Gnabry assists and Zelalem features as Arsenal start pre-season with Lens draw


zelalem

Arsenal came from behind to draw 1-1 away to Lens in their first friendly of pre-season tonight, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finding the net with a superb lofted finish following good work from Serge Gnabry, who was deployed as a centre forward in the latter stages of the game.

Despite many senior players being absent, Arsene Wenger still named a very strong starting line-up, with the likes of Per Mertesacker, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Theo Walcott featuring from the outset.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide, meanwhile, started against his former club, with Chuba Akpom deployed up front in his first appearance since returning from his loan spell at Hull City.

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Coquelin-Elneny

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Akpom

Arsenal, as expected, took some time to find their rhythm, but much of the good work that they did in the first-half involved Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi. Akpom, in contrast, missed a good opportunity early on and struggled to have much of an impact on proceedings.

Theo Walcott was far from at his best, although Mathieu Debuchy made some impressive forays forward from right-back.

Lens went into the break in the lead after disappointing defending from Calum Chambers enabled the French side to score.

Wenger made six alterations at the start of the second-half, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell, Kieran Gibbs, Gnabry, Krystian Bielik and Matt Macey all entering the fray, the latter making his first senior appearance for the club.

Macey had to be alert to make a fine save, but Arsenal were more impressive in the second period and started to play with an increased amount of cohesiveness.

Bielik, deployed at centre-back, played some neat passes, although he was caught out on a couple of occasions.

Gnabry struggled to get into the game initially but the German youngster, who has endured such misfortune with injuries in recent seasons, gradually started to make more of an impact and appeared to relish moving up front when the disappointing Walcott was withdrawn.

Arsenal made two further substitutions, with Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock both coming on. The pair impressed, especially Zelalem, who demonstrated that his ability to play precise through passes is still very much intact.

It was Oxlade-Chamberlain who would score Arsenal’s goal after intelligent link-up play from Gnabry, with the strike ensuring that the Gunners didn’t suffer a defeat in their opening pre-season fixture.

Attention will now turn towards Arsenal’s trip to the United States, with Zelalem particularly eager to be involved. It will be interesting to see which youngsters remain with the squad as the first-team players who were on international duty this summer gradually report back.

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