After a seven week break, the majority of the Arsenal U21 squad has reconvened at London Colney ahead of the new season, with several players determined to make an impact on the first-team picture before the campaign gets underway.
Overseen by Steve Gatting and Carl Laraman, who will share coaching duties at second-string level during 2014/15, the youngsters were put through their paces, although Wellington Silva and Samuel Galindo were conspicuous by their absence. Gedion Zelalem, interestingly, is still training with the U21 team, suggesting that his transition into a senior player isn’t quite yet complete, whilst Benik Afobe has returned from his loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday as he approaches a crucial time in his Arsenal career.
Chuba Akpom, Hector Bellerin and Kristoffer Olsson, who all represented their respective countries in UEFA U19 European Championship qualifiers towards the end of last season, are not pencilled in to return until Monday, but there were still plenty of familiar faces on show, with Ignasi Miquel, Isaac Hayden, Semi Ajayi and Thomas Eisfeld all hopeful of featuring for the senior side during pre-season.
Winger Alex Iwobi, meanwhile, who turned professional in May, has been handed a low training number, 44, which could suggest that he is closer to senior squad than was initially expected. Iwobi was an un-used substitute in the Capital One Cup victory away to West Bromwich Albion last season. He, along with those listed above, is a candidate to feature for the first-team in their opening friendly against Boreham Wood later this month.
Glen Kamara, having recently put pen to paper on his first professional contract, was also present, and the Finland U21 international was joined by the club’s second-year scholars, including the promising Dan Crowley and Julio Pleguezuelo.
The new first-years, including recent recruit Ben Sheaf, are training separately for now, but the two groups are likely to merge as the new campaign approaches.
Meanwhile, the first batch of first-team players, those who are not currently injured and didn’t participate at the World Cup, are due to return on Monday.