Arsenal ended their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 loss to Barcelona in the Juan Gamper trophy. The Gunners started the game on the backfoot with the Blaugrana dominating the play in their half, but they managed to break the deadlock against the run of play with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring with a thumping strike in the 36th minute.
Following the half-time interval, the Spanish champions stepped up their performance with a number of goalscoring attempts, but the deficit was eventually erased through an own goal in the 69th minute from Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who made a poor judgement on goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s position while delivering a backpass.
Thereafter, the Blaugrana commanded the better opportunities to find the net and Luis Suarez scored the winner prior to stoppage time with a deft volley after taking advantage of Sergi Roberto’s simple ball upfield which dissected the Gunners’ backline.
Here are two things we learned from Arsenal’s performance…
Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the decline: Mkhitaryan has been largely inconsistent with his performances in the Gunners shirt since making the move from Manchester United in January 2018. However, in the recent pre-season, he has presented growing concerns that he may be on the decline with his inability to thrust forward on the counter-attack. Against the Blaugrana, the Armenian barely posed an attacking threat from the right wing and that resulted from the regular loss of possession, while he was also disappointing with his passing which went astray in the final third. As such, it won’t be a surprise, if he is dropped to the bench for the Premier League opener against Newcastle United, where he could be replaced by club-record signing Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian has spent just two days in training with the club and it remains to be seen whether he can get up to speed before the Tyneside trip.
Joe Willock building his reputation: The young Arsenal graduate was slotted into the centre of the park alongside Granit Xhaka at the Camp Nou and he managed to outclass the Swiss, who was the captain on the night. Willock has been a revelation over the course of pre-season and against the Blaugrana, he was unfused with the midfield challenge presented by the likes of Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. Elsewhere, he was impressive with his defensive contribution and made several blocks in the box including an acrobatic effort to clear Jordi Alba’s scoring attempt off the line. With a complete round of pre-season, the 19-year-old should stand a good chance of starting against the Magpies next weekend, considering Lucas Torreira and loan signing Dani Ceballos have barely participated in the friendlies while Matteo Guendouzi has only featured in the final three games following the United States tour.
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