Arsenal’s first preseason game of the summer was highlighted by quite a few promising debuts.
Newcomer Alexandre Lacazette may have stolen the headlines with his first goal for the club in Thursday’s 2-0 win over Sydney FC in Australia, but there were plenty of other noteworthy performances from Arsene Wenger’s debutantes.
Here’s a look at how they got on:
The French striker needed just 15 minutes to show why Wenger broke the club’s transfer record to buy him from Lyon. Lacazette was brought in to score goals, and his knack for finding the net was evident right away — in the way he got open in the box for Alex Iwobi to pick him out with a good pass, and in the way he calmly side-footed the ball past man-of-the-match goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne. It was exactly the start Lacazette needed to settle any jitters over having to live up to his price tag.
Arsenal’s other summer signing was deployed as one of Wenger’s three centre-backs, a slight surprise given that Kolasinac is expected to play mainly as a left-back or wing-back. He didn’t have a whole lot to do defensively but handled most dangers well and showed he can be an asset going forward with his willingness to join in the attack.
Nelson is widely seen as the next big thing to come out of Arsenal’s academy, and the 17-year-old midfielder lived up to the billing in this game. He was one of the best players on the pitch in the first half, showing a confidence and maturity well beyond his years by repeatedly being at the heart of Arsenal’s attacks. Nelson may not be quite ready for a regular first-team role, but he’s not far away.
Many Gunners fans were upset when Chris Willock declined a new contract and joined Benfica instead this summer — but his younger brother may be just as big of a talent. Joe Willock was deployed as a central midfielder next to Francis Coquelin and showed he can manage the difficult balance between shielding the back three and linking up with the attacking players. Willock nearly scored a spectacular solo goal after dribbling past two defenders but was denied by the goalkeeper. This is another 17-year-old whom Wenger should be excited about.
Many thought Wenger was taking a romantic punt on Bramall when he signed the non-league defender from Hednesford Town for just £40,000 in January. Perhaps it’s time to start taking Bramall seriously, though. Playing as a wing-back, his pace caused problems for Sydney’s defenders throughout, and he showed surprisingly good technique when making raids forward. He could easily have had a couple of assists, and he may not be that far away from a first-team place either. What a bargain he might turn out to be.
Eddie Nketiah/Donyell Malen
These two 18-year-old forwards also made their first-team debuts after coming on together with Lacazette with about 20 minutes left. They were deployed on the wings, with Lacazette and Olivier Giroud playing up front in an ultra-attacking lineup, making it hard to draw many conclusions about their individual performances. Nketiah had time to hit the post with a decent effort, while Malen also made some promising runs on the left flank. Both are highly rated and will hopefully have more chances to show what they can do on this tour.