Sambi stars again
Not many Arsenal fans were exactly screaming from the rooftops when the signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga was confirmed, but the Belgian has shown signs that he could be a very smart acquisition this summer.
Constantly looking to play forward and with the composure and leadership of a player who captained Anderlecht at the age of just 21, Sambi Lokonga has really impressed in his opening two games against Milwall and Watford.
Admittedly it’s only pre-season and the standard of opposition was not the highest, but he looks to be a player capable of stepping up to Premier League level.
For a brief period in the second half on Wednesday at London Colney, he was allowed to partner Thomas Partey, giving us a glimpse of what could be to come from the Gunners midfield this season. The future looks bright.
Nuno’s no no
Sambi Lokonga was not the only new signing on display at London Colney as Nuno Tavares also started the match.
The Portugal international has already shown his offensive capabilities with a stunning goal against Rangers on his debut, but there are still some questions hanging over him defensively.
These were raised once more against Watford as the 21-year-old made one of his trademark aggressive forward runs only to be caught on the ball in the final third.
Instead of sprinting to get back into position, though, Tavares was casual in the way he ambled back, with Eddie Nketiah covering for him. Hard work and discipline are two of the non-negotiables for Mikel Arteta, and Tavares will want to avoid falling foul of them again.
Old habits return
Last season, Arsenal finished just six points off the top-four places, and in the end, they could only really have themselves to blame.
Individual errors cost them dearly, with Granit Xhaka’s mistake against Burnley and Bernd Leno’s blunder against Everton standing out as the worst culprits.
Having controlled almost the entirety of the game against Watford the one worrying feature for Arteta will be the ease with which a lapse in concentration allowed the Hornets to get back into the game.
Mohamed Elneny giving the ball away cheaply in the box in the build-up to Phillip Zinckernagel’s goal is a concern that the Spaniard will be hoping doesn’t cost his side when the stakes are higher.
Willian’s new role
There has been plenty of talk this week over who Arsenal will bring in in the number 10 position this summer transfer window.
Emile Smith Rowe has signed a long-term deal, but there is an understanding that the Gunners would like to bring in someone else, with Martin Odegaard and James Maddison being heavily linked.
Against Watford, it was somewhat surprising to see Willian playing the role. The Brazilian has played almost exclusively on the wing in his time in England but does see himself as someone who operates best centrally.
He did technically get an assist for Eddie Nketiah’s early goal, but the England under-21 international did much of the work for him. Overall it was not enough in the performance to suggest that Arsenal don’t need to go into the transfer market again this summer, with the 32-year-old’s pressing somewhat lax at times compared to the rest of his teammates.
On Saturday against Milwall, it was interesting to note that Sead Kolasinac, Hector Bellerin and Joe Willock were all absent amid transfer speculation.
On Tuesday against Watford, the former pair were both involved, but Willock was once again nowhere to be seen amid reports that Monaco have joined Newcastle in the race for his signature.
Arteta did say earlier in pre-season that the 21-year-old was struggling with a muscle injury that could explain why he didn’t play any part at London Colney.
But with Arsenal needing to sell a few players to fund the rest of the moves they want to make in the transfer market, Willock’s situation could be one to keep an eye on.
Martinelli’s new number
One man who did get minutes in Joe Willock’s absence was Miguel Azeez.
The 18-year-old midfielder was absent for the pre-season tour of Scotland but returned to training this week, where he has really impressed the Arsenal coaching staff.
He continued that form in match practice with a sublime curling effort from the edge of the box on his weaker left foot for the pick of the Gunners’ four goals.
Interestingly, though, he did so wearing the number 35 on his back that has previously been worn by Gabriel Martinelli.
The Brazilian is currently away with his country at the Olympics but this could be a sign that he is set to sport a brand new shirt number when he does eventually return to the Emirates next month.
Numbers 8 and 18 are currently the only senior shirt numbers available in north London, but with Lucas Torreira set to move away this summer, it could be number 11 that Martinelli takes to the field in the next campaign.
Source by Football London