Arsenal bested Orlando City 3-1, keeping the preseason momentum rolling into their stiffer test against Chelsea on Saturday. Like Saturday’s contest in Baltimore, it was a tale of two halves for the Gunners. The reserve players looked disjointed (and some a bit disinterested) and the first choice players were too much for the opposition to handle.
Some thoughts and observations:
- Pablo Mari had a rough night. It did not look like he was on the same page as Rob Holding nor Nuno Tavares. Arsenal were beaten far too easily by balls in the channel between Mari and Tavares, including for Orlando’s goal.
- Rob Holding didn’t exactly cover himself in glory either. Got beat pretty badly one-on-one at least once. Particularly unfortunate for Holding who just gave an interview to The Athletic about how he wants to be more than a CB who comes into a 3-5-2 to close out matches.
- Aaron Ramsdale made a nice save on a breakaway.
- Ben White looked lively and energetic. It was good to see him out of the training room and back on the pitch. Noticed that he was way, way forward late in the second half from his right back spot. Like several Arsenal defenders on the evening, he was added to an Orlando City player’s personal highlight reel.
- In White’s case, that player was Facundo Torres. Torres scored the Orlando goal on a great shot back to the near post after cutting inside. The 22-year old Uruguayan is going to be in Europe soon, I think.
- William Saliba had another strong performance. He’s really good.
- Sambi Lokonga, Gabriel Martinelli, and Eddie Nketiah had some nice link-up play and combination passing early in the first half. Sambi put in a pretty good claim on that left side #8 for the Europa League group stage with his performance tonight, I think.
- Eddie Nketiah looks quicker and faster this preseason than he did last year. His goal was one of those “right place, right time” ones that he seems to have a knack for getting. That fox-in-the-box, nose-for-the-net ability that he’s shown in the past.
- Martin Ødegaard was cookin’ tonight. He controlled the attack in the second half, threading balls left and right for teammates to run onto. He did well to find pockets of space in which to operate.
- Part of why Ødegaard was able to find so much room to operate was all the attention drawn by Gabriel Jesus. He’s the real deal. His first step is lethally quick, and he accelerates to top speed in a hurry. He always seems to be in the thick of the action. And he’s got a bit of bite / snarl to his game, too. This might be a bit too much projection / reading into things, but I’ve got a feeling he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after being shunted aside at Manchester City and is going to play like he wants to show them what they lost.
- Another reason why all of the attackers were buzzing in the second half: fluidity. Gabby Jesus, MØ, Bukayo Saka, et. al. were constantly interchanging, popping on centrally, then right, then left, making it hard to track, overloading areas, and forcing defenders to pass them off. That seems to be a theme with the first choice attackers, and I’m here for it.
- Nicolas Pépé and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were anonymous to poor on the evening. Pépé came into the match a bit more when he was sharing the pitch with the first team guys. AMN seemed disinterested.
- Reiss Nelson scored a goal. Good for him. I don’t think he’s quite good enough for where Arsenal want to go, but he did admit in an interview late last season that he felt that at Feyenoord, he flipped one of those proverbial switches. That he finally understood what it meant to be a professional, how to train properly, how to take care of himself, the little things that he wasn’t doing in past years when he was younger and didn’t know any better. He has a good shot, he’s a pretty good dribbler, likes to take on his defender, and has pace. Maybe he can put it together and impact games off the bench this season.
Anything else that y’all saw / noticed from tonight’s match?