5-1. I’ll take the Premier League now please.
Our last game in Singapore was quite a nice one. Unai’s former club was no match for the Spaniard’s new side. I think it’s fair to say that the Gunners were probably a slightly stronger side on paper than the French champions, and they showed this through a dominating performance.
How We Set Up
We started in a fairly familiar 4-2-3-1. It was our first proper look at Sokratis and Mustafi in a defensive pairing and I think it was a success. There were no real issues, but then again they were against Timothy Weah, not a prime Ronaldo Nazário, and there is definitely going to be a greater challenge in the coming season.
The more interesting pairing was in the heart of the pitch. The Guendouzi-Elneny pivot is one of the more defensive options Arsenal have and it was very effective, especially in combating the extremely talented Adrien Rabiot.
It was nice to see Aubameyang as a sole striker, rather than out wide as an assistant to Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette. It was also strange to see Arsenal play a more direct style, but it was still very rewarding, with Mesut Özil giving Arsenal the lead after Aubameyang peeled off his man and latched onto a long ball through the PSG defence. This will surely be utilised in big games, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see us try this against Manchester City on the opening day. Anything better than walking the ball into the goal.
On The Ball
When the ball is with German shot-stopper Bernd Leno, it’s a common occurrence to see the centre-backs split out wide with Mohamed Elneny coming to collect the ball. The previous game saw Mattéo Guendouzi doing the job of ball collector, but this time Mohamed Elneny was chosen, perhaps due to Guendouzi’s errors in the previous game under Atletico’s high press.
The way Arsenal play out the back could be likened to Maurizio Sarri at Napoli. A diamond shape is often deployed. When the ball is with the fullbacks, the man out wide (Iwobi in the image above) drops short to receive the ball. This is key as it opens up space in behind for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to run one on one against the centre-half, giving Arsenal a more direct outlet than they had under Wenger.
The central midfielder (Elneny), comes inside to create a triangle. It’s about giving more options for the man on the ball (Kolasinac) as well as allowing Arsenal to go from front to back in a matter of seconds. This faster football will be a sight for sore eyes as Arsenal over the past few years have often been associated with slow, directionless football, frustrating the Emirates faithful. I’m happy to see a change in the way Arsenal play. I know that ‘Wengerball’ has been glorious at times but spirits have been dampened with now back to back seasons in the Europa League.
The foot of the diamond is the centre back (Sokratis in this situation) who has dropped off to give a last resort if the press is high. This slight alteration of the system will be interesting to see in the Premier League, especially away to ‘smaller’ opposition where Arsenal usually struggle under an aggressive press.
What. A. Player. I mean I’m pretty sure he is the reincarnation of a prime Zinedine Zidane. His quality range of passing and his incredible composure and you certainly wouldn’t have thought that he has less than a full season under his belt in the professional game.
Okay, it may be a little early to compare the curly-haired maestro to the bald Ballon d’Or winning midfielder, but still, you can see he has the potential to be damn good. He has caught the eye of both the Singapore crowd as well as the many watching questionable streams at home and we all can’t wait to see him in action in the Premier League.
Now to Dublin for Arsenal, who are edging closer to the new season and their opening game against champions Manchester City.
Where will the Gunners finish this season?