Euro 2016 may still be ongoing, but thoughts are already starting to turn towards the 2016/17 campaign, with Arsenal’s pre-season preparations set to get underway very soon.
With a large contingent of first-team players having been on international duty this summer, there could well be plenty of opportunities for some of Arsenal’s talented youngsters to impress in a first-team environment.
Here’s a look at which prospects could feature in each game, although it should be noted that this is only a prediction and matters will inevitably change owing to signings, departures and injuries.
Several of Arsenal’s youngsters are already back in training ahead of the new campaign, and the first-team are due to arrive back at London Colney next week.
As things stand, there are 30 players in the Arsenal first-team squad, but, with many individuals having featured for their countries, only 14 of them (Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Emiliano Martinez, Chuba Akpom, Per Mertesacker, Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry, Mathieu Debuchy, Alex Iwobi and Yaya Sanogo) are set to have a full pre-season with the club, fitness permitting.
Danny Welbeck, of course, has a long-term injury, whilst Carl Jenkinson is also set to miss the start of the new campaign. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t expected to be back until early July, so his pre-season preparations may be cut short. Iwobi has been named in Nigeria’s provisional squad for the Olympics but there have been suggestions that Arsenal will force him to withdraw.
Arsene Wenger likes to have a training group of 23 players, meaning that there will probably be nine youngsters training with the first-team in the early part of pre-season.
Martinez is the only senior goalkeeper set to be available, so two young shot-stoppers- probably Matt Macey and Hugo Keto- will be drafted in. Deyan Iliev may not be fully fit after suffering a serious injury.
At right-back Mathieu Debuchy is the only senior option, and there are questions being asked about the Frenchman’s future at the club, so Chiori Johnson could be invited to train with the first-team.
Krystian Bielik, who has already featured for the first-team, is likely to provide cover at centre-back alongside Julio Pleguezuelo.
That leaves space for five more youngsters. Chris Willock and Jeff Reine-Adelaide will surely be involved, while Gedion Zelalem and Jon Toral will also be keen to be involved after their loan spells.
Some difficult decisions will have to be made, however, and there is a possibility that the likes of Wellington, Dan Crowley and Isaac Hayden won’t make the cut for the initial training sessions.
Other players- such as Donyell Malen and Reiss Nelson- are also in contention, but might not be involved unless some of the senior players suffer injuries.
Some youngsters certainly won’t take part- Tafari Moore and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are away with England at the U19 European Championships. There is also a doubt over Ismael Bennacer, who missed out on France’s squad at the same competition through injury.
With that in mind, Arsenal’s initial training squad could look something like this:
C. Willock-Reine Adelaide-Gnabry
Calum Chambers featured in England’s success at the Toulon Tournament and he is expected to return to training at some point in early July, possibly replacing Pleguezuelo in the training squad in time for Arsenal’s first pre-season friendly away to Lens on July 22nd.
Arsenal’s next game is against MLS All-Stars on July 28th in San Jose, by which point those players that suffered an early exit from international tournaments, such as Petr Cech and Joel Campbell, could return to play some part in proceedings.
Here’s how Arsenal’s updated squad could look:
Arsenal then face Chivas De Guadalajara on July 31st, but no further players are likely to be back for that game so the Gunners will probably use a similar, rotated squad.
By early August the next batch of international players should be back in training. This group includes Alexis Sanchez (who won the Copa America with Chile), David Ospina, Jack Wilshere, Hector Bellerin and new signing Granit Xhaka.
These players, if they are not injured, should be able to feature in Arsenal’s penultimate friendly against Viking on August 5th, or perhaps the final preparation match versus Manchester City two days later.
By that point, Arsenal’s squad could look like this:
The final batch of international players should be back in time for the commencement of new Premier League season in mid-August, with Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Wojciech Szczezny all seeking to return by that stage.
The above information shows that Bielik could be heavily involved with the senior squad this pre-season, which will provide him with an opportunity to prove his worth as he attempts to make the breakthrough.
Arsenal’s lack of attacking options in Giroud’s absence could see Yaya Sanogo and Chuba Akpom receive lots of playing time in pre-season, although perhaps Wenger will give a chance to a younger player such as Stephy Mavididi or Malen. At right-back, meanwhile, Johnson is set to be rewarded for his impressive displays in the second half of last season.
It is set to be a very interesting pre-season, and hopefully there will be a breakthrough star like Iwobi was last year.