There was football yesterday evening which I watched while I was making Chille con carne in the kitchen. Despite losing Martin Odegaard in the warm-up, it was a strong first half team, and good to see William Saliba back on the pitch.
Bukayo Saka scored a very Bukayo Saka goal, and with a nod to the season ahead, he also got booted around a few times. Each one of them scares me. Not quite the ‘OMG someone’s just jumped out from behind a door and shrieked at me’, but have you ever seen a stray dog loose around a main road paying no attention to traffic? That kind of fear. He was all right in the end though and got 45 minutes under his belt.
The second half saw the introduction of Kai Havertz, our first glimpse of him in red and white, and the more changes we made, the more ragged it got. Nurnberg’s equaliser came when goalkeeper Karl Hein played a pass that wasn’t really on, and it looked a bit like a Jorginho OG, but it doesn’t really matter.
Folarin Balogun had a couple of good chances, hitting the post with one, then firing wide with the goal at his mercy towards the very end. After his goalscoring exploits in France last season he’ll be disappointed, but his movement to get on the end of those opportunities was very good. We brought on Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly, the two scholarship lads, and both had some eye-catching moments. My only other real observation is that Ruell Walters is a UNIT at just 18, and I wonder if defensive additions might allow him to go on loan because he looks physically ready to play.
Afterwards, Mikel Arteta was relatively pleased with how things went, saying:
A lot of things that I saw in the first half and especially as a few of the boys have only had three training sessions so just to give them minutes and exposure to understand and start connecting with each other again. I’ve seen some really good things despite the amount of changes we made and that is why the game declined, especially in quality and in control but we knew that was going to happen.
There were a few injury worries. Odegaard picking up a knock in the warm-up isn’t ideal, Rob Holding had some muscle tightness, and while the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Takehiro Tomiyasu are still working their way towards full fitness after injuries, there was no sign of Oleksandr Zinchenko. He’s a hell of player but his injury record is longer than a list of terrible songs by Maroon 5. It was interesting to see Jakub Kiwior playing that role in the first half yesterday, perhaps another indication of Kieran Tierney’s place in the left-back pecking order, but of course it’s still early days in this pre-season.
Speaking of Rob Holding, David Ornstein last night reported a bid from Besiktas for the centre-half, but one which Arsenal will reject. Not, I suspect, because they’re unwilling to sell the player, but because the fee is ridiculously low – just €2.5m. I’ve written before about Rob, and what lies ahead for him at this point of his career, but that offer is nowhere near good enough. Obviously if you sell outside the Premier League the money will be lower, but that doesn’t even come close.
It remains to be seen if there’s Premier League interest in him. I think he could do a decent job for mid-lower half team, and I imagine he’d be more inclined to stay in England than go abroad. Then again, maybe he’s up for an adventure, but for that to happen Besiktas – or whoever else – need to come back with a much better bid than that.
Finally, when Arteta was asked about potential new arrivals after the game last night, he took a leaf from the Big Book of Arsene, and said:
At the moment we are working with the group of players that is here. We have nothing to announce yet, and when it is done you will be the first to know.
We all know. It’s just a matter of when they’ll be confirmed, but hopefully we can do that so the players can be part of the tour the US which leaves at the weekend, I think. Let’s see what the next couple of days brings.
Right, that’s it. I will have an Arsecast for you this morning, stand by for that – it should be out around 10/10.30 or so.