Arsenal secured a hard-fought 3-2 win over Arabian Gulf League strugglers Al Nasr – going 1-0 down before surging back in the second half.
Arsenal, second best throughout the opening 45 minutes, fell behind to a sumptuous strike. Brazilian Junior Dutra flew down the right and had the awareness to look up and pick out Chilean Ronnie Fernandez. He curled an effort beyond the despairing Bernd Leno which went in off the inside of the post.
The Gunners fired back via Denis Suarez’s exquisite vision. He picked out Carl Jenkinson’s run and after the much-maligned right-back’s first effort cannoned off the upright, he thumped home the rebound.
Unai Emery’s side gained far more of a foothold in the second half and went 2-1 ahead within minutes of the restart – Mesut Ozil’s impish flick set up Alexandre Lacazette who had the simplest of finishes.
They scored a killer third late on through an astute and calm finish from teenager Tyreece John-Jules, before Nasr earned a consolation through Khalid Jalal’s penalty.
Here is how we rated the Arsenal players:
Bernd Leno 7: Was a lot busier than perhaps he would have expected to be. Called upon numerous times and was sharp and alert. Could do nothing about Fernandez’s fantastic effort.
Carl Jenkinson 6: Struggled with attacks down his side. But thumped home the equaliser having hit the woodwork with his initial effort.
Shkodran Mustafi 5: Easy in the second half following a wave of Blue Wave substitutions. Struggled badly with Nasr’s pace and Alvaro Negredo’s brutish presence in the first half though.
Dinos Mavropanos 4: Simply could not compete with Negredo. Was outmuscled in nearly every duel. Easier second half but that belied a below par showing.
Zech Medley 7: Had work cut out with Blue Wave surging forward, but was diligent and got forward too. A real athlete with pace to burn.
Charlie Gilmour 6: Showed good poise on the ball and distribution was impressive. But he and young colleague Sheaf were badly exposed and sliced through regularly.
Ben Sheaf 5: Overawed a little and was perhaps feeling the heat. Struggled in the first half but looked more at ease as Arsenal turned it on in the second half.
Xavier Amaechi 6: The box of tricks always looked dangerous with the ball at his feet. Couldn’t quite conjure any magic.
Mesut Ozil 7: Can see why he frustrates fans. Eminently brilliant and capable of the extraordinary. But is too often ordinary. Gorgeous back heel put chance on a plate for Lacazette.
Denis Suarez 8: Always capable of lighting the fuse. Pristine vision slipped in Jenkinson, who scored at the second attempt. Could play a big part in remainder of the season.
Alexandre Lacazette 7: Kept the Nasr backline honest as he foraged for chances, but largely fed on scraps as his side were pegged back. Always alive after the break, took chance well, could have had more.
Petr Cech 6: Little to do bar a routine few saves here and there.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 7: Promising player continued his development, sparking the move that led to Arsenal’s second minutes after coming on.
Julio Pleguezuelo 4: Seemed to commit a blatant, reckless foul on Omar, but the referee thought otherwise. Busy. Clumsily then conceded a needless penalty.
Jordi Osei-Tutu 6: Came on and looked bright without getting involved too much.
Tyreece John-Jules 7: A lot of people are excited about the 18-year-old, and this was a glimpse into why. He broke free and calmly rounded Essa before firing past two defenders on the line.
James Olayinka N/A
Arsenal fans in the Middle East are set for the rare opportunity to see the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette in the flesh on Tuesday night when a glamour friendly against Al Nasr, for the formal reopening of Al Maktoum Stadium, concludes a five-day training camp in Dubai.
Tickets valued at Dh100 (category 3) are still available for the match (17:30 kick-off, UAE time) through Platinum List. With more than 10,000 people expected through the turnstiles, supporters are asked to arrive early and, if possible, use Dubai Metro.
The meeting falling within the international break has denied the Gunners several star names, but the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech have been present during a whirlwind tour that has also included visits to The Rashid Centre for the Determined Ones and Zabeel Palace.
“It will be great to get some warm weather training and break up the usual routine as we enter the final stage of the season,” said head coach Unai Emery. “The facilities in Dubai are fantastic and it will be an honour to be part of the formal opening ceremony for the new stadium.”
