Luis Suarez came off the bench to grab a last-minute winner as Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 at Camp Nou to claim the Joan Gamper trophy.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given the Gunners the lead with a terrific finish on 43 minutes only for Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ horrible own goal to cancel it out after the break.
The first half was far from a high octane affair although there were moments of note for the Gunners. Joe Willock, as he has been throughout pre-season, was a very reassuring presence in midfield, happily dropping deep to collect the ball under pressure before moving it forward at speed.
At right-back, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was similarly chilled in possession and a useful outlet on the right flank. He had a couple of bursts that ended with poor crosses for which he apologised to Aubameyang.
Leno’s handling from crosses was clean, Ozil was tidy and Nelson wasn’t shy to carry the ball whenever there was a break. Given Pepe is barely back from holiday and Lacazette is nursing his ankle problem, the England under-21 international has a shout at starting at Newcastle.
Barcelona dominated possession for large swathes of the game but they didn’t really create any clear cut chances. Antoine Griezmann, playing for his new club at Camp Nou for the first time, kneed an effort wide, while Riqui Puig and Jordi Alba both shot straight at Leno.
A very solid Arsenal display was rewarded on 37 minutes. As the capacity crowd got stuck into a Mexican wave, the Gunners patiently moved the ball from one end to the other before Aubameyang, fed by Mesut Ozil, allowed the ball to roll across him and then picked out the top corner with a rasping right-foot finish. It was the Gabon international’s fifth goal past goalkeeper Neto, recently recruited from Valencia, inside 94 days. (1-0)
The home side, who don’t start their season for a couple of weeks, made a host of changes at the break. Guendouzi came on for Nelson to partner Xhaka in the centre of midfield meaning Ozil switched right and Willock pushed forward. Kolasinac also replaced Monreal.
Barcelona immediately played with more urgency and they were helped by repeated carelessness by the men in yellow. Maitland-Niles was particularly culpable. Were it not for a great goalline stop by Willock the Catalans would have levelled just before the hour mark.
The Catalans did get their equaliser on 68 minutes although it came completely out of the blue and had nothing to do with the home side’s football. Maitland-Niles looking to pass the ball back to Leno got his angles all wrong and simply passed the ball past his own keeper into an empty net. It was ridiculous and both men looked suitably embarrassed. (1-1)
Emery immediately sent on Martinelli, Saka and Ceballos to add fresh legs. The latter took an immediate clattering from Clement Lenglet but recovered soon enough. He looked very decent on the ball and was very willing to press high.
The youngsters also made an impact. Saka flashed a dangerous ball across the six-yard box that nearly found Aubameyang and not long after picked out Martinelli for an acrobatic volley that went just wide. It was a very decent effort but he couldn’t hide his disappointment that the net didn’t bulge.
In the closing stages, Luis Suarez had a penalty claim dismissed by the referee but the Uruguayan wasn’t to be denied the headlines. Just before the final whistle, he found space between Chambers and Mustafi to connect with a lofted ball on the volley. It was a great finish…and another indication of how much we need reinforcements in the centre of our defence. Just to be clear, Suarez is still a major prick. (2-1)
Unless we squeeze in a behind-closed-doors game this week, that is pre-season done and dusted for Unai Emery. In a week’s time, we’ll head to Newcastle United for the first game of the new season. All eyes now turn to the final days of the transfer window and whether we’ll strengthen our defence.
Starting XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Sokratis (85), Monreal (46), Willock (70), Xhaka (85), Mkhitaryan (70), Ozil (70), Nelson (46), Aubameyang (85)
Subs: Martinez, Mustafi (85), Kolasinac (46), Thompson, Ceballos (70), Guendouzi (46), Torreira (85), Martinelli (70), Saka (70), Nketiah (85)