Pre-Season thoughts on Arsenal’s squad and who can break through

by Andrew Crawshaw

Pre-Season matches for Arsenal are :-

July 14 – Borehamwood v Arsenal 15:00 Meadow Park Borehamwood

July 26 – Arsenal v Atletico Madrid 19:30 local time (12:30 UK Time) National Stadium Singapore

July 28 – Arsenal v Paris Saint-Germain 19:30 local time (12:30 UK Time) National Stadium Singapore

August 4 – Arsenal v Sevilla 20:00 (local time) Friends Arena,  Stockholm, Sweeden.

Our League season proper starts with a match at the Emirates on the weekend of 11 August against Manchester City.  At the moment it is listed as a 15:00 Saturday kickoff but that is almost certain to change due to TV coverage.

Our first players – those who haven’t been on international duty – are due to return early in July (although it is reported that some have already started training).  All players will return in batches depending on when they played their last match.  Those who played in the knockout stages of the World Cup should return about 28th July, any who’s countries progress further will return after a four week holiday.

Early in July we should expect the following players to begin their pre-season training (I have put them into three lists – likely (at the moment) members of the 25 man senior first team squad, likely members of the First Team Squad under the age of 25 and the fringe players who will be looking to impress sufficiently to force their way into the squad for next season). 

I have also indicated their playing positions, homegrown status (where applicable) and the U21 status for those in the last column.

First Team Squad age 21+ First Team squad U21 Other Players
Aaron Ramsey (MF) (HG) Konstantinos Mavopranos (CB) Carl Jenkinson (RB) (HG)
Andre Lacazette (STR) Ainsley Maitland-Niles (DM) Chuba Akpom (STR) (HG)
Bernd Leno (GK) Joe Willock (MF) Cohen Bramall (LB) (HG)
Calum Chambers (CB) (HG) Jeff Reine-Adelaide (MF) Lucas Perez (STR)
Deyan Iliev (GK) (HG) Joshua DaSilva (MF) Emiliano Martinez (GK) (HG)
Hector Bellerin (RB) (HG) Edward Nketiah (STR) Julio Pleguezuelo (CB) (U21)
Henrikh Mkhitarian (MF) Reiss Nelson (MF) Gedion Zelalem (MF) (U21)
Matt Macey (GK) (HG) Jordi Osei-Tutu (RB) (U21)
Petr Cech (GK) Krystian Bielik (CB) (U21)
Pierre-Emerick Obameyang (STR) Ben Sheaf (CB) (U21)
Rob Holding (CB) (HG) Stephy Mavididi (STR) (U21)
Sead Kolasinac (LB) Tolaji Bola (LB) (U21)
Skhodran Mustafi (CB) Vlad Dragomir (MF) (U21)

The players in these lists will form the squad who will play in our four pre-season games.  It is just possible that players returning from the World Cup group stages will be fit enough for our season opener against Man City but I wouldn’t expect them ready any sooner.

For many of the players in the third column it is probably their last chance to show that they have a future at the club. and so  I want to have a look at them in a little more detail.  Firstly there are five players who are over 21 and would have to have places in our 25 man senior squad

Carl Jenkinson (HG) – Carl is, in my opinion, something of a journeyman of a right back.  A Gooner through and through, but he hasn’t shown the extra quality to displace Hector.  I would expect him to leave the club during the summer

Chuba Akpom (HG) – Chuba has been a prolific goalscorer coming up through the youth ranks but has rarely shown that kind of form when he has been out on loan.  However in his last loan spell at Charlton he showed signs of recovering his mojo.  Will need a really stellar pre-season to retain any hopes of making the breakthrough to the first team.  Likely to be sold.

Cohen Bramall (HG) – had a fairy tale come true when he came to Arsenal.  He is a really pacey left winger but still very raw.  Like Chuba will need a stellar pre-season to show that he has what it takes.  I’m not sure of his contract situation, could go out on loan but more likely to be released on a free transfer.  An experiment that didn’t really work out.

Lucas Perez – His few appearances for Arsenal showed him to be a willing striker but not significantly better than Danny Wellbeck and certainly not in the same bracket as either Lacazette or Obameyang.  Likely to be sold this summer I think.

