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xGunners: Arsenal 2, Bayern 1 takeaways

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Some thoughts from Arsenal vs Bayern Munich.

Arsenal v FC Bayern - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by Kevork Djansezian/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

Arsenal were impressive against Bayern Munich, emerging with a 2-1 victory.

Typically I would give a big stats breakdown, but these International Champions Cup matches don’t have a ton of statistics available, so this piece will just be some of the big (and some little) things I noticed.

Joe Willock doesn’t look out of place in midfield

Joe Willock looks like he is a big prospect, and could very well be a big part of Arsenal’s plans this season, especially if Arsenal do plan to use the Europa League as a chance to blood youngsters as Unai Emery mentioned in his press conference.

In this match, Willock didn’t do anything especially spectacular, but the fact that he looked comfortable, was able to move the ball and add an impressive amount of defensive cover is a very good sign. This was a Bayern midfield that had a midfield of Thiago and Corentin Tolisso in the first half, and then Leon Goretzka in the second.

In his previous 279 minutes under Emery, Willock had played in a more advanced role, but here he featured in the double pivot and he partnered well with Granit Xhaka.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is Arsenal’s best player

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was amazing for Arsenal last season. He won the golden boot, and with Alexandre Lacazette was essentially all of Arsenal’s open play offense.

In this match he started from the right wing, which was a surprise because he had not a been played in the position at all last season under Emery. I am not the biggest fan of him out wide, but in this match he was able to exploit space from Bayern and was a constant threat.

He finished the match with 1 shot and 2 key passes for a 0.35 xG + xA but his impact in this match was much larger than that. He have several counter attacks that were especially dangerous and a cross situation that flashed right in front of him that only needed a slight touch to turn into an almost certain goal.

He is a special player, and one that I am very happy plays for Arsenal.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has defensive question marks

It wasn’t a night to remember for Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

In the second half it seemed like every time that Kingsley Coman was on the ball, in a matter of seconds he was beating Maitland-Niles on the dribble. I don’t have an exact count of the number of times that he was dribbled past, but it feels like it was at least 3 times (possibly more) in just 45 minutes.

His first half on defense wasn’t that much better. He was able to recover from these because Jann-Fiete Arp isn’t nearly as good as Coman and Maitland-Niles is very fast. The biggest issue that I noticed was that he was gutting sucked in central and would find himself in front of Arp.

I ask Unai Emery if this was a worry to him (I need to slow down when talking next time, because he couldn’t understand my accent and rapid talking style) and Emery more or less said that it wasn’t, and that he would trust the learning process, and put faith that the tradeoff of having more in attack that comes with the 4231 is worth the sacrifice of losing a center back.

I agree with that tradeoff, but for now, I do have worries about Maitland-Niles being able to cover while Hector Bellerin recovers.

Assorted thoughts

  • Those yellow jerseys look amazing. I can imagine that they will be big sellers and I hope that they look as good on TV as they did live (Editor’s note: they did).
  • Eddie Nketiah put in an impressive 10 minutes. His harrying of defenders was very good. His strength on the ball and fighting for loose balls was amazing. His ability to find shots was encouraging. Arsenal will need a 3rd striker, and I really hope that Nketiah can nail it down, while also earning enough minutes to continue to develop.
  • Watching matches live and from an elevated midfield spot is really good. Having the ability to see the full pitch and all 22 players is amazing and really shows more of the tactical battle that can be missed with the more zoomed in angle that they show on TV. I wish that there was an option to watch all matches on the tactical camera.
  • The Premier League and their TV partners could probably find a new revenue source offering that as an add on over the top option to nerds like me.
  • Mustafi is still an Arsenal player, and he will continue to be a frustrating player to watch. He didn’t get miraculously better over the off season break. He had two MUSTAFI!?!?’s in 81 minutes, that works out to 2.2 MUSTAFI!?!?’s per 90. I would really like to see that number get down below one per 90 this season.
  • Arsenal’s American fans and the fans from all over that came to Carson are amazing. Bayern are supposedly a bigger club, but Arsenal dominated the atmosphere and outnumbered Bayern fans easily 2 or 3 to 1 at this match.