Arsenal remain on a roll during preseason, claiming a 3-1 friendly victory over Orlando City to win their fourth straight preseason match. The Gunners beat Everton on Saturday, and previously put up five goals against Nurnberg and Ipswich Town.
And they didn’t even need new signing Gabriel Jesus to carry the load this time. It was Eddie Nketiah who scored the go-ahead goal in the 66th minute, and then Reiss Nelson put the result away with 10 minutes remaining. It was the first time this preseason that Jesus did not get on the board after scoring in his first two matches.
Arsenal started a reserve side and despite taking an early 5th minute lead on an own goal — a Gabriel Martinelli shot that was deflected past the ‘keeper — the Gunners allowed Orlando City back in the match. The Premier League side only pulled away in the second half after their first-choice players were brought on as subs.
It was the Arsenal back line that was a particular weak point during the first half with long balls and hard runs by Orlando City exposing the defenders. Arsenal’s Nuno Tavares and Pablo Mari were on their heels on the momentary equalizer by Facundo Torres. The Uruguayan beat both before lashing a grass-cutter past goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Arsenal began to look more like themselves when a few more members of the first unit came in, ensuring the Gunners continue to carry positive momentum. The Gunners will stay in Orlando to play London rivals Chelsea on July 23 at Camping World Stadium before returning home ahead of the Premier League season which kicks off on Friday, Aug. 5 at Crystal Palace.
MORE: Arsenal’s preseason schedule, results and lineups
That’s going to be one of the prevailing questions that Arsenal supporters will be wondering. Does the club have enough quality depth to ensure there’s no drop in standards between one set of players and their backups? The Rob Holding-Pablo Mari center back unit had its struggles, Nuno Tavares had an off-day, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles also faced criticism in midfield.
But their difficulties could be attributed to a well-drilled opponent (Orlando City), who knew exactly how to expose Arsenal’s weaknesses. Orlando were very deliberate in how they were attacking the Gunners with quick transitions and long balls. Crystal Palace will be taking notice, as they host Arsenal for the first game of the Premier League season on Aug. 5.
After starting and scoring against Everton, Jesus came off the bench against Orlando to start the second half and his energy and the ensuing chaos in the opponent’s box was immediately noticeable. His presence helped give Arsenal its positive momentum again.
But what was different about this occasion is that it came with Eddie Nketiah on the field, further proof that they can co-exist and not just simply rotate at the center forward spot. It was Nketiah who got the game-winning goal, but it came on a play started by Jesus.
The two, joined by right winger Nicolas Pepe and later Bukayo Saka, were buzzing around the penalty area. Together they can be a handful for defenses with their darting runs and instinctive finishing.
With only two matches remaining in preseason and Turner getting the majority of overall minutes against Nurnberg, Everton, and Orlando City, it’s a legitimate question. Ramsdale was also beaten from distance on the lone Orlando goal of the night, while Turner didn’t concede in the second half.
At minimum, it’s probably safe to say that there’s a competition between the American and Englishman to be the starter in goal against Crystal Palace in the Aug. 5 Premier League season opener. Turner’s distribution and his ability to be aggressive off his line gives a different dimension to his game that Ramsdale.
ARS — own goal (Antonio Carlos) — 5th min.
ORL — Facundo Torres (Antonio Carlos) — 29th min.
ARS — Eddie Nketiah — 66th min.
ARS — Reiss Nelson (Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard) — 80th min.
84th min.: SUBS — Hector Bellerin replaces Nuno Tavares for Arsenal, while two youngsters come on for Orlando. Moises Tablante is in for Benji Michel, and Pato comes out with Thomas Williams filling in.
80th min.: Goal Arsenal! Odegaard again bossing things. He feeds Bukayo Saka who send it in for Reiss Nelson to apply the first-time finish. That was clinical and classy by Arsenal.
Reiss Nelson finishes off a beautiful team move to double Arsenal’s lead over Orlando City! 😍 #afc pic.twitter.com/SV96YCzwAr
79th min.: This Arsenal side has a lot more quality in it now, and it’s showing. Martin Odegaard is very involved and Bukayo Saka takes another shot on goal. Orlando are not even sniffing Matt Turner’s penalty area. New center backs Gabriel and William Saliba have made a difference.
74th min.: SUBS — Eddie Nketiah comes out after an active performance and Reiss Nelson takes his spot. Orlando bring on Jack Lynn for Jake Mulraney.
70th min.: Antonio Carlos with the huge block on Gabriel Jesus in the box after a poor Orlando giveaway. Arsenal have nine shots in this second half, while Orlando are still waiting for their first.
