There’s plenty of positivity surrounding Arsenal heading into the 2023/24 season and those levels of optimism may have gone up a notch after a five-star performance against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday.
The Gunners opened up their three-game pre-season tour of the United States with an emphatic 5-0 victory over the best Major League Soccer has to offer in Washington DC.
A resounding win was punctuated by some fine goals, including a first for summer signing Kai Havertz, who was joined on the field by his fellow new arrivals Jurrien Timber and Declan Rice.
All three looked at home in Mikel Arteta’s side, who have solidified their position as second favourites in the Premier League title betting via their proactive and eye-catching approach to the summer transfer window.
However, with three weeks to go until the real action kicks-off, a lid needs to be kept on expectations for last season’s runners-up, who have more challenging opponents on the horizon.
|What||Arsenal v Nottingham Forest|
|Where||Emirates Stadium, London|
|When||12:30pm, Saturday, August 12th|
|How to watch||TNT Sports 1|
|Odds||Arsenal 2/7, Nottingham Forest 15/2, draw 19/4|
Arteta was able to give minutes to all three of Arsenal's new signings on Wednesday night, but only after the old guard had tried to steal the limelight with some spectacular goals.
Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring after just five minutes with a cheeky lob before Leandro Trossard blasted in the second from the edge of the box midway through the first half.
The Gunners made it three 13 seconds after the restart when Jorginho converted a penalty before Rice and Timber were handed their debuts in the 65th minute.
The game had ceased to be competitive by this point but Rice slotted into Arsenal’s midfield well, keeping the tourists ticking over with some neat and tidy play.
The Gunners’ club record signing did little to get excited about and it was Timber who arguably made the bigger impression.
The former Ajax man started off in midfield before switching to right-back and looked comfortable playing in the inverted full-back role that made Oleksandr Zinchenko so key to Arsenal’s success last season.
Once the new arrivals had settled, Arsenal grabbed a fourth when Gabriel Martinell rolled the ball in on 85 minutes, while there was still time for Havertz to open his account.
Havertz smashed in the fifth in the 89th minute to inflict a joint-record defeat on the MLS All-Stars, quickly putting behind him a miserable night in the MLS Skills Challenge 24 hours earlier.
The German, who struggled to make an impact for Chelsea in front of goal last season, despite finishing as their top-scorer, became a figure of fun on social media after failing to score once in a volley challenge the night before.
But he took his goal well against the All-Stars, capping a positive cameo performance for Arsenal.
The 5-0 success was Arsenal’s first win of pre-season after two 1-1 draws with Nurnberg and Watford previously, and despite the emphatic scoreline, Arteta spied room for improvement.
The Spaniard says the Gunners struggled to get going in the first half, believing they could have adapted to conditions better on a stifling night in Washington.
But he was pleased with how his new signings performed ahead of Arsenal’s next pre-season test against Manchester United in New York on Saturday.
That is followed by clashes with Barcelona and Monaco before the Premier League season gets underway.
All three of those sides should pose more of a test than a scratch MLS All-Stars team that had only trained together for a few days and that should be factored in when assessing Wednesday’s win.
Arsenal didn’t get away unscathed from their latest pre-season clash as Trossard was forced off after 56 minutes after taking a knock.
Trossard has been a big hit for the Gunners since joining from Brighton in January and they’ll be desperate for him to start the season after giving a demonstration of his talents with his well-taken goal on Wednesday.
Arteta was confident the Belgian’s issue wasn’t serious when asked about it after the game but may be extra cautious with Trossard, as he was with Albert Sambi Lokonga, who was left at home after he picked up an issue in training.
Arsenal are set to be reinforced ahead of their next pre-season run out with Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe heading to the USA to link up with the squad having missed the start of the tour.