gushed about the interview process.

“It means a lot with the new head coach coming in and Arsenal tying me down [with a new contract]. I’m very pleased. We had a little meeting. He said that he wants all of his players to work hard and I’m no stranger to doing that. It will be second nature to me,” said Maitland-Niles in an interview with Arsenal Player.

While the 20-year old had always been considered a great talent and one of Arsenal’s rare starlets having joined the academy at just 9 years old, he had never quite proven it for the first team. Last season, he played more than 1500 minutes in the Europa League and Premier League, fielded at multiple positions including left-back, left wing-back and centre midfield, impressing in all three positions. It really was his proper breakthrough season.

“I think it’s brilliant to hear from him and it gives me a load of confidence. It feels fantastic knowing that I’m going to be a part of the squad, and a big part of the squad,” he added.

Maitland-Niles is in the best position to enjoy a wonderful footballing career. He obviously has a natural talent and has shown a great work ethic, something that a lot of players lack today. He has a coach who seems willing to play him on a regular basis, to trust him in the big matches, and to allow him to make mistakes and to improve because of them. 

Arsenal has also announced Maitland-Niles will wear the number 15 shirt, last worn by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. This seems one of the biggest signs of his importance to the squad.

He has captained England at youth level and was a crucial part of the side that won the Under-20 World Cup in June 2017. The step from youth football to senior football is one of the most unpredictable periods during the development of any player. It can take years for an individual to establish themselves as a true starter. Maitland-Niles will be hoping that he gets recognition and love from the fans and more importantly, an important spot on the team.