66th min.: Goal Arsenal! Gabriel Jesus has the ball deflected off his feet in the box, and it fell perfectly to Nketiah who pounced, putting it past the ‘keeper for another Arsenal lead.
Eddie Nketiah is quick to react in the box to fire Arsenal ahead against Orlando City! #afc pic.twitter.com/9QrSndiP19
62nd min.: Two Orlando subs — Ruan on for right back Michael Halliday, Tesho Akindele replaces Facundo Torres.
59th min.: More Arsenal subs — William Saliba for Rob Holding at center back, Bukayo Saka for Nicolas Pepe wide right, and midfielders Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka replace Albert Sambi Lokonga and Mohamed Elneny.
58th min.: Eddie Nketiah forces a save! He gathers a beautiful pass from Martin Odegaard and blasts a shot that Pedro Gallese stops for a corner.
52nd min.: Moments after Gabriel Jesus got his first real chance in the Orlando box, the home team threatened on the other end. Jake Mulraney beat his defender and fired on goal, but Arsenal’s Matt Turner stopped it.
46th min.: Second half is underway.
Five subs on for Arsenal: Matt Turner (for Aaron Ramsdale), Gabriel (for Pablo Mari), Odegaard (for Maitland-Niles), Ben White (for Cedric) and Gabriel Jesus (for Gabriel Martinelli).
Orlando made three changes: Rodrigo Schlegel in for Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith comes on for Joao Moutinho at left back and Junior Urso replaces Cesar Araujo.
Halftime: Arsenal got the early goal and it was looking like it would be one of those games for the Gunners. But Orlando stayed with it and stuck to their game plan of absorbing pressure and hitting Arsenal on the counter. The Gunners were on their heels and will have plenty to talk about at halftime. Orlando could have come away with a lead in that first 45 minutes.
47th+ min.: Eddie Nketiah creates a chance. He gets the ball in the box with his back to goal, but he still gets a shot off. That was his chance. We’ll see if he gets to start the second half.
43rd min.: Orlando’s Benji Michel turns Rob Holding like a top. The Arsenal defenders are not covering themselves in glory.
Aaron Ramsdale’s reaction to Orlando City’s equaliser: “F*cking switch on!” #afc pic.twitter.com/IZawn4QHpc
38th min.: What a chance for Orlando! Arsenal’s Nuno Tavares stuffs Orlando’s Facundo Torres in the box after he received a good pass from Pato. Orlando are getting their chances and they’re doing it by stretching the field with long passes from the back.
32nd min.: Orlando’s tactics have worked thus far. They’re waiting for Arsenal to come at them and then hitting them on the break. There are spaces to exploit. The bright spot for Arsenal has been attacking winger Gabriel Martinelli, who’s been very involved in attack.
29th min.: Goal Orlando! Facundo Torres dances around Nuno Tavares and Pablo Mari and fires a left-footed shot that beats an oustretched Ramsdale. Arsenal have looked stretched and were exposed by Orlando.
Facundo Torres scored a beauty against Arsenal 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/tTglGDQbFg
24th min.: Chance Orlando! Benji Michel is 1-on-1 against the ‘keeper and Aaron Ramsdale comes up with the stop on Orlando’s biggest chance of the night.
20th min.: And it’s a yellow for Ainsley Maitland-Niles for stopping a promising attack. He pulled back on Jake Mulraney. A more innocent foul compared to the Jansson tackle.
13th min.: Yellow for Robin Jansson and that was a bad tackle. Orlando’s big center back takes out Nuno Tavares from behind as the Arsenal man was racing forward in transition. But it’s Jansson who’s injured and needs treatment.
10th min.: Chance for Orlando! Ball reaches Pato in the box but his spinning shot goes high as he was falling backward. Arsenal get off the hook.
5th min.: Goal Arsenal! Gabriel Martinelli gets the ball on a give-and-go and fires a shot deflected off the back of defender Antonio Carlos and the goalkeeper had no shot.
Gabriel Martinelli gives Arsenal the lead! 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/AsquAM6go7
1st min.: Arsenal already in the Orlando box through Gabriel Martinelli. Teams were raring to go.
The Captains (C)@Arsenal | #DaleMiAmor pic.twitter.com/9YuikGDNOx
20:24 ET: Kickoff is finally within sight.
No time even for the #AFC players to head back into the dressing room to change. We’re almost ready for kick off now pic.twitter.com/fLiKvHPer6
19:17 ET: Another 15-minute delay has been tacked on. Kickoff is now at 8:30 p.m. ET (20:30 ET / 01:30 UK).
