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Aaron Ramsey got the nod to replace Mesut Ozil for the visit of West Ham United. He found the net with a close-range header early doors but it was rightly wiped out for offside, and we were slow to get going otherwise.

The visitors grabbed the lead when Anderson, unchallenged when running from deep, laid the ball back on the edge of the box for Arnautavic to drive home. A fine finish just past the mid-point of the half and no more than the visitors deserved at that point.

The Gunners were on level terms when Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Hector Bellerin combined to create the opportunity for Nacho Monreal to drill home five minutes later. The first-half was proving what we all know about our state of transition right now. We are capable of attacking brilliance one minute, and defensive uncertainty the next.

We had Petr Cech to be grateful to for a fine save from the marauding Snodgrass as West Ham sought to re-establish the lead. At the other end Fabianski had to go full stretch to deny Skhodran Mustafi’s header at the start of the second-half. The former Gunner also produced a fine save from Alexandre Lacazette, a half-time substitute for Alex Iwobi, as we began to make our attacking dominance apparent.

Lacazette’s was largely responsible for us grabbing the lead when his volley on the turn was put past his own goalkeeper by Diop, under pressure from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Ahead with twenty minutes to go. It would be a nervous end game for us.

Fabianski denied Ramsey with a fine sprawling save but West Ham too continued to exploit the spaces left in behind Berlin and Monreal. We secured the three points when Bellerin’s cross in stoppage time found Danny Welbeck unmarked in front of the goal and he clinched the ‘holic pound with a clinical finish.

It would be wrong of me not to highlight the performance of the oft-maligned Granit Xhaka. He produced a near-faultless display, probably his best in an Arsenal shirt, as we struggled to stay in the match for much of the first-half.

The first three points of the Unai Emery era are on the board, and hopefully that will ease some of the nerves evident in that opening half. We head for Cardiff next Sunday with the expectation of building on the second-half performance of yesterday.

Huge apologies to all for the lack of a post or two this week. That wasn’t the intention but WiFi is a hit and miss affair in Cornwall, and miss is invariably the winner. Luckily, although at times today it seemed a distant prospect, I am back in time for the reunion with Jack Wilshere. A rare Saturday 3pm kick-off is very welcome indeed.

Catching up with the Unai Emery interviews pre-match it is relatively clear he will retain a very flexible and fluid 4-2-3-1 going into the match. It is doubtful that his goalkeeper and back four will change, but ahead of them the make up of the midfield and attack is very much a question of the unknown.

Popular opinion would probably see Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi starting in the shielding roles. That would have the effect of pushing Aaron Ramsey into a fight for two wide berths with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang unless he is to replace Mesut Ozil as the number ten. Of course if Aubameyang is played wide on the left there will be an opportunity for Alexandre Lacazette to lead the line and the attraction of having two proven goalscorers on the pitch is obvious.

That also discounts Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny. That may be a good problem for Unai to have, but it also will test his powers of retaining strong bonds in the squad.

West Ham also arrive with a new head coach, the familiar Manuel Pellegrini. Like us they have also suffered two defeats so far, 0-4 at Liverpool, and 1-2 at home to Bournemouth last week. They have Reid, Lanzini, and Carroll ruled out by injury, but new signing Felipe Anderson will provide a speedy test for Hector Bellerin who is looking for form.

It will be strange watching Jack in the Hammers away strip and although we will be hoping he doesn’t produce the customary goal against his former employers there will surely be a raucous welcome for our old boy. Yes Jack, we know what you think of Tottenham!

The ‘holic pound

I have to believe the team who fought back so impressively at Stamford Bridge last week will have enough to kick start a run of matches that will do much to determine our title chances this season. I am drawn like a moth to the flame of a 3-1 home win at 10/1. West Ham have beaten us just once in 22 outings and it would be a major upset if that changed to anything other than once in 23 after tomorrow.

I will see some of you in the usual places and let’s hope that afterwards we will be raising our glasses to the first three points of the Unai Emery era.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

Unai Emery made one expected change for the visit to Chelsea with Nacho Monreal returning at left-back. He made one more controversial switch with Alex Iwobi coming in for the benched Aaron Ramsey. Chelsea once again left Eden Hazard on the bench with Olivier Giroud.

