Need for new signings laid bare
Arsenal have made a relatively slow start to the transfer window so far bringing in just one player in Nuno Tavares from Benfica despite the window having been open for over a month now.
football.london understands that the deal for Albert Sambi Lokonga should be completed relatively soon, but it is clear from the Gunners performance at Hibernian that new signings are needed.
We should of course curtail any criticism of these early fixtures by mentioning the fact that this was a pre-season friendly at Easter Road on Tuesday, and the Gunners were without players like Kieran Tierney, Bernd Leno, Granit Xhaka and Bukayo Saka who had been away representing their nations at the Euros, but the performance was stale.
Midfield in particular is a position where Arsenal struggled against Hibs, with Mohamed Elneny lacking much adventure in possession and Ainsley Maitland-Niles once again not really doing enough to suggest he should be a regular starter in the position.
Sead Kolasinac, Hector Bellerin and the aforementioned Maitland-Niles were all involved on Tuesday but could all well have left the club come August 31st, meaning this team could look very different by then.
The Spaniard did at least confirm to football.london that Tavares is set to make his debut against Benfica after missing out on Tuesday’s match at Easter Road.
“He didn’t have all the paperwork necessary to be involved today,” he said when asked after the game.
“But hopefully that will be all ready to go and he can have his debut on Saturday against Rangers.”
While that is exciting Edu ‘s work is far from over this summer.
Acquisitions at right back, central midfield, centre forward and number ten could all be needed as well as a new goalkeeper, and Arteta will want them added to the squad as soon as possible to get them up to speed with what he wants for the coming campaign.
Mixed night for the youngsters
Pre-season games can be a little tedious at times but one of the most exciting things is always to see the latest batch of youngsters to come off the Hale End conveyor belt given a chance to shine at senior level.
For some though the step up can be a particularly daunting one, and so it proved to be the case for goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo.
The 19-year-old had a shakey start after dropping an early cross, looked nervous as a result, but things then got even worse as he failed to control Cedric ‘s backpass and allowed Martin Boyle in to score a tap in.
It was a sad end to what has been a positive week for the academy product who committed his long term future to the club and will be their third choice stopper next season. It’s one though that Arteta backed him to come back from.
“Hopefully it wasn’t him,” said the Spaniard. “It’s his debut so he was so excited.
“He has earned his place in the first team with everything he has done in the academy level and unfortunately it started like that. But things will get better. He will have another chance on Saturday so hopefully he can be better.”
“He’s confident in the relationship with his teammates and everything,” Arteta went on to add. “It’s time to support him. He is our third goalkeeper and we need to give him confidence.”
While it may not have been Okonkwo’s day there were plenty of youngsters who did impress upon making the step up.
Harry Clarke had a solid game at the back and was marshalled through by Pablo Mari who was spotted giving the 20-year-old a mini-coaching session on body shape during a one-vs-one situation during a first half break in play.
The Spaniard repeated the trick in the second period with Omar Rekik who also made his debut, while youngsters Omari Hutchinson, Jack Henry-Francis and Karl Hein all were given senior opportunities for the first time.
Flo Balogun, also looked sharp after coming on for the second half wearing his new number 26. It seems the future is bright for Arsenal.
Smith Rowe contract decision made
It’s rare that a player’s shirt number receives almost as much attention as his performance, but there was a palpable sense of disappointment on social media on Tuesday when it was revealed that Emile Smith Rowe would be wearing 32 at Easter Road.
Arsenal have been very careful to cover up the number on his training kit in all photos and videos that they have released, with many expecting him to take the number 10 shirt vacated by Mesut Ozil once he commits his long-term future to the club.
A picture of the 20-year-old wearing a pair of sliders with the number 10 circulating before kick off seemed to support this theory but it seems we will have to wait for any updates on that front.
football.london understands a new contract is far from done and dusted, although the Gunners remain confident of securing a deal.
It is worth noting that Arsenal are due to release their new home kit this Friday and that could well be when we see the new shirt number revealed.
If Arteta’s word after the game are anything to go by that theory could well turn out to be correct.
“Without a question,” said the Spaniard when asked if he wanted to keep the youngster. “Yes. He will stay here. 100%.”
With the Gunners’ only goal of the game Smith Rowe reminded everyone why his manager is so keen to keep him. If the 20-year-old is able to do that more consistently this season Arsenal will be wise to make sure that he is their player for years to come.
As we’ve already discussed the main function of pre-season is not necessarily to pick up results but rather to build fitness ahead of the upcoming campaign.
Arteta seemed to reflect this theory when he was asked after the game what positives he would take from the match.
“The positives is the work out that we had,” he said. “We only trained for four days.”
However, there is also an idea that pre-season should be used to impose a style of play on to a team, and it is here where the Spaniard may have some questions to answer.
Arsenal set up at Easter Road in a 4-4-2, which is a formation you can say with almost absolute certainty they will not be play next season.
Of course the team selection may have been slightly dictated by the players available, but at the same time surely he could have fielded a side in either the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-3-3 they’re expected to play in next campaign.
The unfamiliar set up seemed to confuse the players as well, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in particular looking slightly lost as to where he was supposed to be standing for much of the first half, where he was partnered up top by Eddie Nketiah.
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Arteta could constantly be heard shouting to the Gabon captain about his position, but you would assume that if he had been played in a system he knew better then this would not have been an issue.
Again there is the caveat of the fact that this is only the first game of pre-season and the start of the Premier League season is just under a month away.
But it will be interesting to see at Rangers on Saturday with more players to choose from exactly how the Gunners look to set up ahead of what promises to be an important summer in Arteta’s plans to move his side forward tactically.