For all that you can read into pre-season fixtures – and history tells us they have no real bearing on the season to come – Arsenal can count their victory over PSG on Saturday as a promising sign.
For large parts of the game, the Gunners carried a significant attacking threat that yielded a good number of chances, and the 5-1 victory was a well-deserved one given their prowess in possession.
Both in neat combinations and utilising a more direct style, the Gunners enjoyed a great deal of success, albeit against a youthful PSG squad.
More pleasing still was the number of players who were involved in moves, and capable of joining attacking moves. Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang, Henrikh Mhikitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Iwobi, and Matteo Guendouzi were all excellent in possession and really clicked as a unit going forward, even when playing a more industrial style of long-ball football.
Goals for Ozil, Lacazette, Nketiah (2) and Rob Holding handed Arsenal the headline-grabbing win.
It’s worth bearing in mind, of course, that Arsenal have never really struggled going forward – it’s been our stock-in-trade for decades – but it was good to see that, in this new era, we don’t appear to have lost any of that potency, nor our desire to get forward. The efficiency, particularly in the second half, was also excellent.
Defensively, it is still early days. It would have been a rare thing indeed to get through games against Athletico Madrid and PSG without conceding a goal and so it proved. Have we moved forward since the Arsene Wenger days? We will have a better idea of that when the Premier League season begins in earnest but, for the moment, it seems we still don’t appear to be as solid as many of us would like.
We weren’t overawed by any means and you can never get through a 90-minute match without conceding chances, but we haven’t become a defensive colossus overnight – that much is clear.
Our vulnerability to pace and our propensity to cede possession in silly areas remain on occasion. Hopefully, as he works with his side, Unai Emery will address those issues, but it is going to take time.
Whether Emery is working different systems in this pre-season campaign, in a bid to work out what suits his squad best, I don’t know, but it has been difficult to pick a definite style when out of possession to date. At times we have pressed high, at times we have sat deep and counter-attacked – nothing has really stood out.
For now, that is something to worry about another day. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the feel-good factor around the club, the way in which the team seems to be enjoying what it does, and see where it takes us.
We have a draw and a win under our belts in two testing friendly fixtures with plenty more tests to come. So far, so good – and even the spearmint-flavoured third kit didn’t entirely offend. What more could you ask for?