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Arsenal cancel pre-season trip to US

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Arsenal have announced that their pre-season tour of the USA has been cancelled after a small number of COVID positive cases popped up.

The Gunners were to set to continue their preparation for the upcoming season with a couple of matches in the United States. This was following a trip to Scotland where they faced off against Hibernian and Rangers.

In a statement posted on the club website, the north Londoners expressed their disappointment at this trip being cancelled. The club said:

“We fully understand what a disappointment this is for our supporters in America who were looking forward to seeing us compete in the Florida Cup as part of our pre-season build up. Our apologies also go to the organisers of the Florida Cup who had done a fantastic job making the preparations and our partners who had arranged events around our participation in the competition.”

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And as for matches that could happen instead of the USA trip, Arsenal added in their statement:

“We are now making alternative arrangements in line with the Premier League protocols to continue our preparations for the new season. We hope everyone understands this difficult situation which is beyond anyone’s control.”

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This is definitely disappointing from the club’s point of view as it disrupts the plans they had set in motion. These games are necessary for the team to get back into a state of being fit and sharp for the upcoming season.

But the fact that the Gunners have mentioned that alternate arrangements will be made is good news and we could have other games take up these slots. One of the things that fans were looking forward to during this trip was a glimpse of new signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga but they will have to wait a little longer for that.

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There is still some way to go before the start of the Premier League so Arsenal should have enough time to be ready for the opening game against Brentford. Manager Mikel Arteta will want to make sure that this disruption does not prove to too much of a distraction for the squad.

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Lesson from pre-season: What did Arsenal learn?

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It may be a bit premature to learn anything from just two games of pre-season, but there is a lot of information to be gained from Arsenal’s tour of Scotland. None of the two games ended in victory for the visitors but there were some promising signs in both matches.

The Gunners did well to bounce back from losing the first match against Hibernian and got a good draw against Rangers. Though the primary goal of this tour was to make the players fit for the upcoming season, manager Mikel Arteta would have seen some patterns emerge.

Before the north Londoners head into the next leg of their pre-season games, what have they learnt from this Scottish sojourn?

Nuno Tavares

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The first signing of the summer proved to be quite the player in the only half he played. Starting the game against the Scottish champions, the left-back showed his attacking instincts by making some useful runs.

The Portuguese capped off a debut to remember by scoring his first goal for the club. Using his strength to get the ball off a defender, the 20-year-old then calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net.

Set-Piece Woes

From a defensive point of view, this was probably the most notable aspect as the Gunners conceded three goals from set-pieces. This was in sharp contrast to last season where the visitors happened to be one of the best in the league at handling such situations.

With new set-piece coach Nicholas Jover coming in from Manchester City, he will have a real task on his hands. Stopping these goals will be a major concern for the team and it is something for them to work on in the upcoming games.

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Emile Smith-Rowe

The Englishman has been linked with a move away from north London with bids coming in from Aston Villa. But he did not let that speculation bog him down as the midfielder provided two sparkling cameos.

Always willing to move the ball forward, Smith-Rowe got a goal in the first game and created a lot of chances in the second. With rumours that he is set to sign a new long-term deal with the Gunners, fans will be happy that the youngster is committing his future to the Emirates stadium.

The form of the captain

Apart from the goals that were conceded, this was probably the most worrying aspect of the tour as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seemed to lack his finishing touch. The forward was particularly disappointing against Rangers where he got quite a few easy chances to score.

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Arteta will be hoping that his captain gets back to the form that he has shown in the past given that he is coming off the back of a subpar campaign. If the striker starts finding his finishing boots, it will be good news for the Gunners and their quest to move higher up the table.

Players that could leave

There are strong suggestions that some of the Gunners in action in these two games could be leaving. This includes the likes of Hector Bellerin, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah among others who all could be playing for another club at the start of next season.

For the north Londoners, they will want to get the best possible deal for those who might be departing. It is interesting to see who Arteta decides to place his faith in, with someone like Willock banging on the first team door.

The Gunners need to make a decision on who they will keep and who they are likely to sell. No matter who leaves, it should be for a fee or in a type of deal that benefits the English giants.

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Nketiah made a good case for himself with a well-taken goal but Bellerin on the other hand did himself no favours. There is still a long time left in the transfer window and the north Londoners will be aware that this tour would have created some kind of impact on a player’s value.

The youngsters

Pre-season is always a time for new players to make their name and try to get into the first team. The same way, we saw quite a few youngsters stake their claim during the tour and some shone even brighter than a few of the senior members.

A lot of praise must be given to Jack Henry-Francis and Omari Hutchinson in particular for their performances full of energy. There are other names who made an impression as well and that is good news for the Gunners. As we have seen in the last couple of seasons, it is the youngsters that have lifted the team and we could see it happen yet again in 2021/22.

