Nketiah fights for place
Despite many thinking that Eddie Nketiah would have left the club by now, he remains present and earning minutes in preseason.
He scored a great goal against Rangers in the Scottish tour and has now doubled his tally for the preseason in total.
After a great pass from Willian to the left flank, the England under-21 record goalscorer cut in from the left, skipped past a helpless Watford defender and curled a shot round the diving Bachmann in goal, off the post and into the net.
A great start to the game and a great piece of play from Nketiah. That’ll add a couple pound coins to any departure.
Same old defensive errors present
For all the good that Arsenal do, they are always susceptible to a defensive calamity.
Last season saw big errors in key matches. Cedric’s loose pass against Aston Villa leading to a goal and Xhaka’s dreadful attempted clearance away at Burnley come immediately to mind from last season.
Despite having the third best defence in the league last year, it is important to improve wherever possible. Mikel Arteta will not be best pleased with Mohamed Elneny, whose poor decision-making cost the Gunners their lead.
Playing out from the back, a returning Bernd Leno played a ball safely into the Egyptian, however the former Basel man tried too much to take on his man, lost possession and the ball was squared to Philip Zinckernagel who slotted home for 1-1.
These are the types of issues that must be eradicated. Hopefully Arsenal are getting them out now whilst it matters little.
Some cracks show in Tavares display
The signing of Nuno Tavares from Benfica filled a necessary hole in the team. When Kieran Tierney got injured last season, a lack of cover meant Granit Xhaka was the man who deputised, costing Arsenal greatly in midfield.
Sead Kolasinac is back but isn’t expected to stay with links to Turkey having surfaced earlier in the window.
Tavares made quite a start in his debut against Rangers, scoring with his right foot early into his Arsenal career.
However, in the match with Watford, the Portuguese looked less assured. In trying to be positive and often driving at the opposition defence, he lost the ball regularly with loose passes and poor decision making when on the ball.
Some brief moments of quality shone through, a run from deep to set up a play and an offensive duel won in the final third to cross. But besides these small glimpses, it showed the 21-year-old has much to improve still.
Lokonga looks a great buy
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s other signing of the summer Sambi Lokonga was a refreshing presence in the midfield.
Often criticised for too much sideways movement in the Gunners middle third over the last few years, Lokonga has added some incisiveness and directness to their play from deep.
His passing draws parallels to his partner from the first 18 minutes of the second half Thomas Partey.
Should Arsenal not add any more central midfielders before the start of the season, Lokonga is looking like a genuine contender despite having signed as seemingly more of a long-term option to gradually bed in.
Preseason is for those to take their chances and the Belgian is certainly doing that.
Plenty of surplus players very much involved
Having already mentioned Eddie Nketiah. The England youth international was not the only one on the field who is linked with a move away.
Sead Kolasinac, Willian, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Hector Bellerin and Reiss Nelson all got plenty of minutes during the game.
Arsenal have struggled to shift players this window due to the effects of the pandemic restricting possible suitors from either offering suitable transfer fees or unable to afford the high wages of players. Especially the likes of Kolasinac and Willian.
Yet, Arteta is continuing to give these players time on the pitch. Whether this is just in case they do indeed stay and an opportunity to see where the Spaniard can use them, or to put them in the shop window.
Interestingly the games are being streamed for free, both Watford and the 4-1 win over Millwall, on the Arsenal website. A subtle advert for possible onlookers maybe?
Worth mentioning too that youngster Miguel Azeez’s goal, a great strike from outside the box, showed that the youth will be forcing some of the old guard out the club very soon.
This article was edited by Ben Browning.
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