The first effort arrived in the third minute when Luiz was allowed to wander through the midfield unchallenged and a minute later Pedro was allowed similar freedom cutting in from the right. Fortunately both fired off target.

We almost found our cutting edge in the eighth minute when the overlapping Monreal crossed accurately for Mesut Ozil to volley narrowly wide. Seconds later we went behind when Alonso took advantage of Hector Bellerin’s lack of awareness to tee up Pedro unmarked in the centre. We appeared to be waiting for an offside flag that never came. Cech had to be quick off his line to defy the same player minutes later.

The Gunners obvious discomfort with playing out from the back was momentarily suspended when Mustafi sent Aubameyang scampering through for a fierce drive that Arrizabalaga saved at his near post. When Bellerin put one on a plate for the same player he lifted his head and his side foot effort over the bar. Again we paid the ultimate price when Morata outmanoeuvred Mustafi to slide a second goal for Chelsea with twenty minutes gone.

Xhaka’s crude lunge on Pedro rightly earned him the first yellow card in the twenty-seventh minute. The visitors were starting to show their frustration and Mustafi was fortunate to avoid similar when putting a ‘reducer’ on Morata. After Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ozil had shots blocked the former fired yet a second clear opening over the bar.

Mkhitaryan made amends for his miss when despatching Iwobi’s cross underneath the right glove of a diving Arrizabalaga. At last the Gunners had a spring in their step and in the eastern end of The Shed the travelling Gooners roared their encouragement. Astonishingly we were level in the forty-first minute when Mkhitaryan returned the favour to Iwobi who finished superbly.

Arrizabalaga had to dive full length to deny Matteo Guendouzi, then Iwobi pulled a ball back from which again Aubamayang missed the gaping target. The transformation in fortunes was marked. Mkhitaryan teed up Iwobi again and again the opportunity ended up sailing over the bar. The Arsenal had been truly rampant for the closing ten minutes of the half.

At the start of the second-half the struggling Xhaka made way for Lucas Torreira, a sensible substitution most seemed to agree on social media. Less than two minutes in Aubameyang crossed the ball in front of the target which avoided defenders and attackers alike. A cross from Bellerin, displaying better attacking than defensive qualities, evaded the heads of Aubameyang and Monreal.

Chelsea were screaming for a penalty when Sokratis Papastathopoulos blocked and fell on the ball but clearly any slight contact with his hand was entirely unintentional. Cech was called to make another diving stop to deny Barkley when he made a yard of space for himself. Aubameyang was a whisker offside when he galloped through to finally hit the target in the fifty-eighth minute.

As the hour mark passed Chelsea moved to get Hazard and Kovacic on for Willian and Barkley. Cech made another excellent save from Morata completely unaware that the offside flag had been raised. He made another from a deflected Jorginho effort as Chelsea again exerted some pressure. The Gunners neglected the high press and dropped deep to deny Chelsea the space in which to play.

Unai Emery attempted to stem the tide by sending on Aaron Ramsey for Ozil, slow to walk the width of the pitch and evidently unimpressed at his withdrawal. When Torreira brought down Kovacic Cech dived to deny Luiz. Another fine save.

That was followed minutes later by the sight of two French international strikers being pushed into action. Alexandre Lacazette and Giroud replaced Iwobi and Morata. Lacazette immediately created a shooting opportunity for Monreal but Azpilicueta made the block. When Arrizabalaga spilled a Ramsey cross Lacazette was first to the loose ball but the goalkeeper recovered it.

Mustafi saw yellow for clattering into the back of Hazard. Not a bad card to take, that. Kante thankfully headed a golden opportunity over the bar, as the final ten minutes beckoned. Alonso was not as wasteful when Hazard too easily went past Bellerin and crossed to the near post for his left-back to sweep into the net. Could the Arsenal end the second-half as they did the first? The answer, sadly, was no.