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There is a lot that the management would have learnt from these two games as they look to make the necessary adjustments in the forthcoming matches. There were definitely a lot of positives from this tour, but certain negatives have to be looked after as well.

The major storyline of the next few games will be to see how new signing Albert Sambi Lokonga does as there is a lot of excitement surrounding this transfer. If Arsenal can get most of the squad fit and firing by the time they face Brentford in the opening Premier League game, they can start the season on a positive note.

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Mikel Arteta reacts to draw against Rangers

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Arsenal very nearly had a disappointing pre-season tour of Scotland, but they managed to get a draw against Rangers. Speaking after the match, manager Mikel Arteta reflected on the performance.

One of the notable aspects of the game was the performance of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He missed three easy chances and that does not bode well going into the new campaign as a lot is expected from the forward.

New signing Nuno Tavares managed to make quite an impression as he got a debut goal with a finely taken finish. The Gunners will not be happy about conceding twice from corners and it is something they need to work on.

The match looked like it was heading for a win for the hosts, but Eddie Nketiah came up with a smart finish to level things up. Arteta was asked about what he made of the performance, and he told the club website:

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“Overall, I’m really pleased with the performance. I think we dominated the game, we created so many chances – I counted about eight or 10 clear chances to score – but this game is decided in both boxes. We weren’t clinical in the opponent’s box, and we conceded two goals from two corners, which were the only chances they had apart from the counterattack from our own corner.

“It’s much better from the other day and you tell that physically we were already better in the second game, the organisation was better, individually they played better, but I really liked the collective understanding of the game and how we executed a lot of things we’ve been working on in the training pitch.”

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There were a lot of encouraging signs to be taken from the game especially in the second half. Rangers are a tough team to beat and are managed by one of the world’s best young managers.

But the Gunners dug in and were able to string together some impressive moves. If they had been a little more clinical in front of goal, it would have been a comfortable win for the visitors.

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Arsenal will leave Scotland having learnt a lot about themselves. What the club and Arteta must look to do now is take the positives from these performances and work on the negatives.

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An overview on Arsenal’s Scotland preseason tour- player ratings for both games

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Two goals were scored. Three conceded. Simply not good enough. In two games where a win should’ve easily been the outcome in both, missed chances were left to rue from players who we know have the quality to convert any other time. Numerous defensive errors lead to goals that really could have been at the other end minutes before, but going into Inter Milan in the USA next week, I will rate every player’s performances and the team as a whole in this report.

Arthur Okonkwo- 5
The 19-year-old was given his first chance in the net, due to the absence of Bernd Leno who is on holiday after being included in the Germany squad for the Euros. Arthur made a vital mistake at 21 minutes in the Hibernian match, misjudging a back pass that allowed Martin Boyle to get on the end of it and score in an empty goal. There was a tiny bit of improvement in the Rangers game, but bad marking from the defence during set-pieces meant that Okonkwo conceded an easy goal off a header from inside the 18-yard box.

Karl Jakob Hein- 6
Despite conceding, the Estonian man made a few great saves to deny even more embarrassment in both games. However, there were still negatives and Karl did concede similarly to Arthur, struggling to deny headers from set-pieces.

Sead Kolasinac- 5
Having returned from Schalke after being sent back on loan for the rest of the 2020/21 season, Sead appeared in the Hibernian match and despite a few attacking runs, was rather quiet. The main problem in the match was missed chances, and the Bosnian wasn’t that involved while the defensive errors were down to the defence as a collective, hence the low rating.

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Pablo Mari- 6
Pablo was the only centre-back to start both matches and could be the possible candidate to take the starting spot although rumours of Ben White joining Arsenal could shut down this idea. The main strength was the distribution of the Spaniard, who made a few key passes during both matches to set the strikers off on goal. The marking inside the box was poor, which led to two goals during the Rangers game which could’ve easily been prevented, but overall for a preseason match, Mari was better than the rest.

Harry Clarke- 6
There isn’t much to say about Harry as he didn’t have much involvement in the goals for Hibernian. For his first game in the tour after promotion to the first-team squad, he played alright, and showed good signs of what there was in the academy if needed to be called upon.

Rob Holding- 5
I just can’t give Rob a 6 because the defensive display in the 2-2 draw was still very poor. Rob played alright but the defence as a collective is at fault for the errors made in the two goals off set pieces. Hence why Rob is at a 5.

Cedric Soares- 4
Cedric played in both two games, but the reason for the poor score lies purely on the first goal for Hibernian and the mistake that put Arthur Okonkwo to blame, although the backpass was very lacklustre. On the attacking end, there wasn’t much creativity and the defending wasn’t up to the high standards that Arsenal should have so a 4 is a justified result. In the Rangers match, there was slightly more improvement, but to still be conceding two, especially off set pieces doesn’t warrant a higher rating.

