Arsenal rounded off pre-season with a 2-0 victory over Lazio, with goals from youngster Reiss Nelson and substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealing success in Stockholm.
Manager Unai Emery named an entirely different line-up to the team that started for the penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in Dublin on Wednesday evening, leaving many of his most established names to watch on from the sidelines for the first hour. There were, however, debuts for Stephan Lichtsteiner, who has signed on a free transfer from Juventus, and Lucas Torreira, the £26.5m midfielder prised from Sampdoria.
Torreira’s quality was clear from the start, with his discipline in front of the back four, tidiness in possession and his urgency to reclaim possession all standing out during the opening period.
Lichtsteiner, meanwhile, created Arsenal’s best opportunity early on, as he flighted a chipped pass over the top, where Alexandre Lacazette watched the ball drop over his shoulder and caught it well on the volley but Lazio keeper Silvio Proto saved well to parry away from his near post.
Yet this was an inexperienced Arsenal team and during a fraught opening period, Emery’s side struggled to piece together concerted periods of possession and they afforded Lazio more clear openings than the new manager would have liked. With youngsters and fringe players on show, it was difficult to glean too much from this Arsenal display or to discern a progression in the identity Emery is trying to mould within the team.
The collective pressing exhibited against Paris Saint-Germain in Singapore did not resurface too much on this occasion and next week’s fixture against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will offer a clear marker of Emery’s early impact.
The major concern for Emery ahead of the season is now the left-back position, where Saed Kolasinac’s long-term absence is compounded by a knock that has been picked up by Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard only returned to pre-season training this week after the World Cup and took no part in this fixture. He now faces a scramble to return for the City clash – albeit with little to no match fitness – but it is more likely Emery will be forced to utilise the 20-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who did play at times as a left-wing back last season but is not a natural fit for the left-back berth.
Arsenal took the lead when Alex Iwobi fired a low effort against the inside of the post and Reiss Nelson tapped in the rebound. Arsenal briefly threatened to take the game away from Lazio but then allowed events to drift and the Serie A side regained the initiative. Luis Alberto capitalised on a mix-up in the Arsenal defence and his flighted chip clipped the cross-bar.
On the hour-mark, Emery called for the big guns, introducing Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil, to add to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s half-time arrival. The second goal duly arrived, as Alexandre Lacazette scuffed a chance but strike partner Aubameyang was on on hand to work a shooting opportunity and his low strike rifled into the goal through a melee of Lazio defenders.