Football Features

Arsenal 1-2 Lyon: Winners & losers as Dembele inspires Emirates Cup turnaround

By Ben Green

Published: 17:33, 28 July 2019

In the tenth instalment of the Emirates Cup, Lyon have triumphed after an intense 2-1 win over Arsenal.

The match in north London was preceded by Bayern Munich Women beating Arsenal Women 1-0 in this revamped version of the invitational competition after a one-year hiatus.

Arsenal fans weren’t quite gifted the bloodbath conjured up last time these two sides met in the tournament, with the 6-0 mauling of Lyon in 2015 offering supporters a pre-season ego-boost, as their side faltered this afternoon despite impressing for large spells.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan combined well for the opening goal to evoke fond Borussia Dortmund memories, with the Gabon international breaking the deadlock, but it would be Lyon who secured the win with Moussa Dembele scoring a second half double.

It was an exciting game at the Emirates, but who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Joe Willock

Eddie Nketiah has largely stolen the headlines for his goalscoring prowess in pre-season, but one youngster who has arguably outshone the Lewisham marksman is Joe Willock, with the teenage attacking midfielder impressing every time he takes to the pitch.

Entrusted with a starting role against both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, it seems Unai Emery has no hesitations about the academy starlet’s talent and maturity. In both matches against the European giants, he kept pace with some of world football’s finest players; there were certainly no signs to suggest this was a lightweight stepping into a heavyweight ring.

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And again, Emery opted to provide the gifted tyro a starting berth against one of the continent’s biggest sides. Granted, Lyon aren’t quite on the same level as Real or Bayern, but they are no laggards and Willock flourished on the north London turf.

His movement was fluid and link-up play second to none, forming a very cohesive forward line with the likes of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan. In a match where Willock needed to impress following the acquisition of Dani Ceballos, he stood up to the task and may yet provide Emery something of a managerial headache in months to come.

Loser: Arsenal defence

Quite how the transfer window closes in less than a fortnight and Arsenal haven’t bolstered their backline yet is truly extraordinary, really. Laurent Koscielny wants out, Ainsley Maitland-Niles isn’t an out-and-out full-back, and there are still a number of notable injuries to contend with, and yet, Emery doesn’t seem that eager at all.

Tentative bids for Kieran Tierney have been swatted away by Celtic, while the club recently splashed out £27m on a centre-back, only to loan him back out (William Saliba) and, well, if this afternoon has taught us anything, it’s that Arsenal’s defence is still exceptionally volatile.

Calum Chambers lost Moussa Dembele for Lyon’s equalising header, while the scoreline was 2-1 to the French outfit within five minutes of Shkodran Mustafi’s introduction, doing the German’s reputation among Arsenal supporters no favours whatsoever.

Winner: Moussa Dembele

Having started on the bench, Lyon looked exceptionally thin up top, with Memphis Depay struggling to really stamp his authority on proceedings through a lack of support in the final third. However, that would change with Moussa Dembele entering the field at the interval, as he bagged a second half brace to secure the Emirates Cup for his side.

His first goal was a deft glancing header that breached Bernd Leno’s net after he evaded the Arsenal defence, finding ample room to convert Depay’s guided delivery; and his second was a coolly tucked home striker’s finish, showing the kind of lethal finishing that convinced Lyon to prise him away from Parkhead last year.

Loser: Marcal

With the loss of prodigiously gifted left-back Ferland Mendy to Real Madrid, Marcal had the opportunity to show compatriot and manager Sylvinho that the club can cope without the forward-thinking defender. Unfortunately for the Brazilian full-back, he had a difficult game and it looks unlikely that he will be able to adequately fill the monumental void left by Mendy at the Groupama Stadium.

The 30-year-old only started 12 Ligue 1 games last season, and while that number is likely to increase this time round following Mendy’s departure, Sylvinho may find it difficult in trying to get the ex-Benfica defender to replicate the scintillating performances of Real’s summer recruit.

He was hesitant clearing his lines in the opening exchanges, getting caught out from a high-press by Aubameyang early on, and it didn’t get much better from there, with his loose pass ultimately finding it’s way to Mkhitaryan who drilled in a wicked delivery for the opening goal.

Winner: Arsenal wingers

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has struggled to recreate the sort of tantalising form he demonstrated at the Westfalenstadion, with consecutive underwhelming spells at both Manchester United and now Arsenal, but Gunners supporters will yet be hopeful that the 30-year-old can excel in their cherished red and white jersey, and they may have been given a taste of things to come for 2019/20 this afternoon.

Starting out wide, Mkhitaryan, alongside Willock, Aubameyang and Reiss Nelson, was one of the standout performers in the first half, causing the Lyon defenders numerous of problems with his jinking runs, shimmies and quick feet.

And it was his rifled delivery which opened the scoring after he clinically picked out Aubameyang, who only had to guide the cross into the back of the net, such was the force and conviction with which Mkhitaryan put on the ball.

Elsewhere Nelson also had a solid game on the touchline having found himself making an early introduction due to Alexandre Lacazette’s injury, as his balletic gait and twinkle-toed control dazzled on the flanks at times. With talk of Nicolas Pepe coming in, both players certainly didn’t do their chances of holding down a regular position any harm this afternoon.