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October 2016
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Lens v Arsenal; the post-match review – looking for this season’s wonderkid.

By Tony Attwood



Debuchy, Mertesacker, Chambers, Monreal,

Elneny, Coquelin,

Walcott, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide,


On the beach: Macey, Gibbs, Bielik, Zelalem, Campbell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Willock, Gnabry

This was of course a pre-season game – the first of the run – and a chance for some of the youngsters to stand out.   However it was a very different sort of first pre-season from what we have got used to with games against Boreham Wood, Barnet and the like. Indeed consider this pre-season line from two years ago:

Szczesny, Hayden, Jenkinson, Coquelin, Ajayi, Monreal, Zelalem, Willock. Sanogo, Toral, Ramsey

On the beach we had two years back we had…

Martinez, Gibbs, Pleguezuelo, Miquel, Bellerin, Akpom, Olsson, Afobe, Diaby, Rosicky, Flamini.

I think everyone who was on the bench came on at half time.

Now the point I want to make is just how many of those young players who were getting their first run out two years ago are now returning as much more solid players.  Martinez, Coquelin, Akpom, Zelalem, Bellerin, Willock all played as youngsters two years ago and have come through to have something to offer now.  A production line of six players making it through two years and being able to consider themselves preparing for, or actually already in, the first team.  Extraordinary.

That doesn’t mean to say I would predict each one of the young please we saw tonight will make the transformation into a first team player, but it does show to me once again the power of the production line, and those players who are there are still there are there on merit.

So the suggestion I have made before that we will see at least one player of almighty significance come through, just as Bellerin, Coquelin and Iwobi have done in recent times, still seems to me to be valid.  The transfer window will shut and we will still have one more new player to introduce.  Or even two.

Out of the first half players I would say most performed up to expectations, within the context of this being a pre-season game, but I would mention:

Martinez: still a force to be reckoned with.  He played 13 league games for Wolverhampton last season and eight for Rotherham.   Presumably he is our fourth choice keeper, although he could be with Arsenal this coming season as our third keeper with Szczęsny being on loan.

Walcott: we all know that he lost his way towards the end of last season, but now he was back on the wing, and maybe that is right for him.   It was the first pre-season match of course so we can’t expect superman but he was solid and had some good touches, suggestion the woes of the latter part of last season are behind him.

Reine Adelaide, now seemingly re-born as Adelaide looks like he is continuing to make progress.  He could well be the one to emerge half way through the season and grab a place in the headlines.

As for the beached players coming on later:

Macey:  presumably our fifth goalkeeper – have we ever had such goalkeeping depth before?  He made one terrific save, and has already built himself quite a reputation at the club.  How on earth do we keep him happy?  We surely can’t keep four players at the club all season.

Zelalem: there were fears that in the second half of last season at Rangers he had lost it, but here, again allowing for the fact that it was a pre-season match he looked like his old self with deft touches and turns and the unexpected pass.  He also looks quite a lot less fragile, which must the the result of the porridge.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: a real star turn – everything we have waited for him to become, but which seemed to be drifting further and further away from him.  Sensational goal, superb performance for this early in the season.

Gnabry: he didn’t look as good as he was before WBA set out to destroy him, but he certainly looked good enough to be there.  And he looked more calm.  An impressive show.

Willock: one of the stars of the under 21 triumph last season; if you are not yet convinced take a look at this – and remember he is just 18.

So I’d say that was a rather encouraging start to the season – eight players above who for me exceeded expectations, and met my hopes.

A great start in fact, not least given that the French team were just one week away from the start of their season and we were playing our first pre-season match.

No sign though of Santi Caz.  He must be injured, but there just isn’t any information around on this at all, which is a little strange.  Let’s hope it is just a minor matter.

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9 comments to Lens v Arsenal; the post-match review – looking for this season’s wonderkid.

  • Usama Zaka

    Coquelin, Theo, Mertesacker, Chamberlain, Iwobi, Gibbs all looked sharp and on course for next matches. Chambers, Debuchy and Akpom looked off and laggy, they need to catch up on good fitness. Debuchy looks a strange case to me, he looks fit but his passing and defending is erratic, he was never a player like that. I think he is not mentally fit, as in he is not confident with himself, lacks self-believe, maybe something in his mind over the last season is frustrating him. I hope he has a good pre-season, because he I still think he can play for us in defence.

  • Lee

    Hi Tony

    Not bad for a pre-season game, considering we were basically missing our full first team.

    I think you are being very lenient with Walcott, he was awful and is awful !! With respect, why do people continue to stick up for him, is it because he is English ? .

    He has to go and probably the only reason he hasn’t, is because he is on crazy wages, 140k a week if what most say is correct.

    I also think Campbell deserevs a mention and gave way more impetus to the attack when replacing Walcott up front.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Shows the depth we now have.
    Just have a funny feeling Theo will have a very good season… many have said, now he has put this striker thing behind him.

  • Gord

    Dumb medja. Overwhelmingly, Arsenal _salvages_ a tie. Very few places say we earned a tie. For headlines. It just has to be negative.

    I haven’t seen any mention of injuries, which is good.

    Some medja sites are talking about the roster going to the USA. Santi Cazorla seems to be on that list. So, he is at least able to travel. Nobody says anything about what state/status he has.

  • para

    I know it’s pre-season but our passing was very erratic, almost like a sunday stroll in the park. Lens were very direct and more ready for the game and caused us problems by closing down well.

    Still many good players to come out of this bunch of youth, just hope they all make it, preferably at Arsenal, but we know that is likely impossible.

    Have a feeling Macey will come forward sooner than later, even though we have Martinez before him.

  • Seamus

    Time for Walcott to go. Poor attitude last season.

  • JohnW

    For me I was looking out for players who will come in this season and zeroed on Adelaide, Akpom and Gnabry. They can play against mid-table teams until they grow stronger. I also realized that we might need a striker.

  • tunnygriffboy

    John W

    We most certainly do need a striker. No that Higuain has gone to Juve for a ridiculous fee hopefully our manager will give the ok to get on with persuing other targets. I hope it’s not a case of Russian roulette waiting for someone to become available in the last week of the window. Then if we fail we’ll have the old excuse of saying ‘we tried to sign so and so’, There wasn’t the quality out there”. If that’s the case it’d be embarrasing. Gazidis latest comments don’t fill me with great confidence tbh

    Re last nights game. It was a game after 1 week of training so nothing can be read into it. It’s just a game where youngsters can show their talent and hope to get noticed for the season ahead

  • Andy Mack

    There are certainly rumours of Higuaín having a medical at Juve, but we’ve heard those rumours about other players having medicals with us, but they didn’t and were never likely to. So I’ll wait until there’s an official announcement.

    Even if it does turn out to be true, I don’t understand why Napoli would sell to another Italian club unless they know something about Higuains future ability.
    Napoli aren’t desperate for money like we were when we sold the perpetually injured RvP (who then managed most of a season without injury, just to rub it in).

    Lots of reasons Juve shouldn’t spend that type of money on a 29 year old, as well.

    So it could happen.
    If it does happen I’ll be really interested to know why.