Hector Bellerin- 6
Hector came on in both games as a substitute, amid interest from Inter Milan and other clubs who are pursuing a move for him this summer. In the Hibernian match, Alexandre Lacazette played the ball to the full-back on the right-hand side, whose cross at the byline was neatly finished by Emile Smith-Rowe. However, it wasn’t the best of sub appearances in the Rangers game as Hector lost track of Cedric Itten in the box who had a free header to slide past Karl Jakob Hein. Despite saying that, there were only three goals for the Gunners in the tour so an assist is a positive for such a limited amount of minutes played.

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Calum Chambers- 5
Calum came in as a substitute in the Rangers game and can play right-back and central defensive position which is useful when the game is end to end. However, the tactics Arteta had employed meant that by the time he had come on the game had died down a bit so Chambers wasn’t that used to the slow tempo.

Kieran Tierney- 6
Kieran came on during the Rangers match for some game time in his home country, after his involvement in the Euros with Scotland. As always, his attacking runs were very good providing some good opportunities but was left to blame for the second goal as Tierney had to switch men after Hector lost Itten, and was too late before Itten and headed past Karl Jakob Hein. Overall, Tierney was pretty good, but the defensive error could’ve easily denied the win if Arsenal had put some of the chances away.

Nuno Tavares- 9
The recent signing made his debut against Rangers and in twenty minutes already had one goal under his belt. His attacking runs as described in my previous article about Tavares, proved crucial as he latched on to a loose ball, turned in on the full-back sending him the opposite direction and slotted calmly into the bottom corner, something even Aubameyang couldn’t do minutes earlier. It is a dream start for Tavares and his Arsenal career and deserves a 9 rating.

Omar Rekik- 6
The final defender who appeared in the tour was Omar Rekik, who was promoted to a professional contract in January after signing for the U23s from Hertha Berlin in Germany. The Dutchman stood his ground in the few minutes he played, and his versatility meant that he was going forward in the attacking phases to support the tired midfield, while also defending just as well in the match against Hibernian.

Willian- 3
You should never judge a player by their weight during the preseason, but Willian’s attitude to playing for Arsenal is generally poor. The performance was poor as well, whether he was starting against Hibernian or coming on against Rangers, there wasn’t anything to talk about and was just average at best.

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Ainsley Maitland-Niles- 6
Ainsley featured in both matches after returning from the relegated West Brom who had signed him on loan in an attempt to stay up in the Premier League. Maitland-Niles returned straight back into the centre-midfield spot against Hibs, partnered with Elneny. Although the team performance was poor, the two central midfield spots were key to providing opportunities for the attackers.

Mohamed Elneny- 5
Mohamed Elneny started both games, against Hibs in the central role and the Gers in a more defensive role. In both games, he had different midfield partners. The only fault that Elneny made was for the second Hibernian goal, where the Egyptian was easily and unusually out strengthed by Paul Hanlon who headed into the box for a tap in from Daniel MacKay. However, there were still promising signs from Elneny who is still consistently battling for the midfield spot, and now with rumours that Granit Xhaka could be off to AS Roma, it may be even closer than he thinks.

Joe Willock- 6
Joe came on at the Ibrox for the first time in red and white since he had gone on loan and scored 7 in 7 for Newcastle in the Premier League. Although there was no goal to add to his tally, Joe pulled a few strings in the tired midfield and managed to rejuvenate the energy to get back the equaliser in the 2-2 draw. That’s why he’s at a 6.

Reiss Nelson- 6
Reiss hasn’t featured much at all since being promoted to the first team but remains a promising talent that is overlooked. The only flaw that could be noted is his strength, where he gets dispossessed easily by the full-backs. In saying that, Reiss played very well and usually does when called upon, and when Nicolas Pepe is out for any reason, Nelson should be called upon after some good displays against the two Scottish sides.

Thomas Partey- 7
There is only one word to describe the Ghanaian midfielder’s performance. Dominant. Mainly against Rangers, Thomas was brilliant in the central defensive position and retained possession countless times. As a substitute in the Hibs match, it was already too late to try to make a difference but nevertheless, Partey was very impressive and hopefully foreshadows his performances in the league and cups this season.

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Omari Hutchinson- 7
Omari is one of the most talked-about prospects of the Hale End academy in the last few years. Born in 2003, Omari is only 17 years old and already slotting in in the wing position and CAM if needed in the match against Hibernian. Despite only playing a limited amount, Hutchinson was good technically with one of the only flaws being his awareness on the ball which can be improved easily while training with the first team.

Tom Smith- N/A
Academy prospect. No appearance but named on teamsheet for subs against Rangers.

