Arsenal’s top performers in Hibs friendly defeat as Gunners get pre-season underway
Arsenal failed to make a winning start to their pre-season campaign on Tuesday evening as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Scottish Premiership side Hibernian at Easter Road. Emile Smith Rowe’s late goal was the highlight of the match for the Gunners, who were beaten by an early tap-in from Martin Boyle and a second-half header courtesy of Daniel McKay.
The Premier League giants became increasingly dominant as the clock ticked down, but they were unable to find the elusive leveller to save their blushes on a warm evening in Edinburgh.
Mikel Arteta will be less than impressed with his side’s performance in the Scottish capital, with Arsenal generally lethargic and off the pace throughout the encounter.
Although pre-season friendlies are rarely a genuine cause for concern, Tuesday’s result would have come as a disappointment to the Spaniard, who is gearing up for a renewed top-four challenge ahead of the new campaign.
However, a handful of players managed to avoid embarrassing themselves on a personal level with some decent performances in their first outings of the summer.
Arteta opted to start the match with Reiss Nelson occupying the right flank, and the 21-year-old was in the thick of the action on plenty of occasions.
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He carried much of Arsenal’s attacking burden during the opening 45 minutes, constantly demanding the ball and never shying away from a battle with his opposite number.
Nelson has been linked with a summer move away from Arsenal in recent weeks, but it would be a shame for the Gunners to let go of a player with so much potential to succeed at the Emirates Stadium.
The former Hoffenheim loanee showed flashes of brilliance, with his ability to beat defenders one-on-one firmly on display alongside his excellent technical qualities.
If he is able to hit the ground running once the new season gets underway, he could well be challenging Pepe for his starting spot in the weeks and months to come.
Smith Rowe was another shining light for Arsenal in spite of the result, with his introduction at half-time sparking a change in momentum at Easter Road.
He helped the Gunners to create a hatful of chances as they went in search of at least a draw, and led by example with his goal on 82 minutes.
The playmaker volleyed home from Hector Bellerin’s inviting ball into the area to give Arsenal hope of a late flurry, with his late contribution a welcome reward for his efforts.
Smith Rowe will be looking to replace Martin Odegaard in the No 10 role this season, and if his showing against Hibs was anything to go by, he could stake a claim for a regular first-team berth as Arteta aims to plug the gap left by the former Real Madrid loanee.
Meanwhile, Folarin Balogun also looked lively after coming on as a substitute, with Arsenal making a multitude of changes at the interval and into the second half.
The youngster recently signed a long-term deal in north London and showcased his incredible potential against Hibs with his formidable hold-up play and ball progression.
Balogun could be in line for additional first-team involvement this season after impressing at under-23 level, and his energetic style of play could be a useful weapon for Arteta off the bench during the latter stages of Premier League games to come.
Although the collective performance and result on Tuesday evening undoubtedly failed to live up to expectations, there were still positives to take for the Arsenal boss and his coaching staff as they gear up for the campaign ahead.
The Gunners will be looking for an improved showing against Scottish champions Rangers, who were beaten by Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park three days ago, on Saturday afternoon.
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