Jul 25th, 2016 by 'holic
The completion of the first pre-season warm-up fixture leads into the second phase of our preparation for a renewed onslaught on the Premier League. Today the squad, such as it is at present, jetted off to the United States for matches against MLS All-Stars on Friday and Chivas de Guadalajara on Monday.
It is starting to look as though there will be opportunities for some of the younger players to impress in the coming weeks. Not on the plane were those who lasted longest in the European Championship, namely Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, and Olivier Giroud. Arsene revealed in Lens that Gabriel (tonsillitis) would miss the trip, and that Alexis Sanchez’ ankle injury was not too bad but he would not travel. Today we learned that Per Mertesacker has picked up a knee injury and was also left behind.
The extent of the BFG’s injury has not been disclosed leading to some wild speculation on Social Media sites. I’ll wait for Arsene’s confirmation of three weeks before he announces that the player has suffered a set-back in a month’s time. Arsene will have to ponder whether to trust two of the three young defenders (Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, or Krystian Bielik) or if he should switch either Nacho Monreal or Mathieu Debuchy into the centre.
Ahead of them it will be interesting to see who lines up alongside new boy Granit Xhaka. The obvious candidates are Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin. The midfield is the one area where Arsenal have real strength in depth. The emergence of Alex Iwobi, and the looming return of Ramsey and Ozil will give the manager a real headache. Some real quality may not make even the bench a month from now. (Insert proviso here re all of them remaining fit.)
Assuming we don’t attract a top-notch striker by Friday (I know, don’t say it again!) then Chuba Akpom has another opportunity to show if he should be retained rather than sent out on loan. The two matches may be no more than an opportunity for the more experienced players to get a little bit of match-fitness, but the young striker will surely take any time on the pitch as seriously as any matches he has played in his career to date.
And then, to misquote Rodgers and Hammerstein, how do you solve a problem like our Theo? If, and that’s a big if, there is anything in the Mahrez to Arsenal stories I can’t help but think out loud that it might be of benefit for all involved for Theo to be a part of any deal. That isn’t intended to offend his many admirers on here and elsewhere, but he hasn’t shown any sign of developing into the alternative central striker to Giroud, and would likely be second-in-line at best for the wide right berth should Mahrez materialise. He would walk into a Leicester side sans the Frenchman and it would offer a real opportunity to force himself back into contention for the England squad. For now he will probably share the striking duties with Akpom in the next two matches, and notch the hat-trick that will cause another rethink!
Doubtless we will be subjected to a social media charm offensive as the squad gets involved with public relations work across the pond. I look forward to seeing snaps of Gunnersaurus in the company of various oversized fluffy chums in the coming days.
Cheers for now.