I will keep my thoughts here unscientific and brief, but I did want a venue for discussing our thoughts on the game yesterday and perhaps have a comment section of wild speculation as to what everything means or doesn’t mean based on one 90 minute outing.
The biggest surprise, to me, was Emery remaining in the 442. I never would have thought that he would do that. Parejo and Coquelin started out in the pivot, and both did a fine job. Nothing too terribly remarkable but both are seasoned players who won’t have an exaggerated sense of urgency in a friendly, even if it is a new club for them. I think the 442 was the result of Trigueros and Morlanes not being available (for whatever reason) and Emery didn’t want to run anyone for the full 90 minutes, so he only used two of his CMs to start. I expect when the full complement is available we will still see some sort of three man midfield core either in a 433 or a 4231.
When Kubo entered, things got really interesting. I think, nominally, it was still a 442 and Kubo was the second ‘striker’, but it didn’t play that way on the pitch at all. It didn’t play like a 442 mostly because Kubo is absolutely not under any circumstance a central forward, (which is completely fine, he wasn’t signed to be). What he ended up doing yesterday was playing a relatively free role where he both dropped deep to receive the ball from the pivot and also swung out wide to the left to play as an advanced forward.
When Kubo dropped into the center, Moi Gomez pushed up as almost a left winger, but more often it was Kubo pushing up on the right and Dani Raba (who played very well) pushing up on the right, with Moi drifting inside so that in practice the formation played like a 4231. Most importantly, if Kubo can show continued aptitude on the left and centrally that means he can play alongside Samu Chukwueze, and that I think could be very interesting indeed.
Of the folks who were either on loan or with the B team last year, I felt Raba and Pedraza had the best nights, with the latter doing the bulk of the creative work on the third goal. I think it was a pretty good performance overall, though I don’t think we learned too much about what Unai Emery wants to do with this side tactically. It was mostly just a run out for everyone to shake off what little rust may have accumulated during this short ‘offseason’.
The list of players not included in the match day squad at all is long and notable, with Trigueros, Morlanes, Bacca, Andres, Asenjo, Albiol, Miguelon, and Mario Gaspar all absent. I expect of that list, Asenjo and Albiol are just getting rest, while Bacca and Andres are actively looking for other places to play and Miguelon and Morlanes likely to end up on loan. What’s the deal with Trigueros? I have no idea.
Last quick hitting thoughts: Fer and Gerard looked sharp, Jaume Costa was very on brand with his performance, and the camera angle during that match was positively atrocious.
Tell me your thoughts on any of these topics and more in the comments!