How does pre-season 2019 compare with pre-seasons in the past?

By Tony Attwood,

This summer we have had some positive moments – beating Bayern, and a draw with Real Madrid (before the penalties) were both welcome results.  There was a nice win over Fiorentina too.

But we lost to Lyon in the Emirates Cup at home which wasn’t too clever.   So can we draw any conclusions from this?

We all know about the terrible run up to the Unbeaten Season, and the fact that the Unbeaten Pre-Season didn’t turn out to be a preface to another trophy laden campaign.  But how is this summer comparing with the last few years?

In 2016 Arsenal had just come runners’ up in the league, showing that the 2015 summer progress was a fairly decent indicator of what was to come – unlike the run up to the unbeaten season.   So we then had the pre-season of the summer of 2016…

This was the summer when the media were quite sure we were signing Vardy from Leicester, and Leicester decided to string the idea along.  They did eventually admit that there was no question of Vardy ever going to Arsenal and admitted there was not even a bid, but it successfully made Arsenal look like headless chickens – always what the media likes.  And it turned a lot of gullible Arsenal fans against the club.  I suppose we could call that their “£40m moment”.

But the big news, to my mind the biggest news came right at the start on 22 July 2016: Arsenal signed Bolton’s Player of the Year Rob Holding for £2m.

The transfer was met with wholesale derision by the anti-Wengerian mob who were spurred on by the mass media and their newly emerging small scale blogs.   Although no one seemed to apologise for the abuse by the end of the season when Holding put in a sterling display in the Cup Final to see off Chelsea, and it was apparent that this was another Wenger work of absolute brilliance.  £2m for that player!  Amazing.

But there were some negatives too, as on 4 August 2016 when Wojciech Szczęsny was loaned to Roma for the season, having fallen out with Mr Wenger over the smoking in the changing room incident.  However then the real footie started.

5 August 2016: Arsenal beat Viking 8-0 in Stavanger as a warm up to the match against Manchester City in Norway two days later.

7 August 2016: Arsenal concluded a pre-season without their major stars who had been involved in the Euros, with a 3-2 victory over Manchester City.  Chuba Akpom scored for the fourth match in a row.  We had high hopes for him – but what did happen can show just how misleading pre-season form can be.

Then on 14 August 2016  Arsenal lost the opening match of the season 3-4 to Liverpool.  Three players including Koscielny were out because of prolonged international duty while Mertesacker and Gabriel were injured leaving Arsenal with a makeshift defence.

On 20 August 2016, having lost the opening match at home to Liverpool, Arsenal drew away to champions Leicester as anti-Wenger “fans” undertook a co-ordinated protest which gave Leicester renewed hope of snatching a victory close to the end.  It was a sign of what was to come.

For the third game on 27 August 2016: Arsenal beat Watford 3-1 away to secure their first win of the season.  It was the first of six consecutive league wins, and the start of a run of 10 wins and three draws in 13 consecutive league games during which Arsenal scored 30 goals.

Now moving on, in 2017 Arsenal got their transfers done early – Lacazette and Kolasinac being sorted before the player holidays were over.  And so on 3 July 2017 Arsenal’s squad for Australia included seven under-23s, including Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock, plus both new signings.

That summer we also beat Bayern Munich but lost 0-3 to Chelsea in China.  We got our revenge on Chelsea though by beating them in the Community Shield.  Reiss Nelson turned up again in the Emirates Cup match, and Walcott knocked in a couple as well.   The season opened with a 4-3 win over Leicester.

2018 was the summer in which Unai Emery was announced as the new manager, and despite his lack of English he was, I felt, extraordinarily brave in answering questions from members of the fans associations at a pre-season get together at the stadium.

Wilshere left, Sokratis arrived, so did Torreira, and then on came the unknown kid – Guendouzi – making an immediate impact on most of us.

In fact it was all going rather well with a 5-1 win over PSG on 28 July and a 6-5 win over Chelsea on penalties on 1 August.  Nelson again showed his ability with a goal in a 2-0 defeat of Lazio.

But the bubble soon burst with defeats in the first two league games of the season, and the media filling up masses of space with talk of the worst Arsenal start ever, and Arsenal preparing to drop out even of the top six.

It was in fact the worst start since 1992/3 and after two games Arsenal were 17th.   History books were searched to find the last time Arsenal had lost three games in a row at the start of the season, but there was no point.   Arsenal won the third match and went on an unbeaten run right the way through until 16 December.

So how is this pre-season compared to others?   Basically I am not sure pre-seasons tell us that much.  Ahead of the unbeaten season we were not that exciting in the summer.   The pre-season when we won every match turned out not to be a season with Arsenal winning the league.   Pre-season is, by and large pre-season, not much more.  It’s fun to watch, but don’t get too carried away.

So yes it is fun to watch, but really not an indicator of the future.  But if you are interested in how we have done this year compared to other seasons in the pre-season games, the series “Arsenal in the summer” appears on the Arsenal History Society website with over 60 Arsenal summers reviewed in depth.

As for life on the pitch – for me the key players remain Holding and Bellerin.  Get them fit and we have a fair selection at the back to choose from.  



3 Replies to “How does pre-season 2019 compare with pre-seasons in the past?”

  1. I ,as usual am upbeat with the buys we have made , as well as the team ‘s showing so far in the pre season.
    Up the Gunners !

  2. Yes. But anyway how about this latest media rumours rumouring that the Arsenal hierarchy will today after the friendly match between FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC that will take place at Camp Nou hold talks with Barca officials on the possibility of Arsenal taking their Philippe Coutihno on loan this summer for Emery to bolster his attacking options at the left side of the 1st team squad in the PL next season.

    But if it is true that Arsenal have recognized that their first team squad is in a dare need of a top quality player upgrade in game playing at the left wing position and to be in tandem with the just recent upgrade they did at the right wing upgrading it with a top quality player signing, I cannot have any objection to this upgrade at the left wing of the 1st team squad if Arsenal do it this summer because it is very necessary they should do the upgrade.

    But signing the star player Coutihno from Barca on a season long loan by Arsenal this summer will cost them considerable amount of money to get the deal done. But instead of Arsenal to invest heavily on Coutihno loan, why wouldn’t the club use the heavy money they’ll use to sign Coutihno on loan use the money to sign the Brazilian left winger, Everton Soares this summer.

    I say this I think Coutihno is not a regular scorer of goals it the top League but an occasional spectacular goals scorer in the top League whether at Liverpool or at Barcelona. But in contrast, Everton Scores goals regularly in the Brazilian top League. Who if Arsenal sign him this summer, he could transfer his regular goals scoring form and many assists giving to Arsenal in the Premier League next season.

  3. Great article Tony! I have read many blogs criticizing and whining about AFC’s failure to destroy opponents wholesale during the pre-season. What most of these fake supporters fail to grasp is that;

    1)This is a time for Emery to experiment with youth,academy and a mixture of first team players and potential bench strength.

    2)Emery has repeatedly said that the results aren’t important; what is important however is evaluating various defensive and offensive combinations, lacunae, positional options, unexpected surprises, fitness and individual and collective strengths and weaknesses, etc.

    3)He well knows that those who do well in pre-season cannot guarantee the same results during the long and intensive EPL,Cup and FA competitions and of course the Europa.

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