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Arsenal 1 - FC Nurnberg 1: and they’re off

The Gunners kickoff their preseason with a draw.

1. FC Nürnberg v Arsenal FC: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Arsenal played to a 1-1 draw against FC Nurnberg to wrap up their Germany training camp. The Gunners’ first team controlled the opening 45 minutes, as you’d expect the top players to do against a Bundesliga 2 side. The substitutes did well enough, too. A silly Arsenal own goal gave the home side a bit of life and served as a welcome energy infusion in the second half. All in all, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a first preseason match.

Full observations and thoughts on the match in bullet form — it’s preseason after all.

  • Arsenal’s finishing was poor, definitely at preseason, lack-of-sharpness levels. Gabriel Jesus shot well wide on his big chance in behind the defense. Folarin Balogun made an excellent run, a nice move to round the keeper, and couldn’t turn his hips to put it into an empty net. Eddie Nketiah’s hold up play was solid, but his first touch in the box let him down once or twice and prevented him from even getting a shot away.
  • Overall, the first choice players weren’t really pressing. Other than when there was a chance to create a scoring opportunity, guys really weren’t pressing themselves, which is fine.
  • Bukayo Saka’s goal was gorgeous. Ben White picked him out well with a long, chipped ball. He cut inside onto his left foot and fired in at the far post. We’ve seen him score that goal many times, and we’re going to see it many more times this season. He looks as if he hasn’t missed a beat. The Premier League should be on notice. He’s going to have a massive year.
  • William Saliba was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup and appears to be over the back issue that kept him out down the stretch. He looked great. He’s an excellent centerback. He and Gabriel Magalhaes make a formidable pairing.
  • Oleksandr Zinchenko missed out with the same calf problem, which is worrying. The reports are that he’s expected to miss a few more preseason matches.
  • Ethan Nwaneri looks to be the real deal. He was the standout performer in the second half for the Gunners. He constantly made himself available, demanded the ball, and had several moments of excellent on-ball skill. He also doesn’t have the body of a 16-year old. I’m sure he’ll still struggle at times if he finds himself playing against grown men, but the waifish 18-year old Bukayo Saka he is not.
  • Miles Lewis-Skelly also showed well. He had one particularly nice turn where he checked back to the ball, feinted, and spun his defender to receive and progress the ball. He slipped Balogun in with an excellent through ball that should have won the match for the Gunners.
  • Jakub Kiwior had a tidy first half in the Zinchenko role. He was surprisingly good on the ball and provided more ball-winning steel than the Ukrainian in that spot. That could be a new wrinkle for the Gunners this season.
  • Ben White was solid and strong, bombing up and down the right side of the pitch with mid-season levels of fitness and energy. He slid over to centerback to start the second half.
  • Leandro Trossard controlled the Arsenal attack for the opening 25-30 minutes or so with Martin Ødegaard a late scratch from the lineup because of a slight knock in warmups. Trossard seemed to pick up a slight knock of his own that slowed him in the closing minutes of the first half.
  • Fabio Vieria was more of the same from last season. Moments of absolute brilliance on the ball, moments where he looks totally off the pace, and times where he drifts out of the match entirely.
  • Kieran Tierney played well. He seemed to have more energy than other players / more desire to use that energy.
  • Folarin Balogun looked involved, bright, and dangerous. He really should have scored his late chance, though. He played on the right side more than through the middle.
  • Kai Havertz played. That’s about all there is to say. He came on in the second half into a mixed team of first choice, senior, and youth players. Also, he’s tall — 6’3. I don’t think I’d ever realized that.
  • Karl Hein looked nervous. He made the wrong decision passing to Jorginho under pressure that led to the own goal. He also spilled a shot that he might have been able to collect, which almost led to a Nurnberg goal.
  • Reuell Walters had two nice moments: he rose well to win a header on an attacking corner but couldn’t steer it on net and made a solid block at the other end.
  • Cedric had one nice moment combining with Fabio Vieira down the right but wasn’t close to curling his shot in at the far post. Other than that, his set piece delivery was poor and he gave the ball away in terrible spots. He’s just not an Arsenal standard player.

As I said, it was an expected, fine performance for a preseason opener. Arsenal head to the United States on Sunday. Declan Rice and Jurrien Timber will hopefully be on the plane. The squad face the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night in Washington, D.C.