So I watched Arsenal’s final pre-season game yesterday, a thorough dismantling of Sevilla, and a 6-0 win in the end. I don’t really think there’s any need to go through it bit by bit, but here are some thoughts on some of the things we saw.
I realise he’s yet to play a competitive game, and the proof of his particular pudding will play out during the season proper, but not only is he a high quality forward, he is nothing short of transformative for this team.
His first goal shows you the difference he makes. Having a forward who can pick the ball up in a wide position, contribute to the build-up, then get on the end of the move in the box to finish is not something we had for a significant part of last season. Beyond that, leaving aside his pace and drive when he plays, his ability to adjust quickly to get his shots away is absolutely unreal.
You saw it on the first goal where he had to stop his run, then finish with his left foot, and on his hat-trick goal too. After Gabriel’s header was saved, Jesus pounced, got there before the defender and before the Sevilla man could even react, he’d popped it into the top corner. It’s wham, bam, and it’s done before you can even say ‘Thank you ma’am’. I have to mention his second goal too, the timing and pace of the run in behind and the fantastic delivery from Gabriel Martinelli was fantastic.
It’s too early to be absolutely definitive, but he could potentially have the same impact for this team offensively that Virgil van Dijk had defensively for Liverpool. The old saying about a rising tide lifting all boats etc etc, Gabriel Jesus is Arsenal’s rising tide from an attacking perspective.
An exciting front four
It’s not just Jesus though. Bukayo Saka scored twice and looked ready to just continue his upward trajectory; Martin Odegaard behind them is going to have a beautiful time this season because of the many and varied threats they provide in terms of movement. When you’ve got a left foot like his, having options for multiple passes is tantalising. As for Martinelli, I really feel like this is the season when it’s going to go nuclear with him. He didn’t score yesterday, but his pressing was incredible, he got an assist for Jesus, he unselfishly provided an assist for Eddie late on, his set-piece delivery was dangerous, and he’s a player who is going to give defenders nightmares this season.
I can’t wait to see them take on the Premier League, not to mention having the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Fabio Vieira etc providing competition and depth.
William Saliba fits, doesn’t he? Just looks like a player who fits into this team and into this back four. There’s a bigger discussion to be had about what we do when everyone’s fit and all that, but I enjoyed what I saw yesterday. He’s quick, strong, good on the ball, reads the game well and – dare I say it – we’re seeing the benefits from his loan move to Marseille last season. I know for many it was contentious, but he’s come back better and he’s 100% ready for the season ahead.
I also enjoyed Ben White at right-back, as I’ve said previously if you’re going from Tomiyasu to Cedric, the gap is too big. White plays that role perfectly, and on the other side Oleksandr Zinchenko brings plenty to the table too. The way the two full backs tucked inside towards midfield when we were attacking was very interesting too, and while Sevilla had a couple of chances, for the most part we looked really solid back there. When you consider we still have Tomi and Kieran Tierney to come back into the squad, it looks strong and, for the first time in a long while, without any obvious weak link back there.
It’s hard not to be excited. Pre-season has, on the pitch, gone as well as it could possibly go. The new signings have settled in quickly and bring so much to the team. Of course we have to do it when it counts, but things like a 4-0 win over Chelsea, and a 6-0 win over a decent Sevilla side really do whet the appetite for what’s to come, starting Friday night against Crystal Palace.
Elsewhere, the appointment of Martin Odegaard as captain comes as no surprise, and I think it’s an excellent move. He clearly has the trust of the manager, the respect of his teammates, he’s the captain of his national side, and at 23 he’s got time to grow into the role. You can see how he fits the job perfectly with this group of players.
What I’ve seen over the past 18 months since he’s been with us, he’s represented the values of this football club, the team, the teammates and the staff in the best possible way. He’s displayed an ambition to take this club to a different level, to push this team and contribute within it, and as well the way he is respected by everyone inside the organisation. He’s also the captain of his national team and I think it was the right call, and I’m proud to announce that because I think he’s a really good person to deliver that commitment to the club.
Can’t really argue with that, in my opinion.
For some extra reading this morning, Jon Spurling looks back on Terry Neill’s time at the club.
Finally for today, I’ll just let you know that James and I will recording the Arsecast Extra this afternoon. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.
We’ll have the pod for you around 5pm or so. For now, take it easy.