Arsenal enjoyed a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in the International Champions Cup tie at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday night, after a last-ditch Alex Lacazette goal cancelled out an early Antonio Rüdiger header.
There were positives for Unai Emery in the performances of Sead Kolasinac until he departed injured, while Mattéo Guendouzi was again unflappable and constructive in midfield. New centre-half Sokratis Papastathopoulos was steady, while Mesut Ozil grew into the contest and began to run the game in the second half.
There were, however, several worries for Arsenal fans as the new Premier League campaign looms.
1 The Ramsey no-show
Could his late withdrawal from the starting line-up be one of those ‘injuries’ and the midfielder is set to depart the club with no sign of a new contract being penned? Or is this another in the endless cycle of muscular problems Ramsey suffers that inhibits his ability to build momentum during a season.
Of Ramsey’s injury, Emery said: “He has got a little pain in his muscle and we decided not to start him because it is maybe a big risk for him. But I am awaiting the medical analysis and I think it’s not a big problem.”
But the manager was less decisive discussing Ramsey’s future: “I don’t know. This is one question for the club and for the player. I am very, very concentrated and my focus is thinking every day for the training, for the players, for the match on Saturday against Lazio and then starting against Man City. Ramsey’s with us. The contract is a question for the club and for the player.”
2. Hector Bellerin’s performance
To be fair, the Spaniard offered a constant attacking threat on the overlap until he made way for Reiss Nelson, though his crossing was poor. But his inability to cope with the pace of young Callum Hudson-Odoi was worrying. Throw in an ongoing habit of stepping up late to play runners onside racing through the Arsenal centre and there was much of last-season’s Bellerin on show here – a player most fans considered to have hit a slump.
3. Aerial weakness
Watching a Chelsea player power in a free header from a set-piece wasn’t a new experience for Arsenal fans. Watching an Arsenal defence allow the same player a second go from a virtually identical position was nothing new either.
4. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Much improved second half as he began to combine with Ozil. But still looks more like the player drained of confidence by Jose Mourinho than the Dortmund dynamo. Threatens more than he delivers and generally looks a touch powderpuff. One of Emery’s key restoration jobs.
5. The invisible centre forward
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could well become Emery’s chief dilemma. Just as he was against any vaguely serious side last season, Aubameyang was almost entirely ineffectual throughout. Offered no threat in behind, continually dropped deep into well-stocked areas and could never provide a focal point. And where was his renowned pace on the hour when he charged into the Chelsea box but couldn’t outrun his man and was forced to square tamely?
Aubameyang gained many plaudits for his goal poaching last season and may well fill his boots against the lesser lights. But Lacazette looks the more natural spearhead for the bigger challenges – such as City on the opening day.