With so many changes, to expect perfection would have been naive. Dundalk were always going to park the bus but even so, it was up to Mikel Arteta and his youthful group of players to find a way through. They did.
Yes, there were mistakes made at times, odd moments too like when Pepe took a shot instead of passing to Willock to his left in the box. It didn’t matter in the end because Pepe’s shot was blocked, the ball dropped to Willock and the young midfielder finished really well.
Nketiah spurned a golden opportunity to open the scoring but instead of dropping his head, he made sure the next chance he got, he took. Pépé himself scored an absolute peach from the edge of the box which we know he can do. Just not usually with his right foot and certainly not often enough.
I loved Willock’s energy, Nelson’s too but I also agree with Martin Keown in that their decision making or final ball sometimes let’s them down. Well isn’t that to be expected when a player isn’t playing the game on a regular basis and alongside the same teammates? The guys who do play each week are hardly playing silky pass and move football are they?
I know we ‘only’ played Dundalk, but we ‘only’ played a second string of players too and I rather enjoyed it. What the future holds for the younger players on show last night remains to be seen but if what Mikel Arteta said after the game is him being truthful, then we should see a lot more of them throughout the season. A mention for our new keeper too who despite looking about twelve years old, looked confident with crosses, catching the two he had to deal with. His distribution looked good. Early days I know.
In my opinion there are two ways to look at last night. One is feel disappointed, frustrated that Arsenal didn’t batter the opposition by a heftier scoreline. To be critical of every little mistake made, to simply look at those playing in red and white and believe they are not good enough for Arsenal.
Alternatively, just respect the team for it’s youthfulness, enjoy moments like Balogun finally getting minutes, Willock and Nelson’s directness and energy and Pepe’s wonderful goal.
Arteta on Balogun’s future:
He’s a player that I really like. Obviously I’ve got this situation and I believe it’s later than what I would like because I wasn’t here when everything started to develop but yes, he’s a player that I would like to give chances to. That’s why he was in the squad today and I showed him that yes, we count on him and we believe in him and if he wants, he’s going to have a future in the club.
I hope he stays. He’s big, strong and athletic. The kind of player the team lacks. Ok, he’s young, unproven at PL level but in a years time, who knows. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him start in our next Europa Cup fixture.
These players will either succeed at Arsenal, or provide funds for the club to reinvest in the squad should Mikel Arteta not keep faith in them or the players themselves become impatient and decide to move on. Same goes for all our younger guys out on loan. It’s a win win situation really.
For Mikel Arteta though, his job is difficult. Over the weeks, months and probably years ahead, he has to sort the wheat from the chaff and that won’t be easy if these younger guys don’t play. Arteta himself said that they all work hard in training, their attitude is great and when the first team openings come, they need to be ready.
The way some of the ‘first team’ players have been performing, those openings might come sooner rather than later.
Nest up is a trip to Old Trafford. A very different proposition to last last night. It’ll probably be Mikel Arteta’s side parking the number 52 bus on Sunday.
See you in the comments.