Jack Henry-Francis- 8
This is probably the first time most people have heard of Jack, who is a 17-year-old defensive midfielder who has been playing consistently well in the U23 side and was finally deserved promotion to the first XI. Although the highlight for him against Hibs was that his shirt was three sizes too big, his technical ability is similar to Omari but more defensively is just another prime example to showcase how talented the academy group are.

Emile Smith-Rowe- 9
Emile was one of the key players in the match against Hibs despite coming on as a second-half substitute. He was also superb against Rangers even though the outcome of both games didn’t entirely suggest so. Against Hibernian, Emile scored the only goal for Arsenal and created multiple opportunities against Rangers as well in the CAM spot, which seems to be the strongest position that he has played in so far. If this is how his preseason is going, we can hope that Arteta plays him in the domestic games.

Nicolas Pepe- 5
As one of the most important players on the tour who had impressed many people towards the end of the last season, it looked like the Pepe that appeared in the matches in Scotland was the one that lacked confidence at the start of the season. A missed penalty against Hibernian that could’ve completely changed the result around and numerous missed chances against Rangers that Arsenal should be relying on Nico to bury. It was disappointing but hopefully, it is not a sign of things to come.

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Eddie Nketiah- 7
Some embarrassing missed chances against Hibs including an early one-on-one that was put on a plate for Eddie to score looked like it was over before it even had started. But Nketiah kept going and was rewarded with ten minutes to go against Rangers when he took the ball from the defender and slotted past the keeper to make it 2-2. With hard work comes reward, and this was an example of it which is why when mistakes are made, Eddie came back better and got the goal that was much-needed for the draw.

Folarin Balogun- 6
Another talked-about prospect who many fans wanted to see start, Folarin came on as a sub against Hibs and finally started at the Ibrox. Although there wasn’t a goal to talk about, there were good ideas implemented and more energy than more experienced players like Lacazette and Aubameyang throughout the match.

Alexandre Lacazette- 7
Alexandre Lacazette is still capable of pulling off good performances. Against Hibs, coming on as a substitute when 2-0 down is always tough and there wasn’t much that could be changed but he still played to his strengths (quite literally) winning a penalty that went on to be missed. He was also involved in the goal that ESR scored to make it 2-1. Against the Gers, he didn’t play as well but was still consistent enough to deserve a 7.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang- 4
The final player and by far the most shocking rating- because almost everything went wrong for him. So many chances that could’ve propelled Arsenal to a three or four goal lead were blazed over the bar, wide or mishit. The only positive that Auba displayed was his distribution, sending Balogun and Nketiah in clear on goal in both games. An inconsistent player in the first games of the preseason, we can only pray for better for the next few games so we can start the season in a winning fashion.

So that’s it! Thanks for reading my player ratings of every player involved in the Scotland preseason tour as I highly appreciate it.

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Please let me know on Twitter at @AaronJaffe11 if there are any changes you would make to the ratings, or if any players I didn’t do any justice.

And I’ll see you next time with the player ratings of the USA tour.

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Chelsea and Manchester United target yet to respond to contract offer – He wants to ‘broaden his horizons and try new experiences’

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Raphael Varane is yet to respond to Real Madrid’s contract offer, with a move to Manchester United or Chelsea seemingly in the offing

That’s according to MARCA, who cover the Frenchman’s future today as he looks to be closing in on a move away from the Bernabeu.

They explain that with a year left on his current deal, Varane has been offered a new contract by Real Madrid, with that proposal sent to him several weeks ago.

He has not responded to the offer since it was sent, and so the feeling in the Bernabeu is that he will be bringing his ten-year stay at the club to an end.

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If that is to be the case, his future looks increasingly like it will be in the Premier League and Manchester United are very keen to get him.

They are not the only option on the table, though, with Chelsea having ‘emerged’ as contenders in recent weeks as well.

The third option, PSG, does not seem to be a concrete one anymore after they signed Sergio Ramos, and Varane would prefer to move to the Premier League anyway.

If Real Madrid are to sell, which is increasingly being forced upon them, they want it to happen this summer to avoid losing Varane on a free come next year.

His ‘market value’ is €70m, but the fact he is in the final year of his current deal means that will be reduced.

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His good performances for France, despite their early exit from the Euros, means that he has ‘maintained his cache’ in the eyes of his suitors, such as Chelsea and Manchester United.

Those clubs seem ‘immune’ to the effects of the economic crisis and so could give Madrid the money they want to sell the Frenchman.

As far as the Spanish club are concerned, every little helps as they are trying to balance the books before making a big Galactico level signing.

Varane, for his part, is motivated by the idea of earning more money, but that is not the only factor in his thinking as he wants to ‘broaden his horizons and try new experiences’ both of which would be on offer in the Premier League.

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