We again had Cech to thank when he denied Hazard in a one on one. He didn’t deserve to have three goals against him today and he had every right to expect more from those in front of him. Alonso got in behind a static Bellerin and crossed for Giroud to draw another fine save from the Arsenal captain. At the other end Ramsey’s speculative volley went onto the roof of the net. Cech saved the last kick of the match from Giroud. He was probably our man of the match.

Defeats in the first two matches against quality opposition isn’t the end of the world but Unai Emery knows his back five is clearly uncomfortable with what they are being asked to do. Maybe a change in personnel might be an idea? When we get it right we will outscore most teams with the quality we have further forward.

Good luck boss.

Normally on the eve of our visit to the bus stop in Fulham I would be plotting my day. A pint or two in the Cock Tavern has taken over from lunch in Bodeans. Last year the post match festivities involved the becoming-traditional bottle of champagne in the Cock before decamping to the ‘Sloaney Pony’. It’s all different this season as I am driving to Cornwall on Sunday so am dropping this one from the calendar.

The reason my presence or not should concern you is that I cannot recall being there when we have won for a number of seasons. Therefore I have given us a great chance of taking our first three points of the season. There is another good omen. Chelsea have never beaten an Arsenal team managed by Unai Emery. So how will the new man set up his team after the opening day defeat against the champions?

We know only that Petr Cech will retain his place against his former club. There will be an enforced change at left-back following the broken leg inflicted by Kyle Walker on Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Hopefully Nacho Monreal will be fit to deputise. Emery has also been quoted as saying that Lucas Torreira is ready to start this week which will make the other midfield selections interesting.

It’s possible for a big away match that Torreira will start alongside the experienced Granit Xhaka rather then the eye-catching Matteo Guendouzi. That would mean an unchanged front four from last week of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, and Mesut Ozil, behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. I haven’t changed my mind about starting Alexandre Lacazette but suspect that neither has Emery. Maybe next Saturday?

Our recent performances against Chelsea give cause for hope if not outright optimism. Like us they are going through a change of manager and playing philosophy. Their new head coach, Maurizio Sarri, is denied the services of Cesc Fabregas by a knee injury. Olivier Giroud appears to be behind the inconsistent Alvaro Morata in the pecking order. As ever we will have to be alert to the pace and trickery of Eden Hazard.

The ‘holic pound

I have to confess the draw looks very attractive. Indeed 1-1 is the bookies favourite at 6 or 7/1. I don’t do sensible and will hope we can nick a second and triumph 1-2 at a very tempting and boosted 16/1. I have a free fiver with one bookie so I won’t be punting any of my money on this happy outcome.

In closing I should wish good luck and good fortune to David Ospina who is heading out to Napoli on loan with an option to buy next summer, and Joel Campbell who has joined the interesting looking series A newcomers, Frosinone.

To those who are going tomorrow I wish you an enjoyable evening in West London. To all of you I will say, as ever, have a great one, ‘holics.

The problem with 4pm kick-offs on a Sunday is that, as a rule, I can’t write a review in the ‘normal’ sense. The vast majority will now have watched what happened and read the blogs that have already commented.

From what I have seen my peers have all pointed out we ran into a very good City side who were able to utilise some of their hungry squad players ahead of their less rested players and yet still win at a canter. For all those, including yours truly, who thought we might take advantage of their supposed early rustiness we received instead the wake-up call. Our pre-season may have shown promise but clearly it will take more than a few weeks to fine tune our new tactical approach.

The fears beforehand mainly concerned the defence. The expected four started in front of Petr Cech, but Kyle Walker’s unpunished assault on Ainsley Maitland-Niles meant an early call-up for Stephan Lichsteiner on the opposite side to his usual role. Hector Bellerin still appears to have lost that extra yard of pace he had before his injury a couple of years back  and he was exposed by Sterling for the first goal. Perhaps Matteo Guendouzi could have spared his blushes but allowed the England international into the centre of the pitch to drive the ball past Cech who may have only caught sight of the shot late.

That aside the new partnership in the centre was not unduly worried and coped competently with what was thrown at them other than another two second-half moments. Aguero’s break behind the absent back-line might have finished the match but for a very good save by Cech. It was put beyond doubt when the otherwise excellent Lichsteiner let Bernardo Silva escape him in the box to blast home the second.

