Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Joe Willock also nets for Gunners in North Carolina
Last Updated: 21/07/19 1:54am
Eddie Nketiah again impressed with a double in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Fiorentina in the International Champions Cup.
The 20-year-old added to his strike against Bayern Munich with goals either side of half-time at the Bank of America Stadium, although Arsenal had things far from their own way for much of the game against their Serie A opponents.
Nketiah’s first showed his increasing confidence as he dragged back Sead Kolasinac’s low cross away from a defender before slotting in the opener, while his second was a tap-in from an Alexandre Lacazette lay-off.
Fiorentina had numerous chances in either half and with some better finishing would have punished Arsenal’s often naive defending, but the Gunners instead added a third late on with Joe Willock’s fine finish high into the net and kept up their 100-per-cent record in the cup.
How stuttering Arsenal earned victory
It was new season, same Arsenal in North Carolina as the Gunners often flowed like a river in attack while drowning in confusion defensively.
Most of the experience in the team Unai Emery named came in the club’s back five – but the old heads were outshone by their young counterparts at the other end of the pitch.
The tone was set inside 90 seconds when the otherwise impressive Nacho Monreal presented the ball to Dusan Vlahovic, who paced through before a last-ditch Shkodran Mustafi block denied him the perfect start.
Arsenal: Martinez (7), Chambers (5), Mustafi (5), Monreal (6), Jenkinson (6), Burton (5), Olayinka (6), Kolasinac (7), Nelson (6), Nketiah (8), Saka (7).
Fiorentina: Dragowski (6), Venuti (5), Ceccherini (6), Ranieri (7), Terzic (6), Castrovilli (5), Cristoforo (6), Benassi (6), Sottil (7), Vlahovic (6), Saponara (6).
They were given a bigger let-off when the back three of Mustafi, Monreal and Calum Chambers allowed Riccardo Saponara a free header from a cross, but he nodded wide moments before Vlahovic forced Emiliano Martinez into the first save of the game from another Mustafi error.
At the other end, Arsenal had been building up some nice momentum and took the lead through the again impressive Nketiah, who added to his strike against Bayern Munich with a smart finish. With left-back Aleksa Terzic blocking his path he dragged Sead Kolasinac’s low cross back to create space for himself to smash the ball beyond Bartlomiej Dragowski.
Marco Benassi wasted another chance for a Fiorentina side who scored only once in the last seven games of last season when he was played clean through but scuffed his effort, before Nketiah turned striker to defender to clear Federico Ceccherini’s header off the line.
Right on the stroke of half-time Fiorentina wasted their best chance of the game, when Saponara bamboozled Mustafi to find Vlahovic’s run into the box, but he toe-poked wide from an excellent position.
After a pair of changes from either side at the break Benassi again could have levelled but pulled a strong save out of Bernd Leno with a stinging near-post effort, before Arsenal doubled their lead amid controversial circumstances.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan headed from midfield to the right flank with the ball but, in the process, Carl Jenkinson clearly blocked off left-back Terzic while the Armenian midfielder squared for Lacazette to tee-up Nketiah again.
The defender directed his ire at the assistant referee but the goal stood, and Arsenal added a third late on when Willock, who had already made a wonderful 40-yard run from his own half, ran ahead of Lacazette into the box before being found by the French striker. An excellent first-touch set himself up to fire in and seal victory.
Things could have been even sweeter in added time had fellow substitute Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal’s only summer signing to date, capped an explosive run of his own from the half-way line with a goal, but he shot just wide of the far post.
Which youngsters impressed?
Bukayo Saka, the youngest member of Arsenal’s travelling squad, looked more 27 than 17 with a mature performance on the left of a front three, linking up especially well with the bombing runs of Kolasinac before half-time.
Fellow starter Peter Olayinka looked equally assured in the centre of midfield, and having grown into the game, perhaps after shaking off some early nerves, made a couple of bursting runs through the Fiorentina defence and looked a tidy passer.
19-year-old Robbie Burton, making his first start in the International Champions Cup, had a quieter game before his substitution, but from the bench Willock again displayed his increasing confidence by taking on Fiorentina players at will and having little trouble beating them – and adding a late goal.
And if any more needed saying of Nketiah, he had an impressive game but needed to brush up on his play outside the box. The 20-year-old found himself on the ball in the channels only a few times throughout the whole game, and his final ball from outside the box was lacking.
Arsenal are back in action on Wednesday morning, when they face Real Madrid at midnight at the FedExField in Washington DC.