Arsenal’s final pre-season friendly ended in a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang produced a spectacular finish to power the Gunners into the lead but miscommunication between Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bernd Leno forced an own-goal under the former’s name. Luis Suarez came off the bench to score the winner in the dying moments of the game with an acrobatic finish.
We take a look at how the Arsenal players performed.
Bernd Leno – Hardly tested, most of Barcelona’s shots in the first half were directed at him. Deserves a small chunk of the blame for the own-goal. 5
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – An own-goal ruined what was a sensational defensive performance in the first half. 6
Calum Chambers – Did well to hold the fort in times of persistent attacking moves by Barcelona. One of the best players in an Arsenal shirt. 8
Sokratis – Solid defensive performance, managed to keep Antoine Griezmann out of the game. 7
Nacho Monreal – Had trouble dealing with the duo of Ousmane Dembele and Nelson Semedo and could have added more in attack. 5
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Positioned narrower than usual, should have done better in the central midfield position. 6
Granit Xhaka – Poor display from the Switzerland international, outplayed by other midfielders around him. 5
Joe Willock – Promising display in by the youngster, linked well with his team-mates. 7
Nelson – Produced promising moments at times, but no stand-out end-product. 6
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Scored with a spectacular finish, tracked back to defend during lengthy spells of Barcelona possession. 9
Mesut Ozil – Switched play well and produced some dangerous passes including the assist to Aubameyang. 8
Matteo Guendouzi – Great work-rate, provided exactly what Arsenal needed amid huge spells of Barcelona possession. 7
Sead Kolasinac – Involved in an interesting contest with Moussa Wague which mostly ended 50-50, producing no winner. 6
Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli has been ruled out of the start of the new season with a hamstring injury.
The England international picked up the problem in training and boss Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed he will not be fit for the Premier League opener against Aston Villa next Saturday.
It will come as a big blow to the 23-year-old, who was beset by hamstring problems last season and Pochettino admits it is a concern.
The boss, who saw his side conclude their pre-season campaign with a 1-1 draw against Inter Milan, said: “I don’t believe he’s going to be ready for the start of the season.
“It’s the same area. Yes, of course we are worried. He’s still so young. Just 23-years-old and many, many hamstring problems in the last few years.
“It’s to pay attention to what is going on in his body, but we are here to try to help him. Think (it is a) minor injury. Only a few weeks before he can be available again and be with the group.”
With less than a week until the transfer window shuts, Tanguy Ndombele remains the only signing that will impact the first team this summer and Pochettino expressed his frustration last week when he appeared to distance himself from the club’s dealings.
He offered no new updates on potential incomings, with Giovanni Lo Celso and Bruno Fernandes reported targets, and has not spoken to chairman Daniel Levy in recent days.
“No, he’s in Miami and I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to him,” Pochettino said of Levy.
“I am happy with my squad. You can see today a lot of younger players. In every season we are always open to improve the squad and to try to find the right players to be stronger and better and there are still four days.
“We’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
Spurs fans got their first look at new record signing Ndombele, though the Frenchman did not have a massive impact, beyond an exciting dart into the penalty in the first half.
Pochettino has warned that the midfielder will need time to get used to English football.
“For him it’s difficult,” he said. “We cannot expect too much. We need to accept he needs time to adapt to first a new culture, a new country, new habits.
“Of course it’s only him who arrived to the club and that makes it more difficult. When a few are new they can help each other but it’s only him.
“We need to give him time but I am happy in the way he is adapting. He is open to improve and learn but needs time to see the best version of him.”
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Raheem Sterling opened the scoring in the 12th minute, with City starting the game on the front foot. But Joel Matip restored parity deep into the second half after he headed home Virgil van Dijk’s perfect cross.
Liverpool were inches away from claiming the shield but Kyle Walker produced a spectacular bicycle clearance off the line to keep Mohamed Salah off the score-sheet.
The game went to penalties and Claudio Bravo wore the hero’s cape after he stopped Georginio Wijnaldum’s penalty. City won the shoot-out 5-4 to start the season with yet another trophy.
We take a look at the talking points from the first encounter of the season between two of the best teams in England.
Liverpool recover from a weak start
Liverpool were clearly the better side in the second half but the Reds did not enjoy a rosy start. They were shambolic in all three departments in the first quarter of the game and turned up only in the second half.
Mohamed Salah missed two chances that he would have buried nine times out of 10. The midfield was struggling to keep the ball against City’s lively press and the defence allowed the Premier League champions to create several goal-scoring opportunities.
Sterling’s goal was a poor one to concede and Alisson has only himself to blame for letting the ball run between his legs.
However, the European champions started on the front foot in the second half, with Salah leading the comeback. The Egyptian set himself up a couple of times and even struck the post twice and was by far their best player.
Liverpool’s persistence paid off after Matip headed home Van Dijk’s fine cross from close range.
Sterling left to rue missed chances
Sterling was presented with two glorious chances to seal the deal in the second half but the Englishman spurned the opportunities rather casually.
The 24-year-old was involved in two one-on-one situations against Alisson but failed to make it count. The woodwork prevented him from scoring the first time and it was a combination of his casual finishing and Alisson’s sharpness to react quickly that ensured City did not run away from the game.
The Premier League champions switched off rapidly in the second half, but Sterling was the prime culprit in their disappointing show.
City – Penalty shoot-out specialists?
Pep Guardiola’s men were lucky to take the game to penalties after taking their eye off the ball in the second half. Salah was allowed to run riot on the right flank and Bravo was heavily involved in keeping them in the game.
However, City defended the shield by winning their seventh penalty shoot-out in a row. This surely is a tremendous achievement, given the randomness associated with this tie-breaker.
But the Premier League champions have shown time and again that they are suited to penalties, thrive under pressure and always start as favourites.
Sane injury to complicate transfer?
It’s an open secret that Bayern Munich are pushing hard to sign Germany international Leroy Sane. The German club had to formally declare that the rumours stating Sane was close to joining them were false. – even though it is common knowledge that the young winger is more likely to move than stay at City.
However, an injury in the early moments of the game forced the 23-year-old out of the fixture, with Gabriel Jesus replacing him. This injury could jeopardise Bayern’s capture of the player as complications may arise during the medical tests.
Note that the transfer window closes on Thursday in the Premier League and it’s unlikely City will let go of the player without signing a replacement.