Perhaps there are further worries in more advanced areas. As expected Alexandre Lacazette was sacrificed to allow Granit Xhaka to team up with Guendouzi in front of the back four. Xhaka looked a little rusty, not surprisingly given he has seen little action since the World Cup. Far more noticeable was Guendouzi who clearly has an eye for a pass and who impressed for the most part. However he did tire in the second-half and often laboured to get back from his forays deep into City territory. He really is quite a prospect.

Ahead of them Mesut Ozil and Henrykh Mkhitaryan seemed to have been afforded responsibilities at inside and outside right and left. They joined the high press less than enthusiastically it appeared from row seven. Ahead and between them Aaron Ramsey seemed to have been given free reign to join and even pass Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Against a less organised defence than City’s this may be a potent set-up once we have mastered the new movements it requires to work.

We weren’t totally punchless going forward. Ozil and Aubameyang both put the ball in the net but sadly from rather obvious offside positions. We looked far more threatening once Lacazette and Lucas Torreira were introduced for Xhaka and Ramsey.

So what conclusions did we draw from that? You have started sharing them in the preview drinks, for which thanks. For me this was flexible but essentially as a rework of the 4-2-2-2 seen against Lazio. I would tweak it at the weekend switching Torreira and Rambo for Xhaka and Guendouzi, and starting Lacazette with Aubamayang. But that’s an opinion of a supporter who doesn’t see what the head coach does every day. I’m impressed with the way he has conducted himself so far, and I’m sure he will oversee improvements as the season progresses.

Good luck Unai. It was in short supply yesterday.

How very strange it feels to be writing the first preview of the Premier League season on the third day of the second test at Lord’s. It seems like only last week, not last month, we were enjoying the World Cup. Now an historic day has arrived. Our first competitive fixture under a new manager in twenty-two years. Good luck Unai.

The visit of the champions is about as tough as starts get. We have had more players who have enjoyed a full pre-season than the Cityzens but they are packed with quality and this will be a wonderful opportunity for both teams to lay down a marker for the coming season. Interestingly the two clubs met at U-23 level today and the home side won a Manchester thriller 6-5!

It is not easy guessing quite who will start given our wealth of midfield and attacking options, but I will have a stab at who I think will be Unai’s first starting eleven, which I think will differ from mine. The condition that Petr Cech is in will I think mean the incumbent goalkeeper will be preferred to Bernd Leno between the posts. The fact that he has been named one of the ‘five captains’ is quite a hint.

At full-back Hector Bellerin is a likely starter but Stephan Lichsteiner will be on the bench in case the likes of Sane and Jesus need slowing down a little. Ainsley Maitland-Niles seems likely to deputise for the injured Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal. The new manager seems to have plumped for Sokratis Papastathopoulos (YES! Done it!) and Skhodran Mustafi mainly on the basis that no referee will want to book either of them. It’s a baptism of fire for the new partnership and our principal concern going into the season.

This is where it gets difficult. My line-up would have to include two of Europe’s finest strikers, but it seems likelier that we may go with the 4-2-2-2 convertible to 4-2-3-1 set up that saw off Lazio last weekend. Lucas Torreira is clearly one of the rearmost two. Matteo Guendouzi may have done just enough in pre-season to oust Granit Xhaka for the other berth.

The foremost four will probably be Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Sorry Alexandre Lacazette, I would start you but I am not the manager, thank goodness! I would have played Rambo alongside and ahead of Torreira and started you up top. (What do you mean, he doesn’t read this!). Perhaps our best chance of taking the points tomorrow is to outscore a team that we are unlikely to keep a clean sheet against.

The ‘holic pound

It’s back, and planted on a boosted 40/1 shot, 3-2 to the Arsenal. Understandably City are red hot favourites to win at 10/11 with the Arsenal quoted around 3/1. That’s based on them being runaway champions last season and us having a new manager and a new system this season. On the opening day of the season I’m hoping we are sent out to play with freedom and determination to press them as much as they undoubtedly will us. Both defences are in for a tough time, possibly.