The Al Maktoum was extensively renovated in time for January’s Asian Cup. Malcolm Macdonald, John Matthews and John Radford were on target in a 3-1 victory for Arsenal back in November 1976 when the sides last met.
Arsenal sit fourth in the Premier League after this month’s 2-0 win against Manchester United. Nasr, captained by ex-Spain striker Alvaro Negredo, are 11th in the Arabian Gulf League.
Chelsea currently find themselves in the middle of a series of unfortunate events. The Blues are out of the direct European qualification spots in the Premier League table after managing just two wins in the last five games.
They are also banned from signing players for the next two transfer windows and the players are not enjoying a particularly amicable relationship with the manager.
Gonzalo Higuain could be a victim of the fallout, but it is partly due to his own inability to perform at Chelsea. Goal reported that his future at the club is subject to his performances in the upcoming games and Juventus are confident that they don’t need him.
Chelsea are willing to go against their policy of offering only one-year deals to players over the age of 30, should the Argentine prove worthy. However, three goals in 10 appearances surely is not the sort of form that warrants a stay at Stamford Bridge beyond this season.
What does next season have in store for the 31-year-old, then, if Chelsea decide against converting his loan deal and Juve decide they don’t want him back in Turin?
Which clubs could rescue him? We take a look.
As things stand, it’s highly unlikely that Mauro Icardi will be plying his trade in Inter colours next season. It has been over a month since the Argentine played a match, thanks to a conflict with the club of his own making.
Surprisingly, the Italian club have done well in the forward’s absence so far, winning the Milan derby just last week.
While Lautaro Martinez is leading the line impressively, however, it would be rather neglectful to go through a transfer window without signing a replacement for Icardi, should he leave the San Siro.
Fellow Argentinian Higuain could be a good choice, given he is already accustomed to the league, having spent about six years in Italy.
It’s true that he is past his prime, but considering the fact he could help groom Martinez and would come for a relatively low price, Inter could consider the veteran as a decent option.
Betis have clearly failed to live up to the hype that was created after a spectacular debut season under Quique Setien. Most of their problems have arrived in the final third, with the majority of their aesthetic moves being wasted thanks to havoc up front, coupled with shambolic finishing.
Jese Rodriguez was signed in the winter to pair with Loren Moron, but this transfer has not worked out like they would have hoped for.
If Betis are to expand their horizons, they need to sign an established striker. It’s the absence of a quality finisher that has prevented them from achieving the results their approach play deserves.
Higuain could be a great addition to the squad, considering his experience and ability to find the goal.
As for the Argentine, it would be extremely optimistic of him to expect a top-tier club to come calling, given most of them have a quality striker in their squad and he is past his prime.
With Betis, he will still play for a club that challenges for trophies and plays in Europe, assuming they are able to stabilise their season and can manage to grab a Europa League spot at least.
Everton is another destination Higuain could consider if he wishes to feature in a top league. The former Real Madrid man will not be able to walk into any of the top six sides in the Premier League unless he steps up his game.
If this were to be the case, you would think Chelsea would convert his loan deal and his quest to find a new club would be over.
If he fails to perform like he has done so far in London, he could still prove to be a good buy for a team like the Toffees. It’s clear that Juve will sell him on the cheap, so the blue team on Merseyside could focus their resources on his wages.
With Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison bagging all the goals, Everton clearly lack the traditional number nine who can rid these midfielders of the goal-scoring burden and take matters into his own hands.
Higuain, despite his dip in form, could thrive out of the spotlight and guide Everton into the Europa League spots once again.
What do world class footballers do at the twilight of their career if they want to make some quick bucks with considerably lower effort? That’s right, they sign for a top team from the Chinese Super League, the J1 League in Japan, or head to America’s MLS.
Should Higuain’s form drop so drastically that he finds himself without a top club and is unwilling to take a pay-cut to stay in one of the top leagues, he could consider moving to one of the teams from the aforementioned leagues.
With players like Oscar, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Lukas Podolski and Paulinho making such a move in the final years of their careers, Higuain too could consider something along these lines.