Arsenal 5-3 Barcelona (Jul 26, 2023) Game Analysis – ESPN

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Arsenal signed off their preseason tour of the United States with a 5-3 win over Barcelona in a feisty friendly at SoFi Stadium.

Robert Lewandowski gave the La Liga side a seventh-minute lead before Bukayo Saka equalised in a first half punctuated by a plethora of rough tackles.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Saka missed a penalty to give the Gunners — whose owners, Kroenke Sports Enterprises, also count the Los Angeles Rams among their sports teams — a lead they would have deserved but instead Barca scored next as Raphinha’s deflected free-kick beat Aaron Ramsdale.

Kai Havertz turned the ball home from close range before a brace from Leandro Trossard — who impressed throughout — put Arsenal 4-2 in front. Ferran Torres replied for Barcelona but Fabio Vieira capped a victory Mikel Arteta’s side merited for their overall performance in front of 70,223 fans.

Kai Havertz celebrates after scoring Arsenal's second goal in their win over Barcelona.
Kai Havertz celebrates after scoring Arsenal’s second goal in their win over Barcelona.

David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images


Midfielder Declan Rice was left out as a precaution due to a minor calf issue but fellow new-signing Jurrien Timber started at left-back with Ben White on the opposite flank and Kai Havertz in midfield.

Barcelona named Pedri, Lewandowski and recent arrival Ilkay Gundogan from the outset and the preseason friendly feel evaporated almost immediately as defender Ronald Araujo launched into two heavy tackles on Gabriel Jesus inside the opening five minutes.

Arsenal started the better but fell behind on seven minutes when Martin Odegaard lost possession and Abde Ezzalzouli broke at speed, bursting upfield to cross for Raphinha to shoot from close range.

Gunners goalkeeper Ramsdale made a fine save to deny the former Leeds winger but Lewandowski was on hand for a simple finish.

The Gunners equalised six minutes later as a Saka pounced on a loose touch from Andreas Christensen in the box to finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Saka then had the chance to fire Arsenal ahead after Araujo handled in the box but he dragged his penalty wide of ter Stegen’s left-hand post.

Araujo was eventually booked for another late tackle, this time on Havertz, but Arsenal kept pushing forward and equalised two minutes before the break after more good work from Saka.

His right-wing cross found Odegaard and the Norway international headed an effort towards goal which Havertz stabbed home.

Arsenal introduced Emile Smith Rowe for Havertz at the break but Barcelona altered their entire lineup, introducing Ousmane Dembele, Frenkie de Jong, and Ansu Fati in a completely different 11.

It was Saka, however, who continued to be at the heart of the action, side-footing over when found unmarked inside the box by Jesus six minutes after the restart.

For all Arsenal’s intricate passing — and notable regular rotation of positions — it was a route one move which gave them the lead.

Ramsdale launched it forward to Jesus and Barca defender Eric Garcia’s covering header only found Trossard. The former Brighton forward worked the ball onto his left foot and took aim with a low drive which beat goalkeeper Inaki Pena into the far corner.

Dembele hit the post with 15 minutes left as Barcelona went in search of an equaliser but Arsenal struck just two minutes later as substitute Kieran Tierney crossed for Trossard to find the net with a smart first-time finish.

There was still time for Alejandro Balde to hit the post for Barcelona before Torres side-footed home after a mistake by substitute Rob Holding but Vieira had the last laugh, curling in a fine effort from the edge of the box.

Arsenal host Monaco in the Emirates Cup next week while Xavi Hernandez’s side will look to bounce back against Real Madrid in Texas on Saturday.

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