Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal looked ‘leggy’ against Monaco but he feels the workout, which ended in a 5-4 penalty shootout victory after a 1-1 draw, proved very useful for the fitness of several returning stars.
The Gunners lined up with a strong starting XI, including new boys Jurrien Timber and Declan Rice, but struggled to build any real momentum in the first half. They fell behind to a close-range header by Youssouf Fofana but went in level at the break thanks to Eddie Nketiah’s smart first-time finish from a corner.
The two sides made a host of changes in the second period and traded probing attacks but the two keepers were rarely troubled.
Afterwards, Arteta was asked how useful the match had been: “Very good. Especially for a lot of players that haven’t had many minutes in pre-season and as well, for the new players to play for the first time at Emirates Stadium it was special, you could feel the atmosphere and how excited the fans were.
“In terms of the game, we struggled a little bit to dominate completely and have the game that we want, we had much better periods in the second half.
“I think we were still a bit leggy and jet legged from when we came, we trained really hard the last three days to be fair and we wanted that task for us, when we are not fresh enough to play, how can we compete. So, it was a good test for us and we’re happy with the outcome.”
Given their struggle for minutes last season, it was positive to see Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira looking lively as starters although some of the “automatisms” that develop when players regularly play with each other were clearly lacking.
“There are certain rotations that we want, especially to adapt to the quality of the players that we have and make sure that they are comfortable occupying certain spaces,” noted the boss.
“There were a lot of changes and you could see sometimes in the dynamic and in the timing that we were arriving that it wasn’t perfect, we were allowing certain spaces especially when they had time on the ball and then we had to defend open spaces, but these are things that we will adjust.”
Having picked up a knock on the tour of the USA, Declan Rice got an hour under his belt on his first run out at the Emirates. Playing further up the pitch than usual, he showed a couple of flashes of why Arsenal have spent big bucks to sign him but was definitely puffing by the time he was subbed off.
On the new boy’s performance, Arteta said: “He played more advanced today, he played more as an attacking midfielder today, it was the first time that he’s played there. He’s on the journey to get back to his best and adapt to the team.
“I think he has the versatility to play different roles and it’s something that we want to do, especially to maximise the qualities that we have with other players, and they have the ability to play together, and in certain games, we’ll use him in other positions.”
All eyes now turn to Sunday’s Community Shield clash with Manchester City. Worryingly, the Gunners will be without Gabriel Jesus after it was confirmed the Brazil international underwent a minor procedure on his knee after feeling discomfort.