Young Gunners to the fore as Arsenal ease past Sydney FC in pre-season opener

Arsenal kicked-off their pre-season campaign with a comfortable, if somewhat profligate, victory over Australian champions Sydney FC on Thursday.

To be fair to the Gunners, as profligate as they were, it was a very eye-catching performance going forward, with plenty of movement, invention and incisive running from those given playing time.

A few missed chances aside, it was exactly the sort of game you want at the start of pre-season; a good test against a game side that allowed the players to get their legs up and running again for the season ahead.

Some signs of coherence and fluidity were the icing on the cake.

Stand-out performances, for my money, came from the young guns, with Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, and Joe Willock all impressing.

In football, as the likes of Jack Wilshere and Hector Bellerin have proved in times gone by, opportunities are there to be seized and the younger stars on show did themselves no harm with some excellent work on the ball.

Among the more established stars on show, Alex Iwobi looked every inch the senior player, while Alex Oxlade Chamberlain was also an assured presence.

It was great to see Per Mertesacker, in what will be his last season as a member of the playing squad, get his name on the scoresheet, continuing the momentum he started at the very end of last season.

And it would be churlish of me not to note Alexandre Lacazette’s tidy finish to score his first goal for the club, albeit in a non-competitive fixture. As Arsene Wenger later pointed out, though, scoring that first goal is something you want to get out of the way as early as possible, before any sort of pressure can build up, so it was a delight to see him in the box and slotting home. Here’s hoping it was the first of many this season.

These are painfully early days, of course, and much may yet happen to the squad in the weeks ahead, but you can’t help but be pleased with their start. There are plenty more games ahead in this pre-season campaign, and it is silly to start drawing conclusions based on a few largely meaningless matches, but winning is habitual, and getting the ball rolling with a few victories now will do us no harm at all.

From here, it would be brilliant to see the young guns given more minutes and for those guys to really seize their opportunities. It is a rare thing to get a chance to mix it with the first team and, with the manager watching, there is no better time to make an impression.

It also does the club no harm if development can come from within, instead of being sought for many millions of pounds elsewhere.

With talk of a move for French playmaker Thomas Lemar persisting, you wonder if we might be missing a trick with some of the talent we have knocking on the door already.

In any case, there are a lot of happy Gunners today. It feels like an age since we lifted the FA Cup at Wembley so to see the players back out on the pitch was great. Here’s to a positive pre-season campaign ahead.

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