It wasn’t supposed to be this way! It was supposed to be a thing of beauty, not this…this abomination! We spent £200m this summer for this, an embarrassing 1-1 drow to FC Nürnberg, who finished 14th in the Bundesliga—check that: the German second division. After all of that investment, such a setback can only lead to one outcome: the long-awaited sacking of Mikel “Pep’s Coneman” Arteta. He’s been exposed once and for all as a fraud, a chequebook manager, a dictator whose “tactics” consist of little more than “get it to Saka and inshallah“.
Indeed, were it not for a moment of inspiration from our so-called “Starboy”, we might have suffered an even more-ignominious result at the hands of ze Germans. Oh, I’m sure the Artetastans will trot out the same old excuses: it was just a preseason friendly. It takes time to integrate new players. Rice and Timber haven’t even been announced yet. He named an XI full of academy players. We have to “trust the process” (what—instead of the result?) Yada yada yada. I’ve heard it all too many times. It’s time to clean house and start fresh.
Speaking of fresh starts, I hope you’re still here because that was all just a bit of a piss-take (although I’m sure we could probably find an uncomfortably large contingent of fans who agreed at least in part or in principle with the preceding two paragraphs. It was after all a preseason friendly, we don’t have Rice or Timber available yet, fitness levels are low, and the second half saw all sorts of substitutions. Those seeking any meaningful take-aways should focus on the following instead of on the result.
Yes, William Saliba is back, playing for the first time since injuring his back back in March (yes, I struggled to avoid the doubling of “back”). He played a full 45 minutes—no mean feat after missing out on nearly four months out of action—and looked sharp. You might say he bullied anyone who came near him…but it was FC Nürnberg, after all. Still, it was a confident performance, and it’s great to see him staking strides towards being available for the start of the Prem. Don’t assume he’ll be starting from matchday one, though. I’d expect Arteta to ease him back gradually rather than rush him back capriciously.
The 16 year old looked sharpish, constantly seeking out the ball and making good decisions with it. Although hardly a reprise of Wilshere v. Barcelona (2011), it was n exciting performance for the youngster who just two weeks ago signed scholarship terms and will agree to a professional deal when he turns 17. At a risk of hyperbole, he looks like he might be ready for a few call-ups for the upcoming season, depending on who we get drawn with for the Champions League group stage and in the League Cup. If it were a simple matter of skill, I’d press the pause button on the hype-train. However, he seems alert and insightful as well.
Flo continues to make his case for first-team action (be it here or elsewhere…). He twice struck woodwork, once from a very tight angle after an unselfish pass from Jesus and, in the waning minutes, beat the offside trap to run onto sumptuous ball in behind from Lewis-Skelly and rounded the keeper only to clip his shot into the side-netting. This may not offer compelling evidence of his readiness to do on a cold, rainy night in Stoke what he’d done in Ligue 1 for Reims, but it was intriguing to see him in the proper strip nonetheless. He linked up well with players he’d never played with and looked just as good if not better than Nketiah.
Yes, it was exciting to see our only official signing make his debut, but his performance didn’t quite earn an exclamation point. More’s the pity. There’s not much in it to analyse, to be honest, given that he was sent on amidst a hodge-podge of academy players and fringey deadwood. What might be more interesting is his post-match comments, in which he talked about watching Arsenal from the outside and admiring its energy; he talked about how it “looked like a big family” and he could feel “the togetherness of the players” and after only a couple of days feels “already as a part of the group”, and that’s some interesting insight into the culture Arteta has built over the last few seasons. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from Havertz in coming weeks and months.
Well, that’s enough for now, I suppose. It was after all a preseason friendly without anything at stake other than to get some runouts and to find some fitness. It was nice to write about an actual match at any level, and we’ll have the match against the MLS All -Stars on Thursday next week. Maybe there’ll be some actual Timber or Rice news between now and then…