Leandro Trossard can be Arsenal's X-Factor: Five things we learned as Belgian sensation leads the Gunners to win over Barcelona in eight-goal thriller

Leandro Trossard Arsenal 2023-24
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The Belgian winger scored two wonderful goals to guide Mikel Arteta's side past the Barca in a testy contest in Los Angeles

Given the signing of Kai Havertz and the continued excellence of both Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, it might have seemed like opportunities would be limited for Leandro Trossard at Arsenal this season. However, if his form in pre-season so far is anything to go by, it is going to be difficult for Mikel Arteta to leave him out.

Trossard scored twice in a 5-3 win for the Gunners over Barcelona in Los Angeles on Wednesday, as the Premier League side came from behind to secure what turned out to be a thrilling win despite the pre-season vibes.

Barca took the lead through Robert Lewandowski, who pounced on a rebound and scuffed his effort over Aaron Ramsdale and into the net, before Saka levelled things soon after, seizing onto an Andreas Christensen miscue and finishing from close range.

The winger could've added a second in quick succession but skewed a penalty wide of the post, and Raphinha gave his team the lead back 15 minutes later, whipping a free-kick into the bottom corner after a heavy deflection. Havertz provided the Arsenal response on the stroke of half-time, latching onto a Martin Odegaard header to find the corner.

Then Trossard took over. He put the Gunners ahead early in the second half with a fine cut and finish. He added his second to kill the game, guiding a volley into the bottom corner off a Kieran Tierney cross. Ferran Torres did pull one back, but a curler from Fabio Viera in the dying moments settled things.

Still, this night was about Trossard, an ever-improving player who could be crucial if Arsenal are to push Manchester City in the Premier League title race yet again this season.

GOAL looks at what we learned during the clash at So-Fi Stadium...

  1. Saka magic is back!

    Saka magic is back!

    Yes, he missed a penalty, but this was an otherwise mesmerising showing from the England winger. He scored his side's first with an opportunistic poke and spent the remainder of the contest teasing Marcos Alonso. Sometimes, he went to the by-line. Others, he cut inside. It all culminated in a handful of chances, and constant danger for Barcelona to deal with.

    This wasn't a perfect night, though. Saka blasted one over in the second half, and sometimes saw his passing lanes cut off by an incessant Barca backline. Still, Saka managed to find his angles and ensured that his opposing number never had a second to rest.

    Arsenal have something of a restructured side here, with different midfield configurations, and perhaps a new right-back playing behind him. If there were any fears about Saka's level of play taking a hit, though, they weren't given any merit here.

  2. Raphinha gets back among the goals

    Raphinha gets back among the goals

    Raphinha is something of a polarising figure among Barcelona fans. At times, the former Leeds man can be brilliant, scoring goals and setting up team-mates. But he's too often invisible, failing to impact play. Wednesday was one of his better days, though, as he gave his side the lead, and was generally dangerous against Arsenal's new-signing Jurrien Timber.

    His goal was an opportunistic one, a speculative free-kick deflecting in via the chest of Odegaard, and although he failed to bag another, Raphinha was something of a handful all evening. A switch to centre-forward on occasion didn't phase him, either. He's not a natural there, but still made the right runs, and ensured that Arsenal's backline never had a second to rest.

    The Blaugrana seem stuck in the transfer market when it comes to attacking additions, and likely won't bring anyone else in. This is an opportunity for Raphinha, then, to properly prove his worth to the team. The early signs look good.

  3. Trossard has a massive part to play

    Trossard has a massive part to play

    If Saka was good on the right wing, Trossard was even better on the left. The former Brighton man seemed like a shrewd signing in January, and he proved to be, offering valuable backup at multiple positions for an increasingly tiring Arsenal side.

    But he might be even more important this season. Gabriel Martinelli faded towards the end of last campaign, losing his legs slightly after an intense period, and ensuring the exciting Brazilian stays fresh for the biggest occasions will be on Arteta's mind. To that end, Trossard should get more opportunities.

    On Wednesday, Trossard turned and twisted his way around first Sergino Dest and then Sergi Roberto, teasing opponents and sending angled crosses into the Barcelona box. He was also clinical in front of goal, one guided strike giving Arsenal a 3-2 lead on the night, a second putting the game beyond doubt.

  4. Barca's new boys fail to impress

    Barca's new boys fail to impress

    It's only pre-season, and these things take time, but Barcelona fielded two new signings here, and neither performed particularly well. Ilkay Gundogan was deployed in centre-midfield alongside Pedri, a theoretically dominant duo in the middle, but the former Man City man struggled to get involved in the contest, and was simply outrun by Odegaard and Arsenal's fearsome press.

    Oriol Romeu's showing was even more worrying. This was never supposed to be a game-changing acquisition, but he might just have to be a regular following the departure of Sergio Busquets to Inter Miami. And if this was a trial run, Xavi will have a lot to think about. Romeu only completed four passes, and gave the ball away on a handful of occasions.

    There will perhaps be a signing or two to come, despite Barcelona's financial limitations in the transfer market. Still, they don't have loads of cash to throw around. Those that have come in will have to adapt quickly.

  5. Dest won't be a Barca player for much longer

    Dest won't be a Barca player for much longer

    The stats made for grim reading. In 45 minutes, Dest touched the ball six times, didn't complete a pass, and lost all three of his duels. He was torched and twisted by the slower, but admittedly trickier, Trossard. He was consistently out of position, and culpable for a handful of chances.

    Dest can perhaps be forgiven for his poor showing. Here is a bright talent devoid of opportunities, a player with clear quality who has never quite become a regular in Catalunya. A loan move to AC Milan, something that Xavi hoped would revitalise his career, didn't offer much, either.

    Dest now finds himself with a massive decision to make. Xavi has acknowledged in the past that the door is open for the United States international to leave. Dest, for his part, has given no indication that he wants to go. But with first-team opportunities limited, it's difficult to see what might keep him at Camp Nou.