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By Bulldog Drummond
The naming of the 25 man squad for the Champions League is of particular interest because it comes after the season has got underway, and indeed comes later than the registration of the Premier League players. As such we look out for youngsters suddenly appearing in the list, and injured players whose appearance must mean they are not far from a return.
Goalkeepers : Aaron Ramsdale, David Raya, James Hillson (3 players)
The final name here, James Hillson, has been with Arsenal since 2019 when he joined from Reading. Unless there is a serious injury he’ll probably not play in the European games but is there to learn the experience, which suggests Arsenal are holding him in very high regard, as he held this position in the Europa squad last season (see below).
Defenders : Cedric, Lino Sousa, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ben White, Gabriel, Jakub Kiwior, William Saliba (8 players)
Lino Sousa has squad number 96 and is 18 years old, having joined Arsenal in December 2001. He’s a left-back who came from West Bromwich last season having represented England at under-15 and under-16 level, but is also eligible to play for Portugal. He trained with the first team through much of last season. There is obviously no place for Jurriën Timber as he is expected to be out for much of the season.
Cedric Soares however is in the squd, despite everyone saying he was about to leave. The excuse doing the rounds is that “the Gunners could not find a club to take him,” but that seems unlikely given that he is now in the first-team squad.
Midfielders : Mohamed Elneny, Jorginho, Thomas Partey, Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard, Kai Havertz, Fabio Vieira, Emile Smith Rowe. (8 players)
Mo Elneny is the surprise, given that none of the websites that look to pick up on injuries have any news about him returning. He is now 31, so if he does recover fully from his injury he could have a few years left at the top level. But it is also possible that Arteta sees him as a valuable person within the squad supporting younger players etc. The first indication we’ll get is when he turns up on the bench.
Clubs can add previously injured players to the list as time goes by, providing the limit of 25 is not exceeded so the inclusion of Elneny now does suggest that he has a serious part to play with the club in this season, be it on or off the pitch.
The inclusion of Emile Smith Rowe confirms once more that he has not been rejected from the squad, and that he is still in the manager’s mind. He’s now 23, so certainly not one of the youngsters, and it may be that the club is looking to give him some time on the pitch in the occasional easier game – if there are any.
Forwards : Leandro Trossard, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Jesus (6 players)
Including Reiss Nelson is again a statement that he is still in the manager’s thoughts. He’s now 23 and obviously is expecting to play.
Thus we can see that all 25 places are used up. Now of course it may be argued that one or two of the players included in the list are simply there to make up the 25, but that does not ring true with the way Arteta works. With him, everything seems to be part of a plan, although often a plan that only becomes clear later on.
And just to see how times move on here is the squad for the Europa League at the start of last season.
Goalkeepers: Aaron Ramsdale, Matt Turner*, James Hillson.
Defenders: Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba, Rob Holding*, Cedric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Kieran Tierney.
Midfielders: Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard, Fabio Vieira, Sambi Lokonga*, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka*, Matt Smith*.
Forwards: Gabriel Jesus, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Marquinhos*.
*The asterisk shows the players who were in the squad last season for the Europa League but are not this season: Turner, Holding, Lokonga, Xhaka, Smith, Marquinhos. A total of six players – quite a turnover in fact
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