Arsenal vs Lyon result: Five things we learned as Gunners suffer defeat in Emirates Cup

After a promising start, the Gunners tumbled to defeat on home turf as Moussa Dembele scored a quickfire double

Callum Rice-Coates
Sunday 28 July 2019 17:03
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Unai Emery optimistic for Arsenal future despite Europa League final defeat

1. Reiss Nelson demonstrates his potential

The circumstances were not ideal for Arsenal. Alexandre Lacazette, so influential throughout last season, limped off with a little over ten minutes played and there was understandably some concern around the Emirates.

But his replacement, 19-year-old Reiss Nelson, injected a real spark of excitement almost immediately. The youngster, who spent the entirety of last season on loan at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, was skilful and direct, running at Lyon’s defenders with a level of confidence that belied his relative inexperience.

Nelson was clearly eager to impress, clearly determined to stake a claim for a place in Unai Emery’s first team. On the evidence of this showing, he will not be too far away.

His game can, of course, still be refined. He is still guilty of an occasional loose ball, the odd moment of indecision in the final third. That, though, will come in time. For now, Nelson looks an exciting talent with unquestionable potential.

2. Joe Willock impresses in midfield

It is easy to forget that Joe Willock is still a teenager. The 19-year-old is heading into his third full season as an Arsenal player, and the signs are promising.

He was amongst the top performers in the first half against Lyon, an assured, calming presence in midfield. He might have added a goal, too, twice testing Anthony Lopes before firing a rebound over the bar from close range.

There is a maturity to Willock’s game by now, a sense that he is ready to step up, to play more than a bit part role. Following the departure of Aaron Ramsey, it could be that Willock’s dynamism and intelligence is exactly what Arsenal need.

Joe Willock impresses in midfield

3. Arsenal might be better off without Koscielny and Mustafi

Laurent Koscielny’s future at Arsenal remains in doubt after his refusal to travel with the club on their pre-season tour. And Shkodran Mustafi’s deficiencies are evident to anyone who watched him play last season.

Arsenal, then, might not miss either of them, particularly given the assured performances of both Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Calum Chambers against Lyon. It can, of course, be difficult to draw too many conclusions from pre-season friendlies. But there were, for the most part, fewer defensive lapses, fewer mistakes at the back for the Gunners (at least until late on).

Such defensive security was rare last season. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno was constantly called into action throughout the campaign.

There was no clean sheet, but there are signs of a burgeoning partnership between Sokratis and Chambers which can reassure worried Arsenal fans. It is an area of the pitch that Emery must prioritise, given the concerning number of goals conceded last season.

Chambers, back from a season on loan at Fulham, gives the Spaniard another option. And he is clearly keen to establish himself ahead of the new season.

Lyon caused more problems in the second half and there is still plenty to work on for Arsenal. But Emery, in the absence of any new signings, might choose to persist with his new defensive duo.

Laurent Koscielny was conspicuous by his absence

4. Signs of improvement from Mkhitaryan

It has not been an easy year and a half for Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Arsenal. The Armenian has been plagued by inconsistency, unable to perform at his best and often left to dwell on his poor form on the bench.

Perhaps, though, this season will represent a fresh start for the former Manchester United man. He certainly appeared unrestrained against Lyon, willing to get involved and influence the game as he did so brilliantly for years at Borussia Dortmund.

Mkhitaryan created Arsenal’s first half goal, drilling a cross into the path of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who converted clinically. And he was lively throughout, linking up cleverly with his teammates and creating a number of quality chances.

Dani Ceballos makes his first appearance in Arsenal shirt

5. Ceballos cameo bodes well for Arsenal

Arsenal’s new man was given a brief period to impress, introduced with 70 minutes played. But he needed just a few touches to bring applause from the Emirates crowd.

His quick feet, eye for a pass and ability to glide past opponents caught the eye. It seems that the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder is already a popular figure at Arsenal.

That ability to create from midfield will be crucial following the departure of Ramsey to Juventus. And Ceballos, based off his cameo in this friendly, looks a shrewd signing.

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