football.london takes a look back on the talking points from the Gunners Emirates Cup victory over AS Monaco at the Emirates Stadium

 

 

 

Rice’s new role

For all the excitement around Declan Rice’s arrival, some questions still remain. Primary among them is where exactly is he going to fit?

A basic diagnosis of the Arsenal squad suggests he’s going to play primarily as the lone six. This theory gains even more credence when you consider that the Gunners spent £65million on Kai Havertz this summer to use primarily as a left eight. Mikel Arteta though has hinted that he has other ideas.

“They can play together,” the Spaniard said in reference to his new record signing and the man who occupied the six position last season – Thomas Partey. “That was in my plans. If you want to improve the squad and have more quality you need players that can improve the squad and players in the same position that can fight for the same places. It’s something that we haven’t had in the last few years. We wanted to improve that. That’s why we bought Declan as well.”

On Wednesday evening we saw it for the first time and the early signs were good. At West Ham, Rice primarily operated in the left half of the field with Thomas Soucek on the right of a double pivot. This is perhaps why he looked so comfortable slotting into the role Granit Xhaka filled last season.

Within the first few minutes of the match, the England international was out on the left wing as fellow summer signing Jurrien Timber inverted from left back into a central position. As well as being an option on the ball, Rice was able to do damage in the final third. On two occasions, he was able to pull back quality deliveries from the byline on the left side of the box that deserved better, and Eddie Nketiah’s equalising goal on the day ultimately came from Rice’s blocked shot a few corners earlier.

“I think he has the versatility to play different roles and it’s something that we want to do to maximise the quality of other players who have the ability to play together,” Arteta said of his experiment with Rice in the left eight. “We will use him in different positions.”

As he left the Emirates Stadium for the first time, Rice’s car was instantly mobbed by Arsenal fans throwing themselves in front of him on the Armoury roundabout in order to snap a selfie. Nearly a month after his signing excitement off the pitch surrounding him is yet to die down, and with the amount of options he gives the Gunners on it, it seems there could be plenty on it too.

Ramsdale responds

It’s been a potentially testing week for Aaron Ramsdale. The 25-year-old would probably admit he didn’t have the best of pre-seasons. While there were mitigating circumstances like poor pitches and a constantly rotating backline in front of him, he’ll still feel he could have kept out Bruno Fernandes’ goal in New Jersey, while his distribution was a long way off its brilliant best.

At best though this was a mere flesh wound to his status as Arsenal number one. Not even his most ardent of critics would have said it would be fatal. But then rumours began to emerge that the Gunners are looking at bringing in Brentford’s David Raya. There’s a long way to go in the deal yet, but should Matt Turner move on, then Arsenal will look to bring in the Spaniard who Thomas Frank says is valued at £40million.

Arsenal will of course want to negotiate that fee down, but you generally don’t pay that sort of money for a back up goalkeeper. Ramsdale’s own hefty transfer fee from Sheffield United two seasons ago is proof of that. This would suggest that the England ‘keeper’s spot in Arsenal’s starting XI is under threat. The pressure was on.

Even though it was a quiet afternoon for Ramsdale, he responded well. He could do little about Youssouf Fofana’s goal and was well placed to stop a goal-bound volley in the second half. His distribution meanwhile was much better, and having seen two of the three penalties prior go down the middle, he finally held his nerve to stand up and save Takumi Minamino’s spotkick in the decisive shootout. While Arteta would not be drawn on Raya rumours in his post-match press conference, he was willing to speak highly of his current number one.

“He was really good,” the Spaniard told football.london. “I think he was really composed in the game. I think he didn’t have to intervene too much. I think there were two actions – one was the goal which was very close range and the other one was the cutback when they hit the post. Other than that he did not have much to do. But everything he had in ball possession was really good.”

Ramsdale was only given a new deal a few months ago, and Arteta went on to insist that he’s still part of his plans for the future. But if there’s anything Arteta has shown over his time in charge it’s that no one’s position in the starting XI is sacred. The Raya links show that Ramsdale could be in line for a fight, and from the Emirates Cup display, it’s one he looks up for.

Jesus blow

Despite the late penalty drama, it was ultimately quite a dull 90 minutes on Wednesday. As Mikel Arteta strode into the post-match press conference, he knew the big story was elsewhere.

Gabriel Jesus ominous absence from the squad was finally explained by the Spaniard. “Unfortunately he had a little procedure this morning,” Arteta said. “He’s had some discomfort in his knee that caused him some issues so they had to go in and resolve it. It’s not something major but he’s going to be out for a few weeks I think.”

Arteta went on to add that Jesus’ injury was a flare up of an issue created by the one that saw him miss four months of last season. Although this doesn’t appear to be as serious, it’s certainly a concern. That is only made worse when you consider that Jesus seemed to just be reaching his pre-injury levels in a sublime performance against Barcelona in Arsenal’s final pre-season friendly of their US tour.

Two crumbs of comfort Arteta can take is that probably his brightest performers on the day were those first in line to replace the Brazilian up top. The news that Eddie Nketiah was going to captain the side was greeted with much derision on social media, but the 24-year-old stepped up with a solid performance. It wasn’t just his well taken goal on the stroke of half time, but rather his all-round link up play. Nketiah is often criticised for not being able to bring others into the game, but against Monaco his tricks and flicks helped start and finish a move that could easily have had Arsenal in front early on.

Leandro Trossard also looked promising as he has done all pre-season. The Belgian has established himself as a reliable member of Arteta’s squad in more or less any position. Across the tours of Germany and America, Trossard has played left eight, left wing, right wing and up top. Added to that is a threat in the final third that will give Arteta confidence that his side can whether any storm a Jesus-sized hole creates for them. He certainly won’t want it to be a long one, but the Gunners are far better prepared to lose Jesus now, than they were when they lost him eight months ago in the World Cup.

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