Community Shield: Arteta starting to put his stamp on Arsenal
The Arsenal boss showed that he is happy to make big decisions during his first season in charge, here’s what to expect from the Gunners in the Wembley curtain-raiser.
It has been just four weeks since Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph crowned a promising first season under Mikel Arteta but the Gunners are back in action again this Saturday. They finished their Premier League campaign in eighth but victory over Chelsea at Wembley ensured European qualification and set up a Community Shield clash with champions Liverpool.
With a shortened pre-season there has been little time for Arteta to work with his squad and the financial impact of the pandemic makes any major transfer dealings difficult. However the Spaniard's coaching and tactical abilities were major reasons for Arsenal’s determination to bring him back to the club and their opening pre-season friendly gave a glimpse of what to expect from the Gunners in the upcoming season.
They secured a comfortable 4-1 victory over League One MK Dons on Tuesday despite being without a number of first-team players. Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pépé, Héctor Bellerín and David Luiz were not involved and new signing Willian was not deemed ready for action having only recently arrived from Chelsea.
Mohamed Elneny opened the scoring with a rocket from 30 yards before youngsters Eddie Nketiah, Mark McGuinness and Reiss Nelson showed why Arteta has often put his faith in the club’s academy graduates since joining last December. The only misstep from an Arsenal perspective was a comical own goal from Rob Holding, flicking a diving header into the top corner from 12 yards.
Here’s what Arsenal fans can expect from Arteta’s men for the 2020/21 season…
Wing-backs are here to stay
One of the defining moments of Arteta’s spell in charge has been the switch to a back five after their calamitous 3-0 defeat at Manchester City. The signing of Cédric Soares on a four-year deal and the continued use of Ainsley Maitland-Niles out wide suggested that the Arsenal boss was considering keeping the 5-2-3 formation and it looks likely that will be the case. Both Soares and Maitland-Niles started as wing-backs against MK Dons with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Sako playing as inverted forwards in front of them, as was the case towards the end of the 2019/20 season. Aubameyang is still yet to agree a new deal but his inclusion on the left flank, where he was so prolific last year, suggests that Arteta believes that the 31-year-old will stay. With Willian and Pépé set to compete for those wide positions Arsenal look well-placed to continue with that system.
💬 "He stayed here in London to do a better preparation and you can tell that he looks ready."— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 27, 2020
Saliba makes long-awaited debut
Defensive fragility undoubtedly cost Arsenal points last season, which was particularly frustrating for supporters given that their new £27million defender was unavailable. They signed Saint-Étienne’s highly-rated young central defender William Saliba last summer but agreed to loan him back for a season. The Frenchman, still just 19-years-old, has now joined up with the North-London club properly and was given the iconic number four shirt previously worn by compatriots Cesc Fàbregas and Patrick Viera as well as fellow centre backs Tony Adams and Martin Keown.
Arsenal fans have been eagerly awaiting a first glimpse of the exciting prospect and he put in an assured performance in his first start against MK Dons. The youngster showed his pace on the recovery and looked confident in possession, playing an intelligent pass in the build-up to Nketiah’s goal. He slotted in on the right of the three central defenders with Kierney Tierney on the left and Holding in the middle, although Luiz is expected to return to the heart of the defence when the Premier League season begins.
Nketiah trusted to lead the line
While Aubameyang looks likely to commit his future to the club, Arsenal could be about to lose another of their striking options with Lacazette reportedly the target of interest from Atlético Madrid. If Lacazette does depart, (and in the unlikely but not entirely unfeasible scenario that Atleti midfielder Thomas Partey could move in the other direction), Eddie Nketiah could find himself as Arsenal’s starting centre forward for the upcoming season. The 21-year-old started and scored against MK Dons and has drawn praise from his manager since his return from Leeds United in January.
The young striker started seven of the last 11 Premier League games in which he was available (he missed two due to suspension) and fits the style of centre forward favoured by Arteta. Speaking after Nketiah scored in a 2-0 win over Southampton in June, Arteta said: "Eddie, since I joined, the maturity and personality that he plays [with in] every game is incredible. I demand a lot from the forward players to put the opponent under pressure and they've done it. A lot of the goals we score are because of the errors we force on the opponent.”
It would mean putting a lot of faith in a player who has scored just three Premier League goals but in his short spell at the club Arteta has shown that he is not afraid to make bold decisions.
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