The season ahead

Briefly, I’m enthused by what I have seen in pre-season. We have bought well it seems with Leno, Lichsteiner, Torreira, and Gandouzi all giving us defensive options in different areas that we have been lacking in recent seasons. The big question mark is Sokratis and whether or not he can quickly settle to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. Will he be able to bring out the best of Mustafi who has looked uncomfortable when not alongside Laurent Koscielny.

Ahead of them however we have an engine room and attack that should be able to overturn last season’s appalling away form. Both Aubameyang and Lacazette are capable of of twenty-plus goals, and if Rambo, Mesut, and Mikhi can chip in with a fair few as well we could be the surprise package to rival favourites City. I have backed us each-way for the Premier League at 25/1. That pays out on first and second place. That second place could be a battle between us and City for first and second, or us and Liverpool for second or third.

With that I have a taxi to book to the station in the morning, to gather up my rainy day gear, and open a fine bottle of single malt. The dreams tonight will be of Championship and FA Cup glory, for that is what the last manager achieved in his first full-season with a new look team and new training methods. Could history be repeating itself? We can but hope.

Have a great one, ‘holics.

There is no getting away from the fact that the events of today (Tuesday) have been at odds with the feel good factor generated over the course of the pre-season. The announcements that confirmed the sale of Red & White Holdings Arsenal shares to KSE provoked quite the reaction, understandably.

This day has been on the cards for a number of years but it looks as though Alisher Usmanov’s failed bid for Stan Kroenke’s shares have persuaded him of the futility of holding thirty percent of the club and having no say in it’s running. I’ll try to look for the potential positives as I type this piece and a lot of people will be happy that the club has been kept out of the grasp of a character as murky as Usmanov.

Kroenke is funding his purchase of the remaining shares with a two year bridging loan of £557m from Deutsche Bank, an institution itself with difficulties. That won’t come cheap and there is a worry that Kroenke could use the assets of the club for repaying that loan by means of ‘management fees’ and dividends. To be fair KSE said none of this will have an impact on Arsenal’s finances. One can understand the fears, however.

Once he has got the entire shareholding under the umbrella of his Delaware HQ then Kroenke will be in a position to do whatever he wants with the club. Only time will tell if his faith in the self-financing model survives, or if the Arsenal become a vehicle for repaying his debts or funding other sporting interests under the KSE umbrella. We certainly won’t know for sure for nearly two years.

To clarify, one of the other issues that supporters have expressed even when Arsenal become a wholly American owned club we will still have to file financial accounts at Companies House but can wait nine months to do so instead of the current six. It will take us a little longer to find out what is happening with the finances of the club, but they will still be a matter of public record.

However, given the club now has one shareholder the AGM is sure to be a thing of the past. That avenue of communication will be a loss and I wonder if Ivan Gazidis departs, which now appears likely, what plans will the new organisation have for supporter liaison evenings that the polished Gazidis was good at, if any? Presumably Gazidis won’t be the only departure. It isn’t likely that Kroenke will need the existing board and could set up a new structure probably headed by son Josh.

On balance we really do need to put our worst fears on hold if we can. I know that is difficult. I and many others have pointed out since Kroenke invested in Arsenal shares he is only the temporary custodian of our club. Our attachment to the club will always continue and it will be whether or not we choose to express our love by filling the Grove or supporting the club by other means, as many others do today in the bars around the stadium.

At the end of the day we can only influence, but not control, the future of the football club. After a day of worry, of disappointment, I have reached a point where now all that matters is that we make strides on the pitch that will render the off the field stuff less relevant for the next year. I have to hope KSE do not go back on their promises. I will look forward to Sunday, and the coming weeks and months, as we see Unai Emery’s Arsenal unfold before us.

I’m feeling quite positive again, for now.

It was a surprise to see an Arsenal Lite XI start against Lazio in Stockholm. Anyone expecting Unai Emery to start with the likely line-up next Sunday will have been put on the back foot. In fact number of the likeliest eleven were being held back for the second-half, perhaps? It was also disappointing to see reports that Nacho Monreal was not with the squad, particularly given the injury sustained by Sead Kolsinac.

