What do Arsenal’s pre-season games tell us? Unfortunately quite a lot.



Arsenal’s pre-season friendlies

By Tony Attwood

There seems to be no regular pattern these days to Arsenal’s pre-season these days except that America is featuring in such matches more and more as the Kroenke family seek to spread awareness of and support for the club in the United States.

It is a big contrast with the previous era, as during the Wenger days we knew that his preference was to start with low-key games where possible, and there would always be a friendly against Barnet as part-pay of the payment for the use of their ground for reserve team fixtures.

As the demand for money for Arsenal’s new stadium grew however, he was forced to change his approach, and over time Arsenal have inevitably looked towards America, with that country becoming a core part of the summer “experience”.

But do the pre-season friendlies tell us much about what is to come?

There certainly is a case to be made for that as in 2022 Arsenal began with seven friendlies and won six of them starting with a 5-1 win over Ipswich at London Colney and continuing with wins against Nurnberg, Everton, Orlando, Chelsea and Sevilla.  The only failure was a 1-2 London Colney defeat to Brentford, although then Arsenal’s team was largely a reserve line up:

Turner, Cedric, Walters (Awe 46), Holding, Tavares (Souza 76), Elneny, Lokonga, Maitland-Niles (Patino 85), Marquinhos, Nelson (Sagoe Jr 90), Nketiah.

The season proper then began with five straight wins, with Arsenal scoring 13 and conceding four.  However, although that opening run there was a real sign of what was to come through much of the season, it must be admitted, it was an easy start, for the opening games in the season meant that Leicester were 20th, Aston Villa were 19th, Bournemouth were 16th, Crystal Palace were 13th, and Fulham were 8th.  And those were the teams Arsenal played.

In 2021 Arsenal gave themselves two games in Scotland (losing to Hibernian and drawing with Rangers), then two wins against lesser opposition both 4-1 (against Millwall and Watford), followed by defeats against Chelsea and Tottenham.

That season notoriously began with three defeats and the “worst ever start” headlines, as Arsenal lost to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City, and demands across the media (and to their eternal discredit among some “fans”) for Arteta to be sacked.  Although illness in the squad and the refusal of the league to allow any matches to be postponed (something they reversed later for Liverpool, who then found that their positive covid tests were all “false positives” – a number insanely above the average) didn’t help the matter.  Not surprisingly, no one in the media questioned Liverpool’s bonkers test results.

In 2020/21 there was no standard pre-season since the postponement of games in the previous season due to covid meant that 2019/20 overran.

But in 2019 did have the regular pre-season beating Colorado Rapids in the USA, and drawing with Angers in France (losing on penalties).   Then there was the International Champions Cup in the USA in which Arsenal beat Bayern Munich and Fiorentina, before drawing 2-2 with Real Madrid (losing 3-2 on penalties).

The summer was rounded off with a 1-2 Emirates cup defeat to Lyon and a 2-1 away defeat to Barcelona.  Then the season started with two wins (against Newcastle and Burnley), a defeat to Liverpool and then draws against Tottenham and Watford.

So as a general point we can take it that pre-season friendlies do give us something of a prediction of the way the season proper will open.  In this table the defeats on penalties where the game is drawn, are considered as defeats.


Season Pre-season League
2018/19 4 wins, 2 draws  2 defeats then 11 straight wins in all competitions
2019/20 3 wins, 4 defeats AFC won 4 of first 15 league games
2021/22 2 wins, 1 draw, 3 defeats 3 consecutive defeats in league
2022/23 6 wins, 1 defeat 5 straight wins
2023/24 1 win, 1 draw, 1 defeat, four to go


So yes, recent history does tell us that the pre-season games can give some indication as to what is going to happen next.  We must therefore rather fervently hope that something good comes out of the remaining fixtures…


July 22 Arsenal vs Manchester United 10pm MetLife Stadium, New York
July 27 Arsenal vs Barcelona 3.30am SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles
August 2 Arsenal vs Monaco 6pm Emirates Stadium
August 6 Arsenal v Manchester City 4pm Wembley


So based on previous experience, to get a great start to the actual real-life season Arsenal need to start winning and keep on winning.  And indeed there is no doubt that a win on 6 August would give a real boost to Arsenal as the club has just lost eight matches against Manchester City in a row, and lost 15 out of the last 16 games against the club.   Although the one that Arsenal did win, was one that really mattered a lot.   Arsenal 2 Manchester City 0 in the summer of 2020… well you probably remember that.

3 Replies to “What do Arsenal’s pre-season games tell us? Unfortunately quite a lot.”

  1. Well going on the games v Nuremberg and United we have learnt
    1) Nketiah is still not good enough
    2) Jesus is covered in rust
    3) KT is being treated horrendously
    4) Havertz is a mistake
    5) Tommi at left back is awful
    6) we DO need a striker despite what you say about spreading the goals about
    7) Cedric on tour is an Agatha Christie mystery
    8) Ballogun is being insulted

  2. The team is very ok, I will prefer partey, rice and odegaard in midfield.

  3. Stan , you missed the lightweight aka Vieira , a puff of wind is enough to dislodge him and he is the master of the going nowhere pass.
    As you say we need a focal point up front , Jesus roaming around between the penalty box and the centre circle doesn’t pressure defenders . The Saka / Martinelli system has been rumbled , by rights it should give the centre midfielders room to attack but Give Odegaard and Havertz a good thumping and they disappear and so do Arsenal .

    We looked well out of it after about 15 minutes once they solved the winger conundrum.
    More work to do I am afraid to say .

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