Emilliano Martinez (HG) – Now 26 years old and a final decision on his future needs to be taken.  As we have just paid a lot of money for Bernd Leno who is slightly younger, the writing is on the wall for his future at the club.  His future is also tied in with Ospina and Cech.  One for the coaches to decide on during pre-season.  I wouldn’t be surprised at him leaving (but there again I wouldn’t be unduly surprised if he stays).

Now some 20 year olds so young enough to be retained for a further year

Julio Pleguezuelo – A small centre back who has also been used as a defensive midfielder.  He has been captain at U18, U21 and U23 levels.  Having said that I can’t see him forcing his way into the first team as a CB.  If he can show that he can fill the missing DM slot during pre-season then he might stand a chance of a place in the squad for this season.  Another player who I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he left this summer.

Gedion Zelalem – a player who, like Jack, has phenomenal potential and has been blighted with serious injuries over the last few seasons.  Still has a wonderful eye for an attacking pass and, if fit and robust enough for the PL, could be a wonderful asset.  He will need to show that he is ready for the PL during this pre-season otherwise he is likely to be sold.

Krystian Bielik – came to us as a Defensive Midfielder but has spent most of his time as a Centre Back.  Has probably outgrown U23 football but is too far down the pecking order to take one of the first team Centre Back places.  May well have another year out on loan but also could be sold.

Ben Sheaf – Another Centre Back/Midfielder whose path to the first team seems to be blocked.  Like Krystian could well be loaned out or be allowed to leave.

Kelechi Nwakali – a Nigerian born midfielder.  He doesn’t yet qualify for a work permit in the UK.  He will spend next season on loan to Dutch team MVV  Maastricht.

Stephy Mavidididi – a prolific striker throughout his youth career, he has had a series of loan spells where he hasn’t found things quite so easy.  He has now returned to the club to find Eddie Nketiah who is younger than him is now ahead of him.  Will need a good pre-season to show he has regained his Mojo.  Likely to have another loan.

I am now coming to some of our younger players who will be looking to force themselves into the reckoning for inclusion into the first team squad and possible starts in the cup competitions.

Jordi Osei-Tutu – is a 19 year old Right Back.  He is larger and stronger than Hector but not quite as fast.  Likely to remain with the club as a mainstay of the U23 squad and will almost certainly feature in some capacity for the first team squad during the season.  Will probably take over from Lichtsteiner in a year or so.  Definitely a player to look out for.

Tolaji Bola – is also 19.  He can play as either Centre Back or, (more usually) Left Back.  Like Jordi he will likely be retained, play with the U23s but feature at some point for the first team squad.  I see him as a replacement for Nacho in a year or two.  Another player with a big future.

Vlad Dragomir – is still eligible to play for the U18s but has long outgrown that level of football.  He plays as an attacking midfielder and is someone I really would like to succeed at the club.  I believe he is currently weighing up his options seeing if he has a better option for the next phase of his development away from the club.  If he does go I would like the Club to have a buy-back clause in his contract.

Finally a player not likely to feature for the first team any time soon but 16 year old goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo has signed his Scholarship deal.  Already 6ft 4inches tall he has a big future.  It does mean that we have too many goalkeepers at U18 level though so that is another problem for the future.

It will be interesting to see what happens.  Not long to go before the first match at Borehamwood.




14 Replies to “Pre-Season thoughts on Arsenal’s squad and who can break through”

  1. Andrew

    As I said before about Martinez, good news for him is that Unai Emery has promoted Alphonse Areola to the first goalkeeper at PSG despite having two international goalkeepers (Kevin Trapp and Salvatore Sirigu) in front of him at the pecking order. Areola had spent a few years on loans at different clubs before getting and seizing the opportunity to show his quality. Same might happen with Martinez despite Leno and Čech/Ospina.

    It’s interesting to notice last two pre-season games are against Mr Emery’s previous two clubs (PSG and Sevilla).

  2. A good time for the fringe and youth players to step up eithwr securing moves away or the places up for grabs in the first team set up.

    PSG and Athletico will have a raft of players unavailable, so it is quite possible to consider winning the series of ties, to help build momentum before the season proper starts and to further enhance the reputation of the club.

