New Arsenal signing Rob Holding pressed his claims to deputise for the injured Per Mertesacker during the opening weeks of the 2016/17 Premier League campaign by netting a first goal for the club in a 3-1 pre-season friendly victory over Chivas de Guadalajara at the StubHub Center on Sunday evening (31 July). The 20-year-old, who completed a £2m ($2.6m) switch from Bolton Wanderers last month, broke the deadlock in California with a tap-in from close range after defensive partner Calum Chambers had squared skipper Santi Cazorla's deep free-kick to the back post.
Although Arsene Wenger has reiterated that he does expect to sign a new defender before the Gunners begin the new domestic campaign at home to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool on 14 August, Holding and Chambers are both understandably eager to prove they are worthy of a regular starting berth. Defensive midfielders Francis Coquelin and particularly Krystian Bielik have also spent time as makeshift centre-backs in the Unites States with Gabriel absent from the tour due to tonsillitis and Laurent Koscielny still resting after helping France to reach the final of Euro 2016.
Arsenal have also been linked with a move for Valencia's German international Shkodran Mustafi after compatriot Mertesacker was ruled out for a "few months" following surgery on a serious knee injury sustained during a 1-1 draw with RC Lens.
Addressing that substantial blow over the weekend, Wenger, who has signed three players so far this summer in Granit Xhaka, Takuma Asano and Holding, said: "Certainly I don't count that Per will be back before the end of the year. I will miss him deeply. He is a leader on the pitch and off. We [have lost] a heavyweight in our dressing room."
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also proved his worth against Chivas, embarking upon a mazy run down the right-hand flank five minutes after the break before cutting inside his marker with an audacious backheel and coolly wrapping a low, left-footed shot past goalkeeper Jose Antonio Rodriguez. The England midfielder is bidding to regain his place in the starting XI after missing the final two months of last season and being ruled out of contention for the European Championship due to successive knee injuries.
Striker Chuba Akpom completed the scoring for Arsenal shortly before the hour mark, getting ahead of the defender to prod in his second effort in as many games after good combination work between Mathieu Debuchy and Coquelin.
The former was later at fault for Chivas' consolation, tripping Alejandro Zendejas and allowing Angel Zaldivar to reduce the deficit from the penalty spot. Wenger's side, who beat the Major League Soccer (MLS) All-Stars on Friday, head to the Norwegian city of Stavanger later this week for a friendly clash with Viking FK before rounding off pre-season against Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in Gothenburg.