There were very tidy debuts for Stephan Lichsteiner and Lucas Torreira, while Granit Xhaka also returned for his first post World Cup appearance. Lichsteiner re-introduced himself to Radu delivering an early flying elbow to an adversary in his recent past. As is the fashion these days the two teams employed the high press so time and space was at a premium in the early exchanges. First to break through and get off a shot was Eddie Nketiah but unfortunately he dragged it wide of the near post.

On co-commentary Adrian Clarke praised Unai Emery for setting the team out as a plan B 4-4-2. He knows much more about these things than me, although I would have said it was more a 4-2-2-2 (Adrian later agreed). I’m nitpicking. Alexandre Lacazette produced a fine effort to a fine ball dropping over his shoulder from Lichsteiner but his volley was saved at the near post by Proto.

After Caicedo had hit Lazio’s first effort wide of the mark The Gunners took the lead after eighteen minutes. Reiss Nelson started the move teeing up Alex Iwobi and when his shot struck the far post Nelson was on hand to bury the rebound. It was good to see a makeshift eleven starting so well. Granit Xhaka’s rasping drive on twenty-nine minutes was inches over the bar from well outside the box.

A defensive lapse on the left ended with Alberto chipping Leno but mercifully the ball came back into play off the crossbar. Then from the other side Radu crossed to the unmarked Alberto who headed wide of the far post. Encouraged, Lazio raised the tempo and poured forward. From a far post corner Caicedo struck an effort from an acute angle into the side-netting. As the break neared Iwob’s toe-poke was wide of Proto’s right hand upright.

At the start of the second-half on came Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah. Aubameyang went on to the left flank, Iwobi switched to the right, and Guendouzi teamed up with Torreira freeing up Xhaka for a more attacking role. This was more like the 4-2-3-1 we could start with next Sunday.

When Radu shoved Lacazette to the floor he was fortunate that the referee did not see it as a penalty offence. Lichsteiner and Lulic enjoyed another exchange after the latter had challenged the former Juve man from behind. This was far from a ‘friendly’.

Aubameyang broke at pace, found Iwobi, and Lacazette turned a poor cross into a shooting opportunity. Unfortunately his deflected effort bounced up into the hands of Proto. That prompted Lazio to make three substitutions while The Arsenal sent on Hector Bellerin, Mohamed Elneny, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Mesut Ozil. Off went the debutants, both of whom could be proud of their performance, Xhaka and Iwobi.

Elneny’s first weaving run into the box saw Lacazette win possession and set up Aubameyang for a very tidy finish inside the far post. Two up and in the ascendency, Guendouzi created panic as he drove through the left side of Lazio’s under pressure defence. The Italians attempted a response but Leno was comfortable in dealing with Alberto’s speculative effort.

The sight of stand-in left-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles down on his haunches created a moment of worry but a re-run of the incident showed that he had unfortunately taken a ball in the orchestras. He recovered his breath and his composure very quickly.

Rob Holding then picked up a yellow card for a late challenge which he clearly enjoyed. As long as we can channel it this new found aggression is not an unwelcome addition to our capabilities. Cue the introduction of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, (no, for the first time I didn’t copy and paste that, I’ve nailed it!), Konstantinos Mavropanos, and Emile Smith Rowe for Holding, Chambers, and Lacazette.

Aubameyang’s hammer of a drive from thirty yards was close to giving us a third goal and Elneny too struck an effort on target from distance as we finished strongly.

Pre-season complete, we look to be in decent shape going into the Premier League next week. Certainly the midfield and attacking players appear to have taken to the new style of play. Question marks probably remain about the goalkeeper and back four if we are being totally honest, but overall I’m encouraged by what I see. Goodnight all.

As I tweeted beforehand “Pre-season friendly, therefore I will not get upset about no Lacazette.” Which means of course I am upset that he has not started against PSG and Chelsea! The starting line-up had a whiff of 4-3-3 with the ability to convert quickly to 4-5-1 if required.

