Arsenal recorded their first win of pre-season with a 5-1 victory over French champions Paris Saint-Germain to wrap up their tour of Singapore in style.
Mesut Özil who announced his retirement from German national football last week, citing racism, captained the Arsenal.
The attacking midfielder, Mesut put Arsenal ahead when he tapped home Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s squared ball.
After the break, PSG replied as a counter-attack was halted by Sead Kolasinac when he fouled Timothy Weah inside the penalty area, allowing Christopher Nkunku to equalize from the spot.
But as both managers made the usual sweeping changes that we have grown used to in pre-season friendlies, it was Arsenal who kicked on.
Alexandre Lacazette made the significant contribution with two goals in four minutes, as he first forced home a low cross from young protégé Emile Smith Rowe that went in via the cross-bar before heading in a scrappy second that came after a series of deflections in the PSG area.
Rob Holding added a fourth goal in the 87th minute as he headed in Reiss Nelson’s corner, before Nelson set-up Eddie Nketiah to seal the 5-1 victory.
Arsenal go on to face Chelsea in Dublin on Wednesday and round out their pre-season programme against Lazio in Stockholm three days later, while PSG face Atletico Madrid on Monday before their Trophee Des Champions clash against AS Monaco.
Five key things we have learned
Emery looks set to return to 4-2-3-1
In a bid to end Arsenal’s struggles, Arsene Wenger altered his formation to flip between three and four-man defences, with differing levels of success and failure. The tinkering also brought about plenty of tactical uncertainty, which looked to affect the players as they were placed into different roles in different systems.
Emery looks far more settled on a 4-2-3-1 which in recent times has brought the best out of Arsenal players, and also allows the side to include Mesut Özil without the pain that his lacklustre defensive effort brings.
But it does mean that Aaron Ramsey, when brought back into the side, will likely have to play out of position while it also means that Alexandre Lacazette may have to make-do with fulfilling the role of back-up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It also creates a problem in midfield, as Ramsey, Lucas Torreira, Mohamed Elneny and the impressive Matteo Gouendouzi will all by vying for just two spots.
Aubameyang pace favours Arsenal counter
Arsenal didn’t see the best of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season as his playing time was limited due to being cup-tied in the Europa League – the competition that Wenger favored with his best players instead of the Premier League. But after a summer’s rest, the Gabon international looks ready to fire on full cylinders.
This was none clearer than when he was given space to run in to – largely thanks to the high defensive line that PSG persisted with. The first chance he got lead to Arsenal’s opener, with Aubameyang squaring to Özil to tap past Gianluigi Buffon, while the second saw Matteo Guendouzi lob the ball over the PSG line and only a good save from Buffon prevented Arsenal from doubling their lead.
Arsenal defence yet to be truly tested
Arsenal’s defence has long been its issue, but it’s far too early to actually gage if there’s been any improvement under Emery yet. What looks certain is that Shkodran Mustafi will partner Sokratis Papastathopoulos while Laurent Koscielny remains injured for the rest of the calendar year, while Hector Bellerin looks to be in favour on the right.
Who starts at left-back between Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal looks up for grabs right now, with both putting in fairly solid performances in pre-season so far, but until Arsenal start to play teams with more strength in attack, it’s almost impossible to judge where this side currently is.
Guendouzi proving a first-team challenger
The arrival of the young France Under-19 international raised questions over what his immediate future would look like: would he slot into the youth ranks, would he go out on loan, could he make the first team? From what we’ve seen in pre-season, it very much looks like the latter will be the case.
The 19-year-old looked assured on the ball deep in his own territory, with Arsenal keen to play out from the back, and he also had no issue with dropping deep into the back four whenever PSG were on the attack.
He also displayed an eye for a pass going forward, with his ball from deep inch-perfect for Aubameyang to sprint on to. At such a tender age, Guendouzi should be given time to develop into his true potential, but from what we’ve seen so far he looks to have a bright future.
Little to learn from such a weak PSG side
While Arsenal was able to field a close-to-full-strength side, PSG looked a shadow of their usual selves. None of their World Cup-winning French contingent were available, while neither were Neymar and Thiago Silva, so it was up to the likes of Timothy Weah and Antoine Bernede to make up the numbers.
Of the side deployed in Singapore, it was only goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defender Lassana Diarra and midfielder Adrien Rabiot that can expect regular first-team action this season, while Christopher Nkunku showed a few signs of why he is highly-rated in Ligue 1.
However, this will look nothing like the side that competes in their biggest Champions League games next season, and for new manager Thomas Tuchel, it is hard to judge where they are in their development.