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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Arsenal News View
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.