Petr Cech was nominated captain behind a back four of Hector Bellerin, Skhodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos (of course I did!), and Sead Kolasinac. An exciting trio of Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey, and Matteo Guendouzi were due to start covering the base and getting forward to support Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Mesut Ozil. However Rambo was injured in the warm-up and his place was handed to the excellent Emile Smith Rowe. A 4-2-3-1 perhaps?

A rapid opening five minutes culminated in the opening goal. Cech was equal to a Fabregas drive from the edge of the box but the resulting corner was headed home, unchallenged, by Rudiger. Neither defensive quartet had looked comfortable in the high press being applied by both sets of forwards.

In the fourteenth minute Hudson-Odoi roasted Bellerin who brought the young winger down in the box. Fortunately Morata’s poorly struck spot-kick gave Cech the chance to make an excellent save low to his right. In truth we were hanging on by a thread. On our rare forays it seemed odd to have Ozil on the right flank and Mkhitaryan on the left.

Midway through the half Hudson-Odoi robbed Elneny and played Morata in. Again Cech won the personal duel. The Gunners back four was an issue last season and an instant fix isn’t too likely. On the plus side they will have a video of this match to look at in order to see clearly where the problems are. We finally got a shot in after twenty-eight minutes when Ozil and Aubameyang combined to present Smith Rowe with a difficult volley opportunity which the young midfielder struck high and wide.

Encouraged, Ozil conjured up another opportunity but Elneny’s cross was comfortably cleared by the goalscorer. Ozil and Mkhitaryan gave Aubameyang a clear chance but he missed his touch and the equaliser remained unclaimed. Ozil was the creator again when Guendouzi hit a long drive just wide of the target. Finally the Gunners appeared to have warmed to the pace of the match.

Smith Rowe’s impressive backheel gave Kolasinac a one on one with Caballero which the Chelsea goalkeeper won. Hudson-Odoi, possibly offside, bore down on Cech’s goal. The Gunners goalkeeper made another fine parry with Mustafi clearing the danger. At the other end Bellerin’s cross evaded Aubameyang and Kolasinac was unable to get an effort away beyond the far post. The one goal deficit had survived to the whistle.

Christensen and Drinkwater were sent on for Luis and Fabregas at the start of the second-half. The Gunners remained unchanged. Smith Rowe found Kolasinac beyond the far post again and his thumping effort was deflected for a corner. The Gunners were starting the second-half as they had ended the first, knocking on the door. Ozil burst through but was denied by Azpilicueta. The same defender then deflected Smith Rowe’s next attempt over the bar.

At the hour mark multiple substitutes were readied. Only one was for the Arsenal, however. Alex Iwobi came on for Smith Rowe who may have overtaken the Nigerian international in the pecking order during this pre-season? Mkhitaryan’s deflected drive was saved low to his right by Caballero, before the ‘keeper was presented with a simple save by Iwobi.

Midway through the half Kolasinac tangled with Moses and looked to have twisted both knee and ankle. Ainsley Maitland-Niles came on, presumably aware of the opportunity for immediate promotion that may have opened up for him. Ozil’s Cruyff turn gave Aubameyang a chance but the son of a former Gun, Ampadu, blocked the effort. It was the cue for the Arsenal to send on Reiss Nelson and Alexandre Lacazette (at last!) for Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang (really?).

Almost immediately Lacazette nutmegged Christensen and slid the ball just wide of the far post. Following that Ozil chipped a free-kick wide of the post. We were totally dominant but hadn’t produced the goal that Chelsea did as they bossed the opening half an hour. Calum Chambers was the next to come on, for the frustrated and frustrating Bellerin, with twelve minutes to go.

Seven minutes from the end Iwobi was denied what would have been a wonderful team goal by the substitute goalkeeper, Bulka. The Gunners were certainly dominating the last hour. It should be noted that the Arsenal defence, all at sea early doors, had grown considerably as the midfield had got the upper hand in the contest. Interestingly Elneny, Ozil, and the excellent Guendouzi were given a full ninety-three minutes.

