Arsenal’s pre-season trip to Singapore couldn’t have been much more successful, with the Gunners returning to London with the Barclays Asia Trophy in tow after two victories and a week of intense training sessions.
The preparations for the new campaign will step up yet another gear over the next few days as this weekend’s Emirates Cup creeps into view. The Gunners will face Lyon and Wolfsburg on Saturday and Sunday respectively as they look to win the tournament for the first time since 2010.
Four players from outside the first-team squad- Alex Iwobi, Jon Toral, Dan Crowley and Chris Willock- travelled with the team to Asia, along with fringe senior players Chuba Akpom and Gedion Zelalem, but which of them will remain in the set-up for the Emirates Cup?
Akpom, after his impressive hat-trick against a Singapore Select XI, seems a certainty for inclusion, with the England U20 international’s cause helped by the fact that fellow forward Danny Welbeck is still struggling with an injury which could rule him out of the weekend’s games.
Likewise, the continued absence of Tomas Rosicky is likely to open the door for a young midfielder to play some part in the Emirates Cup, but, at present, it seems as if Crowley, rather than Zelalem, is the prime candidate to feature, with the former Aston Villa player having enjoyed a more consistent 2014/15 campaign. Both players, though, remain excellent prospects for the future.
As far as the rest of the squad is concerned, Arsenal have at least two senior players available in most positions, as detailed below: (based on where players have tended to feature in pre-season)
Goalkeepers Cech, Szczesny, Martinez
Right-back Debuchy, Bellerin
Centre-backs Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gabriel, Chambers
Left-back Monreal, Gibbs
Defensive-midfield Coquelin, Flamini, Arteta
Central-midfield Cazorla, Ramsey
Right wing Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere
Central attacking-midfield Ozil
Left wing Walcott
This suggests that there may be an opening for a youngster on the left flank (such as Iwobi or Willock), although the situation is complicated a little as there is a possibility that either Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere could also be deployed in that position.
Another potential option is Serge Gnabry, who hasn’t featured for the first-team, competitively or otherwise, for well over a year. The young German was due to return to training this week after representing his country at the U21 European Championships and he will be hopeful of at least playing some part over the weekend after suffering terrible misfortune with injuries in recent times.
David Ospina, who has been strongly linked with a move away from the club this summer, is on holiday until Monday, meaning he won’t play any part this weekend, whilst Alexis Sanchez is not due back until August 3rd. Joel Campbell is another absentee following his involvement with Costa Rica this summer.
There is a slight possibility that some youngsters who weren’t selected to go to Asia could feature this weekend, with Julio Plegueuzuelo, for example, ready to provide cover at centre-back in the event of an injury to a senior player. Krystian Bielik, meanwhile, is unlikely to feature because of injury.
There is some uncertainty over Wellington’s participation. The Brazilian winger, who is now eligible to represent the club competitively, didn’t travel with the squad to Asia and instead remained at London Colney to undergo fitness training. Wenger is likely to assess the 22-year-old in training first before deciding whether to use him this weekend.
Those youngsters that aren’t used will probably feature for the U21s against Boreham Wood on Friday, whilst there is the possibility that some players, such as Toral, could be loaned out in the near future.