Pre-season training got underway for the Arsenal first-team squad yesterday and as expected there was a significant contingent of academy players involved.
Defenders Zak Swanson, Zach Awe, Mazeed Ogungbo and Lino Sousa were all called upon along with midfielders Charlie Patino, Miguel Azeez and Salah-Eddine. Wingers Omari Hutchinson and Marcelo Flores were also present.
The aim for the aforementioned nine players will be to remain with the first-team squad for as long as possible this summer – starting with the trip to Germany to face Nuremberg and then onto the United States for matches against Everton, Orlando City and Chelsea before returning to London for the Emirates Cup clash with Sevilla.
Given the size of the first-team squad, it may be difficult for any of the youngsters to earn a permanent promotion but with nine substitutes on the bench in the Premier League and twelve in the Europa League they can at least put themselves in the frame for further call-ups.
Others may follow later in pre-season, such as goalkeeper Karl Hein, who was away with Estonia, and right-back Brooke Norton-Cuffy, who has reached the final of the U19 European Championships with England. New signing Marquinhos, an exciting winger, has also yet to start training.
Regarding the nine players mentioned previously, competition for places in midfield is fierce and the likes of Patino, Azeez and Salah-Eddine will essentially be battling it out amongst each other.
Hutchinson and Flores are both excellent prospects and this could be the summer where the latter really starts to be involved with the first-team.
At left-back there could be a real opening. Ogungbo and Swanson are both capable of playing there but Lino Sousa could be the most natural fit. Sousa is just 17 but has made a tremendous impact since joining the club midway through last season. Swanson will also hope for some chances after being a regular on the bench in the second half of last season.
The following first-team outfield players were involved in training yesterday: Bellerin, White, Partey, Nketiah, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Cedric, Pepe, Mari, Lokonga, Nelson and Balogun.
Those players are set to form the bulk of the squad to face Nuremberg, but there should be plenty of youngsters heading to Germany and it will be intriguing to see who impresses the most.