Arsenal were in pre-season action on Tuesday, cruising to a 4-1 win over League One side MK Dons at Stadium MK.
Arsenal returned to action tonight for the first time since their FA Cup triumph over Chelsea. Although first-team players only returned to training on last weekend, Mikel Arteta started with a strong team. William Saliba made his long-awaited debut and Ainsley Maitland-Niles started despite reports of an imminent move to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Speaking with the club’s media department last week, it was apparent that Arteta wanted to see a “reaction” from his players during pre-season. His team certainly started brightly, as they scored twice inside the first ten minutes. Mohamed Elneny capitalised on an errant pass from the MK Dons goalkeeper to spectacularly open the scoring, before Eddie Nketiah added a second with a composed finish. Rob Holding scored a stunning own goal on the half-hour mark, but second-half goals from Mark McGuinness and Reiss Nelson ensured that Arsenal started their pre-season with a win.
While no one should have any major takeaways from tonight’s friendly, there were three things which were worth noting.
William Saliba Is Very Good
Making his long-awaited debut, the physically imposing William Saliba was as good as advertised. Starting as the right-sided centre-back, his composure in possession was very encouraging. The talented 19-year-old consistently made himself available to Bernd Leno and took every opportunity to advance the ball. The highlight of his display was his fine pass to unleash Cédric Soares in the build-up to Eddie Nketiah’s goal.
Tougher challenges await Saliba, and it is vitally important to temper expectations. Nevertheless, he made a very good first impression before being withdrawn at half-time.