Pre-season is always interesting, but this time will be especially so, with new Arsenal head coach Unai Emery assessing his players for the first time.
Despite this being a World Cup year, Arsenal will have the majority of their first-team squad available for the entirety of pre-season, with 18 of the club’s 28 players due to report for training next week.
Emery will be taking his squad to Singapore for games against Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, while there will also be friendlies against Sevilla and Chelsea in Sweden and Ireland respectively.
Here’s a look at the spaces that could exist in the squad for U23 players in the first few pre-season games.
Although David Ospina is away at the World Cup, Emery can call upon three senior goalkeepers in Petr Cech, Emiliano Martinez and new signing Bernd Leno. That means that Matt Macey and Deyan Iliev (if the latter signs a new contract) could struggle to get a look in.
Hector Bellerin is ready to play a full part in pre-season, but there may be a chance for a young right-back to travel to Singapore as his deputy.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, who joined on a free transfer, is away at the World Cup, while Carl Jenkinson has two years left on his contract but could leave this summer. If Jenkinson isn’t selected for pre-season then Jordi Osei-Tutu, who was involved with the first-team squad last season, might be called up.
As far as centre-backs are concerned, Laurent Koscielny is sidelined, but Emery is still spoilt for choice, with Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Konstantinos Mavropanos all due to report for training next week. That means that some of Arsenal’s youngsters could be left frustrated, with the likes of Krystian Bielik and Ben Sheaf unlikely to be considered unless one of the aforementioned players are deemed to not be part of Emery’s plans.
At left-back, meanwhile, there could be another opening for an Arsenal youngster. Sead Kolasinac is available but Nacho Monreal is with Spain at the World Cup, meaning that Emery may call upon a member of the U23 squad as cover.
Tolaji Bola was the regular left-back for the U23s last season but it isn’t current clear whether he will sign a new deal. There could, therefore, be an opportunity for Cohen Bramall, who, at the age of 22, is at a pivotal stage in his development where a decision must soon be made about his future.
Bramall didn’t receive much game time on loan at Birmingham City last season and would have to be named as a senior player in Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads next season if he is to be eligible for those competitions.
If he gets a chance in pre-season and impresses sufficiently then he may well be retained.
PRE-SEASON PLANS (Players in red likely to be involved in pre-season fixtures)
Petr Cech, Emiliano Martinez, Bernd Leno
Unavailable: David Ospina (World Cup)
U23 options: Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev*, Joao Virginia
Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Sead Kolasinac, Carl Jenkinson
Unavailable: Stephan Lichtsteiner (World Cup), Nacho Monreal (World Cup), Laurent Koscielny (injured)
U23 options: Cohen Bramall, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Krystian Bielik, Tolaji Bola*, Julio Pleguezuelo, Ben Sheaf, Daniel Ballard, Zech Medley, Joseph Olowu, Dominic Thompson, Tobi Omole*
* Yet to sign new deal