The Arsenal first-team will finally get their pre-season underway tomorrow afternoon when they take on an Indonesian Dream Team in the first of four fixtures scheduled for their now-annual pre-season tour of Asia. Eight players from outside the first-team squad have been included and below we assess their varying aims during this trip.
With Vito Mannone having departed on a permanent basis, Martinez will be seeking to seize his opportunity on his first pre-season tour and will hope to be installed as the club’s third-choice goalkeeper by the end of the summer. There is still the possibility that a new goalkeeper could be brought in, but, after being patient for several years, the window of opportunity may be about to open for the Argentinian.
Like Martinez, Miquel finds himself on the cusp of the first-team squad having already featured 14 times for the senior side. The Spaniard will effectively be Arsenal’s third choice centre-back on tour in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen and will seek to show Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff that he is ready to make the step up.
It would not be exaggerating matters to suggest that this tour could potentially be make or break for Aneke’s Arsenal career. After impressing on loan at Crewe Alexandra last season, the onus is now on Aneke to show that he can perform in a first-team environment. The 19 year old will hope to replicate the form that he showed during last year’s Asia Tour.
Olsson still has much time on his side to make a breakthrough at the club, but, nonetheless, he will aim to impress during his first sustained outings for the first-team. Extremely intelligent in a technical sense, the Swedish midfielder will also look to demonstrate that he has acquired an improved ability to cope with the physical side of the game.
After bursting onto the first-team scene last season, Gnabry drifted out of the picture somewhat towards the end of the campaign, but this tour is the perfect opportunity for the German to re-assert his credentials. With Andrey Arshavin having departed and Ryo’s future unclear, a space in the squad could be up for grabs and the winger, who turns 18 tomorrow, will be seeking to seize the opportunity.
The signing of Yaya Sanogo may have pushed Akpom a little further down the first-team pecking order as far as strikers are concerned, but the England U19 international’s progression over the past 12 months has been such that it is not a major surprise to see him link up with the senior side. A couple of goals and good performances may just put the Hale End product in Wenger’s thinking for the new campaign.
Now 20, Eisfeld will be seeking to push on this campaign and experience first-team football of some kind, whether at Arsenal or out on loan. The German has demonstrated a commendable knack for goalscoring, but his overall performances have often left a lot to be desired. Some good performances in Asia could see perceptions of him change.
Of all the youngsters on tour, Zelalem has the least to lose. The Germany U16 midfielder has been hyped beyond belief, but is a focused, determined individual and will simply enjoy spending time around the first-team squad. If he doesn’t impress then he will still be an automatic pick for the U21s next season. If he does, then it would not be beyond the realms of possibility for him to promoted to the senior squad on a permanent basis in the very near future.