This week has been an eventful one for Arsenal. Between the brutal injury news for Jurrien Timber, the release of the new third kit, and the contract extension talks for Martin Ødegaard and Ben White, the first week of the Premier League has not been short on newsworthy happenings around the Emirates
Falling slightly between the cracks, though, was the news that Arsenal played a behind-closed-doors friendly with newcomers Luton Town on Thursday, with the Gunners prevailing 3-0, with Bukayo Saka scoring and Leandro Trossard bagging a brace.
While friendlies aren’t usually worth writing extensively about, this one is a tad unorthodox - midweek friendlies during the season aren’t all that common, after all. What makes it worth a few words, is that it marked the debut of loanee David Raya in goal, Reiss Nelson coming back into the fold, and, more importantly, the return of Alexander Zinchenko to first team action after a lengthy injury layoff.
Luton, who are in the Premier League for the first time in their history, had a fairly unique reason for accepting the friendly. Their home opener against Burnley was postponed due to construction at their home ground Kenilworth Road, which needed to be upgraded to accommodate the stadium requirements for the PL. Since Arsenal are not playing until Monday, it was a beneficial arrangement for both sides, with the league having just only kicked off this last week.
The return of Zinchenko is probably the most important thing to report from the friendly. Raya saw 60 unbothered minutes as he acclimated to Arteta’s system. But after the loss of recent signing Jurrien Timber during Arsenal’s home opener against Nottingham Forest put a sizable dent in the left back depth, Zinchenko’s inclusion in the friendly is a relief.
He has returned to first team training recently, but there was little news about the timetable for his return. His ability to invert and play in the midfield was a large reason for Arsenal’s success last season, and while he has had his share of health issues, he is undeniably a major cog in the side. Arsenal have other options at left back, but none that come close to doing what the Ukrainian defender can do.
Equally as important is that there were no reported injuries picked up by players on either side. The first week of action saw several players across Europe endure serious knee injuries, so health is certainly appreciated.
The Gunners are off this weekend before heading across London to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday.