Yesterday we looked at the players who will be free to gather together as pre-season training starts. Today is seems confirmed that we can add one more to the list – Takuma Asano.
We’ll discuss Arsenal’s latest acquisition in the next article, but first, former Arsenal player and now Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon, (author of The Arsenal Yankee) reveals what pre-season can be like for a young player at Arsenal.
By Danny Karbassiyoon
We may be only just getting to the business end of Euro 2016, but many professional footballers worldwide will be reporting back to their clubs for the start of the new season ahead.
The end of one season, ensuing summer break, and inevitable preseason that followed always seemed to go by too fast. The last day of the season generally marked the end of a tough year of ups and downs, hard work on the training ground, and days in hotels, coaches, or planes – a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding cycle that would abruptly come to a halt on the final day of the season.
I was ecstatic to go home when my first professional season came to an end in May of 2004. I’d been home just once in 10 months and was eager to switch off for a bit and see all my friends and family.
That first year had been an interesting one, and though I was buzzing to be home again after so long away, I quickly realized I couldn’t wait for the new season to start. In fairness, I didn’t really have to wait long. The Invincibles wrapped up their incredible season on May 15th, and I was on a flight back to the States on the 16th. I was expected to be back in for preseason on July 5th, which meant I’d have the final two weeks of May to really relax and the month of June to focus on getting fit again and prepared for the season – a “pre-pre-season” of sorts.
Many people often speak about the importance of players getting a ‘good pre-season under their belts,’ and it can’t be stressed enough. During my first year at Arsenal, I tore my groin while away on international duty and was forced to miss the end of pre-season and the start of the season. The momentum I’d gathered physically suddenly stopped and I had to hit the reset button at a time when everyone around me seemed to be flying.
Because it was my first season and I was busy dealing with settling into life in London, adjusting to life as a pro, and managing my injury, I failed to realize just how important preseason could be for young pros specifically.
For established players, preseason is all about getting match-fit and getting back into a rhythm with teammates, both old and new. For young pros, pre-season is an opportunity to show the staff that you belong at the club and that you are capable of playing in and amongst the first team.
I think that is what I love about football so much. The speed at which things can change with regards to careers is remarkable. Young pros may come into a season with a goal of establishing themselves in the reserves or 21’s, but after a strong pre-season and possibly a couple of injuries that force a manager to have to take risks and make big decisions, one or two of those same young pros can find themselves featuring week in and week out for the first team.
Pre-season gives managers an opportunity to play youngsters that have performed well in training a chance to play alongside established pros, often in big stadiums in front of big crowds. There’s no easy transition from youth team or reserve team football into first team football, but preseason matches help bridge the gap into competitive first team fixtures. For young players, it is also a great opportunity to build confidence and belief in their ability.
After a difficult first year at Arsenal, I returned for my second pre-season excited to really push on. I had an excellent first couple of weeks and it quickly earned me a spot in our first pre-season match against Barnet at the Underhill.
A year prior, I wasn’t anywhere close to that first pre-season fixture on the calendar. With a solid pre-season under my belt and the confidence of the staff behind me, I lined up next to guys like Bergkamp, Reyes, Parlour, and more. Knowing the Boss and his assistants wanted me on the left side of defense, even if it was a pre-season match against Barnet, meant a lot to me, and it really built a positive base for me to push on with and make my debut later on that season.
Quite a bit can be learned about a player when he’s thrown into a match like that, surrounded by first teamers. Is he strong enough? Can he play quick enough? Does he let the circumstances get to him or is it just another game? How does he handle shortcomings or failures in the match? The players that are able to cope with the above and put in solid performances are afforded more chances. Perhaps managers think they fall just short of the current standard of the first team, but could improve their weaknesses by going out on loan.
All that comes with a solid pre-season, though. Of course players can emerge throughout different points of a season, but the importance of preseason can’t be stressed enough and always provides an exciting platform for fans, players, and staff alike to see who could potentially push on to make an impact in the near future.
Danny’s book, The Arsenal Yankee, (with a Foreword by Arsene Wenger) is available direct from Untold Arsenal as a paperback and from Amazon on Kindle.
- Who will be playing in the early pre-season games: a timescale for returns for the new season
- Deal done, deal almost done, deal undone, deal redone, Deal that was done is now a town in Kent
- Why we need experts to run football clubs
Up next ... Welcome Takuma Asano.