    With Ospina, Monreal, Welbeck away at the World Cup it will be an opportunity for players in these positions to step up and see if they can make these players surplus to requirements. A situation which would favour the clubs pocket and in my opinion, ensure we looked for upgrades witht he finances recouped, whilst affording younger men opportunity, and spurring these men onto a new stage in their careers.

    IN my opinion, Monreal should join Santi at Villereal, Welbeck would be a worth candidate for West Ham or Everton, S’Hampton could use some goals too. Meanwhile Ospina should certainly be looking to secure first team football, he may be inclined to secure UK habitual Residency and as much as I would be loathe to see him put in the displays Fabianski has against us, I ould bot begrudge him the success in his personal and career life.

    With Iwobi given cause to redress his focus at National level, with the higher demands of international football. Ozil going through similar pains as the afore mentioned 22 year old, Xhaka doing likewise and Elneny given an othr opprtunity to test himself at the highest levels, Unai Emery can consider their absences a blessing as he looks at the ways in which the current crop can be set up in different formations and with different mandates for varying situations.

    Of the following list, I believe that Jenkinson, Martinez and Perez could find themselves the sole casualties of the axe man. I am certain Chuba has a tonne of talent, but has some similar issues mentally to one Arsenal Born Andy Cole, whilst Brammal, a Wing Back of considerable pace, nees to sharpen up his game defensively, something Hector had to do, but I do honestly believe that he is more than capable and worth registration, he would be my third choice behind Diallo and Kolasinac, vying for game time with Niles, who I would deploy as a mobile ball winning midfielder to see out games and afford first choice players rest.

    Carl Jenkinson (RB) (HG)
    Chuba Akpom (STR) (HG)
    Cohen Bramall (LB) (HG)
    Lucas Perez (STR)
    Emiliano Martinez (GK) (HG)
    Julio Pleguezuelo (CB) (U21)
    Gedion Zelalem (MF) (U21)
    Jordi Osei-Tutu (RB) (U21)
    Krystian Bielik (CB) (U21)
    Ben Sheaf (CB) (U21)
    Stephy Mavididi (STR) (U21)
    Tolaji Bola (LB) (U21)
    Vlad Dragomir (MF) (U21)

    We will surely need to loan out some GK’s however I would prefer the best in age category stays at the club, with Macey likely becoming number 2. Martinez could be loaned out or remain as third choice, provided Leno is a lot more aware of the youngers mens need to develop than Cech demonstrated.

    Very happy Arthur extended, sensible boy. Yassine, Max?

  3. @Josif,

    The game in Sweden was due to be against Chelsea before they became engaged in a meaningless non-trophy game at Wembley.

  4. thanks for the review, andrew
    i’d add two lads (tongue-twister, isn’t it?) to your u21 list: amaechi who, should both perez and campbell walk away – which seems very likely -, would become the only left-footed attacking player used to shining in the right-wing position; and smith-rowe (am i the only one thinking there is something cruijff-esque about the lad?)

  5. @ Le Gall

    I agree with you about both of those youngsters. Both are great prospects and insure this time next year I will be ‘bugging them up’ as hot prospects for 2019/20. I think they need another season at U23 Level first though

    At the moment we are blessed with a great group of younger players and I’m sure Freddie is looking forward to working with them as they work their way towards the first team.

    In truth I think that a number of our first team stars will be under pressure from the youngsters over the next couple of years. Maybe that’s why we have been looking at older players this window, bringing them in as stop gaps till the youngsters are ready. Sp-rs have hit the jackpot with some of their academy players at the moment, I hope it is our turn next.

  6. VAR ! what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

    Say it again – VAR what is it good for ? Absolutely nothing.

  7. Menace, back to your old ways I see.

    SO The World Cup is shaping up nicely, after a wobbly start, Luis Suarez & Company, become the first team to qualify on maximum points, whilsts Portugals mercurial talent, somewhat contraversially avoids a red card as Spain somehow qualify top of the group, as a result of goals scored, whilst Iran can fee hard done by after they failed to seize the opportunity to knock out the World Player Of The Year.

    Meaning Uraguay will face Portugal, in the last 16, whilst Spain will have to face upsetting the Furer, sorry I mean Despot, sorry, sorry, The Impaler, Oh I’m so bad at his-story, I meant Vladamir Putin.