UPDATE: Now set at 7:30 PM for bowl open, 7:40 PM for warmups and 8:30 PM for kickoff if there are no more delays. https://t.co/JbllILCs4L
19:10 ET: So there’s a weather delay in Orlando and kickoff is now set for 8:15 p.m. ET, which amounts to a 45-minute delay.
T̶r̶a̶i̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ Raining hard ☔️
Due to some bad weather, we’re now scheduled to kick off at 8.15pm (ET) pic.twitter.com/NOfId8ddmo
18:00 ET: The Oleksandr Zinchenko deal will not be executed in time for this game. But his versatility will be another welcome addition in what has been a productive offseason of acquisitions for the Gunners.
Arsenal and Manchester City have completed contracts for Oleksandr Zinchenko deal, set to be announced as player left City training camp yesterday in order to join AFC. He’s gonna sign until June 2026. ⚪️🔴🇺🇦 #AFC
Medical tests, contract signature and the official statement. pic.twitter.com/GlTdcp4dWE
17:30 ET: The Gunners will be debuting their new kit in the Orlando friendly.
😍 Arsenal to debut brand new record-breaking kit in Orlando City pre-season friendly. #afc https://t.co/sKfvzOeTdM
Outside of Gabriel Martinelli and Nuno Tavares, the Arsenal lineup has a feel of a second team lineup compared to the one that beat Everton on Saturday.
Only one of the players who was absent against Everton is in contention for the match against Orlando City. Ben White returns to the matchday lineup on the bench, but Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith Rowe, and Fabio Vieira all sat out the first match of the club’s U.S. tour.
Arsenal starting lineup (4-3-3, right to left): 32-Aaron Ramsdale (GK) — 17-Cedric Soares, 16-Rob Holding, 22-Pablo Mari, 20-Nuno Tavares — 15-Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 25-Mohamed Elneny, 23-Albert Sambi Lokonga — 19-Nicolas Pepe, 14-Eddie Nketiah, 11-Gabriel Martinelli
Arsenal subs (14): 30-Matt Turner (GK), 2-Hector Bellerin, 4-Ben White, 6-Gabriel, 12-William Saliba, 97-Reuell Walters, 5-Thomas Partey, 34-Granit Xhaka, 8-Martin Odegaard, 24-Reiss Nelson, 7-Bukayo Saka, 27-Marquinhos, 26-Folarin Balogun, 9-Gabriel Jesus
Orlando City used its depth, including Orlando City B reserve team players, and academy products given it is currently navigating a spell of seven matches in 22 days.
Goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar had jaw surgery in June with a 6-8 week recovery schedule, and Argentine winger Gaston Gonzalez is out with a long-term ACL injury. New signing Nicholas Gioacchini is not yet available for selection.
Orlando City starting lineup (4-4-2, right to left): 1-Pedro Gallese (GK) — 26-Michael Halliday, 25-Antonio Carlos, 6-Robin Jansson, 4-Joao Moutinho — 17-Facundo Torres, 21-Andres Perea, 5-Cesar Araujo, 23-Jake Mulraney — 7-Alexandre Pato, 19-Benji Michel
Orlando City subs (15): 40-Adam Grinwis (GK), 2-Ruan, 24-Kyle Smith, 15-Rodrigo Schlegel, 68-Thomas Williams, 30-Alexander Freeman, 35-Brandon Hackenberg, 32-Wilfredo Rivera, 11-Junior Urso, 51-Moises Tablante, Erick Gunera, 10-Mauricio Pereyra, 13-Tesho Akindele, 27-Jack Lynn, 9-Ercan Kara
MORE: Arsenal’s ‘All or Nothing’ release date on Amazon Prime
UK & Canada: The match can be seen on Arsenal.com in the UK and Canada (£5.99).
USA: The friendly will be streamed on ESPN+ in the USA from Exploria Stadium.
Australia: Fans in Australia can watch the match on Paramount+.
UK: Matches are carried across Sky Sports and BT Sport streaming and TV platforms, with select matches on Amazon Prime.
USA: Select matches are televised on USA Network (English) and Telemundo or Universo (Spanish), and all three channels can be streamed on fuboTV. The rest of the matches are streamed on NBC platform Peacock for subscribers.
Canada: Every Premier League game streams live and on demand exclusively via fuboTV.
Australia: Fans in Australia can stream matches live and on demand on Optus Sport.