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.
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