Callum Hudson-Odoi makes a huge statement while Ross Barkley fluffs his lines, we analyse the key talking points from the Arsenal v Chelsea friendly.
Arsenal put down a small marker for the season ahead after edging out Chelsea 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the International Champions Cup in Dublin.
Chelsea dominated early on courtesy of an inspired performance by Hudson-Odoi but Arsenal improved after the break.
Here, we discuss the key talking points ahead of the new season…..
What were you doing at 17?
Callum Hudson-Odoi can’t legally drink alcohol, place a bet or enter a nightclub, but he can play football at an elite level.
At just 17 years old, the level of performance shown by the winger in Dublin was remarkable.
He was – by far – the best player on the pitch. A pitch that included Premier League, Champions League and World Cup winners. He was a cut above.
Ahead of this match, following back-to-back starts against Perth Glory and Inter Milan, Hudson-Odoi said: “I’ve definitely liked working under Maurizio Sarri. The way he plays suits the way I play because I like to get on the ball a lot, go forward and keep attacking, I either stay in the pockets or stay wide.”
From these areas, he was devastating against Arsenal. In a similar role to what Mohamed Salah plays for Liverpool – but off the left, Hudson-Odoi was allowed the freedom to stay up the pitch even if Arsenal were on the attack.
This aggressive tactic rewarded the England U17 international with the space any majestic attacking player craved and he made full use of it.
Barkley fails audition
“I feel like I’ve been here for a long time now, I get on with all the lads and during the off-season I’ve got myself really fit just to give myself a head start knowing there’s a new manager you’ve got to impress and get used to what he wants really quickly, that’s been my approach.”
Ross Barkley certainly talks a good game. And you get the feeling Sarri is a big believer in his talents having started him now in all three pre-season encounters.
Whether that trust will continue over the course of the season is doubtful, judging on his performance in Dublin and the fact Hazard, Willian and N’Golo Kante are due to make their return in the coming weeks. Unlike Hudson-Odoi, Barkley hasn’t really given his manager a potential selection headache.
Sarri gave Barkley 78 minutes to impress and although his passing accuracy of 90.3 percent ranked high among his teammates, it came in non-threatening areas.
Barkley, despite playing in an advanced role, failed to have any shots on goal and created just one chance for his teammates. His night’s work was summed up in the second half when released into space by Jorginho. It triggered a three-on-three counter against the Arsenal defence but Barkley failed to find the run of either Hudson-Odoi or Tammy Abraham. His attempted pass dribbled through to Cech.
In comparison, his opposite number Mesut Ozil provided a cute and canny link between his midfield and attack by creating five chances.
Life in the old dog?
Petr Cech has got real competition at Arsenal this year for the No 1 shirt – some feel his time could be up after an inconsistent Premier League season. However, with Bernd Leno, who joined the Gunners last month in a £19.6million deal from Bayer Leverkusen, breathing down his neck, Cech showed his time at Arsenal may not be up yet.
His German international teammate started last week’s friendlies against Atletico Madrid and PSG – but Unai Emery gave Cech his chance in Dublin and he took it.
Without him, Arsenal would have been at least three goals by half-time.
He kicked off the goalkeeping masterclass by saving Morata’s penalty on 12 minutes before spreading himself minutes later to deny the Spanish striker again. Hudson-Odoi slipped through the Arsenal defence just before the break but Cech was quick to read the danger and got enough juice on the ball to deflect it to safety.
Emery has a big decision to make about who starts their opening game with Manchester City, live on Super Sunday.
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