In added time Sokratis headed narrowly wide,  then Bulka made a desperate save from Lacazette, but the imperious goalscorer would not be denied. Nelson’s superb cross found it’s way to the Frenchman and he buried the equaliser with the last kick of the match, penalty shoot out aside.

Results are deemed necessary in pre-season friendlies so we went to spot kicks. At 3-3 Cech dived out of the way of Emerson’s effort down the centre of the goal, but Maitland-Niles responded to take it to 4-4. When Piazon sent Cech the wrong way it was down to Ozil, excellent on the night. 5-5, obviously. On to sudden death. Cech saved from Loftus-Cheek. Up stepped Iwobi, and The Arsenal had won a drawn match, as we had lost a drawn match against Atleti.

It was an entertaining night for a fortunate Dublin crowd. It is also an indicator that we have some real qualities, and some real issues going into the season. We are learning this high pressing game bit by bit, and we, as Nigel Winterburn noted post match, rectified the issues we faced in the first half an hour.

It’s the hope that kills ya!

The Arsenal produced a very impressive result against a young PSG team this afternoon in the International Champions Cup. Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Mohammed Elneny, and Mesut Ozil started the match and yet again there were wholesale changes during the second-half.

It is fair to say we started both halves on the back foot. PSG, prompted by Rabiot, kept us camped in our defending third early doors, but we slowly got the pace of the game and took the lead in the thirteenth minute. Henrikh Mkhitaryan sent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang galloping in behind the PSG defence on the right edge of the box and he found Ozil at the far post for a tap-in. Given his difficulties in Germany of late the reception he got from a friendly crowd and team mates was heartening to see.

It was the trigger for a half an hour of Gunners domination of the football. We might have had a penalty when Diarra appeared to pull Ozil down in the box, and there were other clear opportunities to get the second goal it felt that our authority warranted and needed. The ageless Buffon acted as a magnet to efforts from Iwobi, Aubameyang, and Mkhitaryan. Aubameyang did find the net with a back heel but an offside flag cut short any celebrations.

Leno’s concentration was tested when, after a long period of inactivity, he was forced to make a full-length dive to keep out an effort from the lively Weah. That we were only a goal ahead at the half would have been foremost in Unai Emery’s mind. He sent on Emiliano Martinez, Aaron Ramsey, and Alexandre Lacazette at the start of the second-half for Leno, Elneny, and Alex Iwobi.

It disrupted our flow and the advantage was lost when Weah tormented Sead Kolasinac and drew the foul in the box. Nkunku sent Martinez the wrong way with his spot-kick, thus avenging the excellent save the goalkeeper had produced from his free-kick earlier in the half. It was the cue for Unai Emery to send on his young hopefuls, and how they grabbed their opportunity.

The five substitutions saw the introduction of Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, and Eddie Nketiah. Those off were skipper for the day Ozil, Sokratis, Skhodran Mustafi, Mkhitaryan, and Aubameyang. The reward was almost instantaneous. Smith Rowe got free on the right and crossed for Lacazette to apply a sublime finish. Rabiot’s departure shortly after that goal appeared to leave PSG rudderless and the outstanding young Guns went for the jugular.

A far post header into the melting pot saw Lacazette head in off the post with Nketiah getting a touch seemingly after the ball had crossed the line. With the match surely secure it was time for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock to come on for Kolasinac and the impressive Matteo Guendouzi.

The fourth goal came in impressive fashion from an unlikely source. Rob Holding’s thundering header from fifteen yards out caught everyone by surprise. Even then their was no loss of desire and in the four added minutes Eddie Nketiah got his reward for a lively cameo when sent clear by Nelson.

5-1 to the Arsenal was reflective of our superiority on the day and whilst PSG were without their holy trinity of Mbappe, Cavani, and Neymar you can only beat who is in front of you. There was a lot for Unai Emery to draw from the Singapore leg of the pre-season tour, and he said as much in his post match press conference, praising the hotel and the training facility at the American School.

So to Dublin, via London, and the small matter of Chelsea to play on Wednesday evening. It will be very interesting to compare how close both teams are in preparation for the Premier League kick-off in just a fortnight.

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