The Unai Emery era began in earnest today as Arsenal defeated National League outfit Boreham Wood 8-0.
After some major signings, including Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Gooners will be looking forward to a campaign in which they look to re-establish themselves among the top four and secure Champions League football.
Here are five things we learnt from today’s clash at Meadow Park.
Aubameyang is hungry for goals
Following a football-free summer, the Gabon international got back into the swing of things very quickly. Despite the standard of opposition, he looked incredibly composed and opened his account after just seven minutes, fashioning space on the edge of the box before bending a sumptuous shot beyond Craig Ross.
His second came following good work by Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who drifted in an inviting delivery for the 29-year-old to nod home.
He completed his hat-trick after just 17 minutes with an emphatic penalty following a foul on Reiss Nelson and, although the former Borussia Dortmund sharp-shooter could have taken his foot off the gas, he continued to wreak havoc from the left wing. An effortless dribble and measured through-ball from the January signing found Alexandre Lacazette for the fifth.
With a full pre-season under his belt, it would be no surprise if Aubameyang were to reach the 20-goal mark in the league after 10 in just 13 Premier League games last term.
His ability to play not just up front but out wide also gives defenders a dilemma and plenty of top-level defences could find him too hot to handle in the season ahead.
Sokratis could be Arsenal’s weak link
The beefy centre-back arrived in north London from Borussia Dortmund and he wasn’t expected to face any real issues in an all-Greek partnership with Konstantinos Mavropanos.
However, it was the 20-year-old who looked the more accomplished, showcasing an impressive range of passing, while his more experienced team-mate was given a difficult first half by livewire forward Morgan Ferrier.
The 30-year-old has good positional sense, but if Arsenal get caught out playing a high line they will be punished, as Sokratis simply does not have the pace to catch the quickest players the Premier League has to offer.
He also had one moment of complacency which almost allowed Boreham Wood to get on the scoresheet, but Connor Smith’s effort was deflected away for a corner.
Of course, it is very early days, but Sokratis’ performances will need to significantly improve if he is to repay the faith shown in him by Emery and demonstrate that he deserves a starting place ahead of the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers.
Nketiah’s finishing instincts come to the fore
The 19-year-old shot onto the scene last season, with a sensational late double to dump Norwich City out of the Carabao Cup and his eye for goal was evident again today.
Nketiah scored one and set up another, flicking clinically inside the near post from just outside the six-yard box before demonstrating superb awareness to impudently backheel Sead Kolasinac’s pass into the path of the onrushing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who made no mistake.
Granted, he was brought on with the score already 5-0, but the England U21 international had certainly lost none of his edge in front of goal and was always willing to provide options.
It is probably too soon to expect the teenager to start top-flight matches regularly, but he could definitely be drafted in to replace Lacazette against some of the division’s weakest sides.
Emery showing willingness to blood youth
The new boss has picked up where Arsene Wenger left off in this respect, picking a very young first-half side which included 19-year-old Jordi Osei-Tutu, 18-year-old Chris Willock and 17-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe.
All three did well in the first game of a campaign which could include a move out on loan or the odd first-team cup match.
Willock in particularly looked at home in his surroundings, looking in charge of proceedings in central midfield, but it is a position already stacked with higher-quality alternatives, so the youngster will no doubt have to bide his time.
A player who is likely to chalk up more senior minutes is Reiss Nelson and – although the 18-year-old’s pace can confuse himself at times – his technical ability was never in doubt, majestically chest-trapping Lacazette’s pull-back before slamming a volley in off the bar.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide also caught the eye with a stunning long-range effort before being replaced by 19-year-old debutant Matteo Guendouzi and despite the need for experience in a gruelling domestic campaign, there is a plethora of youngsters looking to make their mark should the older heads falter.
Maitland-Niles should be utilised further forward
The 20-year-old’s versatility was one of the bright spots last season in a gloomy final campaign for Wenger and with the squad bolstered, Maitland-Niles may find opportunities restricted.
His defensive discipline and patience were praised last season as he kept some of the Premier League’s best wingers in check, but it was his influence further forward that stood out on this occasion.
The highlight of his display was a silky run down the right channel that saw him evade three challenges before picking out the perfect ball for Aubameyang’s second.
While he certainly won’t nail down a right-wing berth, the former Ipswich Town loanee could be phased in gradually in a more advanced role when the Gunners come up against some of the division’s more porous defences.
All-in-all, it was not a bad way for him to introduce himself to the new man in charge.