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Arsenal vs Real Madrid: Report, highlights and 5 things we learned from Gunners’ pre-season tour to the US

WASHINGTON, DC — Arsenal finished their US tour unbeaten but threw away a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with Real Madrid, eventually losing 3-2 in the penalty shootout.

Nacho was dismissed early on for Real, allowing Arsenal to take control with strikes from Alexandre Lacazette from the penalty spot and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, before Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ red card evened things up.

The returning Gareth Bale got his side back in it, before Marco Asensio took the match to spot kicks, where three misses cost the Gunners dear.

But what did we learn from their final International Champions Cup thriller and their unbeaten tour as a whole?

The second coming of Ozil?

Mesut Ozil sporting a new shock of blond (Getty Images)

Much has changed in Mesut Ozil’s life in recent times. He is a married man now, he has been forced to go for a rather abrasive hair colouring after losing a bet, and, slightly more positively for Arsenal fans yearning to see more from their most famous asset, his attitude seems to have changed.

Last season, Unai Emery, having initially been impressed with Ozil, became tired of the Germany international’s reluctance to adhere to his high intensity style of play, regularly left him out and a familiar tale of unfulfilled talent was unfolding at the Emirates.

Nonetheless, yes, it is pre-season, but there seems to be somewhat of a twinkle in Ozil’s eye once more. That swagger that only emerges when he is in the right mood has been prevalent against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, he has applied himself, stuck to his task and put in the graft his manager requires.

“I am really happy,” Ozil said in a rare interaction with the media in the US, and his manager is happy with him. Now for the small matter of that previously elusive consistency.

Auba and Laca can form fruitful partnership

Aubameyang and Lacazette can work in perfect harmony this season (Getty Images)

It sounds like the start of a very bad joke – how do you fit Aubameyang and Lacazette into the Arsenal team at the same time? The answer, while not being amusing in the slightest, might be a more simple one than the conundrum suggests – you fit the team around them.

Last season, Emery’s answer to the dilemma was to continually leave one or the other out, with limited success. The counter argument is that when deployed together, Arsenal looked top heavy, leaving their vulnerable defence exposed.

However, the solution cannot surely be to leave one of these talented individuals out, it should be how to shore up behind them.

Aubameyang has been deployed out right in the US, but with licence to drift infield, and that tactic proved devastating against Real for Arsenal’s superb second goal, with the pair linking up telepathically. Fans cannot simply be deprived of a two-pronged attacking weapon like this.

Next Gen could make up for lack of arrivals

Robbie Burton was one of a number of Arsenal youngsters to impress on tour (Getty Images)

Ah, Arsenal. Whether it is bidding that extra pound sterling for Luis Suarez, or offering half of Crystal Palace’s valuation for Wilfried Zaha, the Gunners never seem to be too far away from an embarrassing transfer saga.

In terms of incomings, despite losing Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck, teenage Gabriel Martinelli represents their only summer capture, just to annoy fans, desperate for investment, that little bit more.

However, all may not be lost. When asked to summarise his side’s exploits in America, a pleased Emery in every statement came back to the same point – the emergence of youth.

Seventeen-year-old Bukayo Saka has looked at home in midfield, Joe Willock’s form grew praise from Ozil – no easy feat – and Eddie Nketiah top scored on the tour with three goals.

Martinelli impressed in his cameos, while Robbie Burton caught the eye – these talents are very much for tomorrow, but if needed today, they already look at home among their senior counterparts.

Back pain without a cure

Sokratis’ sending off allowed Real Madrid back into the game in Washington (Getty Images)

Where Arsenal do not have many options is at the back, and the options they do possess do little to alleviate fears fans are in for a turbulent ride this coming season.

Emery has chopped and changed between a back three and four, but admitted after the Real draw that he prefers a back four.

When Hector Bellerin is fit again, the right-back position looks pretty secure with Ainsley Maitland-Miles in there too, but elsewhere the list of names leaves much to be desired.

Sokratis appears the only defender assured of his spot in the middle, but who plays alongside? Shkodran Mustafi has again looked error prone, as has Nacho Montreal when deployed centrally, Rob Holding is not fit yet, Laurent Koscielny does not want to be there and the club seem keen to move Calum Chambers on.

Signing Kieran Tierney from Celtic appears a must at left-back, but that could leave no money left for central defensive reinforcements – can Emery steer his side to success with such a potentially weak core?

Worldwide fan unrest not going away

Arsenal’s global fanbase are just as frustrated as those based in the UK (Getty Images)

The sense of unity is like nothing football fandom has ever seen. Many a club has started a petition against their owners, which garnered a handful of signatures before being forgotten.

But at Arsenal, something very different is happening. The petition launched by 16 fan websites was signed by over 100,000 people – the amount needed for official petitions to be addressed by parliament – in under three days. Remarkable.

The difference is this is a global movement. In Charlotte and in Washington, US-based Arsenal fans took time to print out banners to help spread the “WeCareDoYou” message, with fans knowledgable of what they were protesting about.

The fact it is online, and Arsenal remain so dormant in the transfer market, this movement is not dying down, and fans in the US, even after seeing their side finish their tour unbeaten, will not give up the fight.

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