    Either the hosts or one of the Tournaments favourites will be leaving, don’t bet against Russia, ho have been able to produce some excellent football, but it may be a case of blowing your wad early, with three of their players having clocked up the miles in games 1 & 2.

    France will be looking to finish with 9/9 points, which would see Australia progress if they can send the Peruvians home with nothing. You’d expect the French to rotate and come out with 3 points, however the other group fixture is far from determined before kick off,with both teams a little toothless and fragile.

    Either way France will have qualified and as likely Group Winners, meaning they will face either Nigeria or Argentina, whilst Crotia will play Denmark or Australia. Nigeria will be desperate to progress, but so will Messi, Ahmed Musa can pose some serius problems for that seemingly forever disorganised back line, whilst Iwobi will hope to find himself amongst the World Cup goal scorers. However, Messi is sure to have other ideas in mind, will he turn up on the international stage this time?

    Brazil lead Sitzerland on goald difference, and this one is going to matter with Serbia lurking with the intent. The Serbians who border no less than six other nations, could progress with a win or draw, potentially stealing top spot with a win, should the Swiss abstain from taking maximum points, whilst should they lose a draw would be enough, provided the Serbs can muster a score draw. Wednesday will be an important day in South America, with one of the worlds largest countries not so much as waiting expectantly, but simply expecting. In Brazil, they don’t think about qualifying, they expect to take the golden orb home every 4 years, in fact it should merely resde in the true perennial home of football.

    With Costa Rica already eliminated, and this being Granit Xhaka territory, shoot on sight policy could be what is required to unlock those pesky Ticos. I anticipate the Swiss will have a significantly easier task than the Braziians, who may well be advised to leave star men at home and opt for safety first, injuries at this stage would be costly, especially if Neymar, Gabriel Jesus or Coutinho were to fall victim to a particularly robust challenge. Switzerland grabbing 3 more pints to bring their total to 7 seems likely, but Brazil could progress with a draw, but don’t count out those rather workman like Serbs, however don’t hols your breath, this is the kind of fixture in which unbiased officials can easily decide the fate of a country.

    Group Winners of the E will play runners up from group F and well, it looks likely to be Germany, who face Korea’s Republic who like Panama have managed a solitary goal and a zero points haul. Whilst current group leaders will face Sweden who left everything on thepitch in their last clash, only to be undone by Kroos 5 mins into 5 minutes of correcty added stoppage time.

    As I said, wining both groups could be key to making through the round of 16, but in all honesty, the Mexicans are on song, bouyed by the manner of their opening win against World Cup Holders Germany (see: Arsenal’s opening fixtures) and suely wont lose to Sweden, Whilst Germany have one of the most seasoned cast of technicians on display, with a few young sprats thrown in, Boateng being unavailable will probably be a Godsend as Yogi Bear, switches his team to fit the progression of the Tournament, something he managed over the last 2 World Cups exceptionally well. either way I don’t expect to see Draxler, Kroos, Reus or Mueller start. a midfield of Ikay, Sami, in support of Ozil should be enuogh, with Mario Gomez in need of a start. Oh how Sane would have come in Handy, but then again the scorer of the last World Cups winning goal isn’t even present in the squad.

    If Germany were to progress and get Brazil, I could see them again inflicting serious damage against their old rivals. Similarly I think the Swiss make up is sufficient to dispatch the Mexicans. But I think Germany will face Mexico and the Swiss the Brazilians. And I think both underdogs could cause upsets if that were the outcome of the draw. Sorry Serbia, yes I have written you out of the script already. It;s up to you to prove your critics wrong. No I sound like Harry Kane, do they give him scripts to lisp? Granted he is the best 9 at the World CUp, but then again the competiton is an aging Sergio Aguerro and Robert Lewandowski, although if Zlatan had gone, he might argue otherwise, whilst uis Suarez and Cavani aren’t yet over the hill, they aren’t exactly about to break any sprint records set by Dybala and Neymar is in that awkward Walcott situation, he’s 7 of 9.

    And last but by no means least, England and Belgium have progressed through the easiest group of the lot, and are now due to face off. With identical records England sit top because? No really, does anyone know? Either way, Harry Kane is after another Glden Boot and since Ramos took out the last guy who stuped him, he has a shot (Beware CR7 and his will, this is what he wants more than his own son to breathe likely right now).

