Arsenal have enjoyed an impressive first-half of their pre-season, picking up three wins from four games and claiming two clean sheets, although their frustrations in the transfer market are well documented.
Having missed out on Champions League football last term, Unai Emery finds himself with plenty of improvements to make to his squad yet little budget to do so with – reports suggest that the former PSG boss has just £45m to spend this summer, £6m of which has always been shelled out on promising Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli.
Emery is a manager who loves tinkering his approach, having used a variety of formations in his maiden Premier League campaign in 2018/19, so pre-season offers the Spaniard the perfect opportunity to further explore his squad’s strengths and limitations.
We are sure that he has learned plenty about his squad and so have we.
Here are five things we have already learned during Arsenal’s pre-season…
Having let Danny Welbeck go this summer, Emery has placed a huge amount of faith in Eddie Nketiah to become the third striker, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to continue leading the line – it’s no less than the youngster deserves.
The 20-year-old has been linked with a loan move to Championship club Charlton Athletic, although Emery indicated in an interview that the budding hitman has made progress enough to warrant his stay in the first-team picture at the Emirates Stadium.
Having netted against Fiorentina and Bayern Munich in pre-season, the number 49 is establishing himself as one of the most promising English talents around at the moment.
The player is already a fantastic finisher and Emery’s decision not to let him leave even on a temporary basis speaks volumes.
Calum Chambers spent last season on loan at Fulham, where he impressed as a defensive-midfielder, averaging a 7.01 match rating in nine appearances in that role according to WhoScored, despite arriving at Craven Cottage as a centre-back.
The versatile Englishman captained a youthful Gunners side – testament to Emery’s faith in him – as they emerged victorious over Colorado Rapids in their first game of pre-season.
He’s certainly showed much more than Shkodran Mustafi over the summer and 2019/20 could be his year.
Mesut Ozil has shown up in pre-season – although this must be taken with a pinch of salt given his penchant to wow fans before vanishing into obscurity next time out – and looks back to his best in the 10 role.
It was a position where he had few opportunities to play last season as Emery chopped and changed formations, creating four chances and recording a 96% passing accuracy in 110 minutes played, according to Wyscout.
Aaron Ramsey’s departure has left the Gunners light in the creative department and 30-year-old Ozil did his utmost to give Aubameyang the kind of service he craves down the line during the victory over Bayern Munich last week.
If there’s any time for the enigmatic German to pull his socks up and prove worth his extraordinary wages, it’s now – Dani Ceballos has signed for Arsenal on loan and Emery’s indication that the Spaniard can play behind the strikers will hopefully be the push Ozil needs to revive his Gunners career.
Nacho Monreal has been a faithful servant to the north Londoners but he has looked out of place when deployed on the left of a back-three, while he has also offered very little on the front foot when swapped out to his natural role at full-back.
At 33-years-old, the Spaniard doesn’t have the legs anymore, although he is a big upgrade on Sead Kolasinac in the defensive phase – while the burly Serb’s attacking game is an asset, he’s caught out all too often when he plays in a back-four.
Both players’ shortcomings have been exposed in these three pre-season games and their failure thus-far to bring in a left-back who is adept both in defence and attack could certainly cost the Gunners in 2019/20.
Emery will surely be worried about this problem and it’s no wonder links with Kieran Tierney persist.
Mustafi fast became the butt of many a joke last term, with the German’s defensive ineptitude on display in both home and away fixtures against Crystal Palace in particularly. He scythed down Cheikhou Kouyate inside the box at Selhurst Park and played Zaha in to score the winner at the Emirates Stadium.
There appears to be no sign of the former Valencia man making any improvements this summer, either.
He allowed one of the world’s most lethal strikers in Robert Lewandowski all the space in the world to head home Serge Gnabry’s cross in the Gunners’ win over Bayern – and was all too often guilty of sloppy passing and a lack of awareness.
There’s absolutely no way the World Cup-winner should be anywhere near Arsenal’s starting XI come their opening day clash with Newcastle next month – if he even survives the summer window, that is.