    Irrespective, Gareth is about to become one of Englands most successful managers in the history of England Management, because only someone incredibly special could fail to make the Qtr Finals. OK sorry wait, scratch that, Winning the Group is important, beause I simply cannot see Senegal starving the Columbian attack, especially with all those beautiful fans (Shakira included) cheering them on. Whilst Poland may have something to say about the top spot, as we pit brute force, against fleet footed dexterity as Poland face off against Japan. Ok maybe not, I expect Japan to get 3 points, running around the Polish picking up free kicks for Kesuke and Shinji to fight over, whilst covering the Polskis in red and yellow, in Celebratin of Columbia’s charity. Whilst Columbia despatch the North-West Africans, like pale faced Colonists. Cue a joke from Alan ‘the east end racist’ Sugar, with a Lordship, seriously if they are giving them to racists and bigots, and anyone with a modicum of sporting ablity, and Kenny Dalglish (haha), well I soooo, obviously deserve one and a shield, and a title, and some land, but we can get to that later.

    So yet again winning your group could be a curse, as if I am right Japan will finish top with Columbia second. And they wont decide that until Thursday with England and Belgium teeing off on Tuesday. Who’s better at their Job, Ospina or Kane, I think non English Supporting Arsenal fans could be in for a treat. Although I am not quite ready for England to crash out and Belgium will probably think they can take and will take either opppnent in the next round.

    In fact I could see them relishing the fight against Columbia and with Michu failing to impress and Kane seemingly thinking momentum and personal accolades are preferable to a spot of rest. This could very well, be an interesting development.

    Belgium to let this one go, with Kompany, Vermaelen, Dembele, Feilani, Januzaj, Telemans, Chadli, Benteke and Bashuayi coming into a revised 4-4-2.

    When they don’t rig the pots, you get some interesting head to heads, with small fry proving that demographic and race do really affect, mentality, physique and bring about an interesting host of atributes, to test against one another.

  8. Andrew

    Did you miss that the Arsenal v Chelsea game is now being played on 1 August in Dublin?

  9. VAR helps correct more wrong decisions than it actually causes. Is that a bad thing?

  10. Can’t help but muse that we might just be lucky to be playing teams with about as many players at the World Cup as we do, the first two fixtures. A newly promoted side or one at the bottom of the Premier League with a full pre-season to prepare would be tricky.

  11. I think Perez was a much better goal scorer than Welbeck but contributed less in every other way. Never the less he only left because he was unhappy with the amount of playing time he was getting and started moaning in the media about it. If (a big IF!) he understands that he still won’t be 1st choice and he’s prepared to be a back-up player then I’d happily have him in the squad.

  12. Tools are only as good as the operator. VAR is useless in the hands of idiots. If an official cannot see the difference between deliberate & incidental/accidental handball then any amount of technology will not get the correct result.

    The words used for VAR what is it good for come from a song in late 60s/70s about War. Substitute War for VAR & you get the original lyric.

  13. Menace/Gooner Mikey

    VAR or WAR

    Originally written in 1969 as a Vietnam anti war song by Whitfield and Strong for Motown favourites, The Temptations, solely as an Album track.

    But following requests for it to be released as a single, Whitfield, the original vocalist, re worked it, and it actually became a big hit for Edwin Star.

    This still being, in my humble opinion, the best version of the song.

    That being said, being a little too young to of been aware of the original at the time, I only became aware of the song when it was covered by Frankie Goes to Holywood on there mega hit album ‘Welcome to the Pleasure Dome’ in 1984.

    It was also covered by Bruce Springsteen in 1986, unsurprisingly given the similar anti Vietnam War sentiments of his own 1984 hit ‘Born in the USA’.

    So there you have it. An anti WAR song being used as an ant VAR song. Very aposite.

    My thoughts on VAR, for what it’s worth.

    Not perfect, but as Gooner Mikey says, overall it corrects far more wrong decisions than it causes, so that has to be a good thing doesn’t it ?

    But as you also suggest Menace, it’s only as good as the hands it is in and in the hands of the odious PigMob it is likely to be a dissaster, especially for us.

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