Arsenal get their pre-season fixture list underway with a friendly against Hibernian at Easter Road on Tuesday night.
It’s the first game they will play in a trip to Scotland that will also see them take on SPL champions Rangers later in the week before heading back to London.
Mikel Arteta has already stated how important he feels this period of preparation will be ahead of the 2021/22 season as he seeks to get his side back up into the European places.
“I think having a pre-season is going to be really helpful because we haven’t had enough time to work together yet since we arrived,” he said in May.
“Obviously in terms of the amount of game preparation and time to coach them, it’s much better to be in that position than not having any time between the games.”
Most of the Gunners squad have travelled north of the border as they seek to get their new season off to a good start with victory in Ediburgh.
As with all pre-season games there’s plenty of interesting action to keep an eye on. With that in mind football.london takes a look at four of the things to watch out for.
Flo Balogun’s new role
Arsenal are a club well used to tense contract stand offs by this point, but that didn’t make the one involving Flo Balogun any easier to deal with.
It looked for a long time as though the Hale Ender, who scored a goal every 63 minutes in last season’s Europa League, was set to leave, but after finally signing an extension till 2025, he looks set to play a prominent role in the first team this campaign.
That was all but confirmed by the fact that he has been included in the camp that went up to Scotland and was seen sporting his brand new number 26 in training yesterday.
The 20-year-old may well get his first ever senior start against Hibernian on Tuesday night, but given that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah all travelled north of the border it seems more likely that he’ll be coming off the bench.
New signing to debut
Nuno Tavares was only officially confirmed as an Arsenal player on Saturday, but there is a high chance that he could be set to make his debut on Tuesday night.
The Portuguese left back has been getting to know his new teammates in Scotland and was spotted chatting with his main competition for a starting place at Easter Road, Sead Kolasinac, in a video released by the club.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles could also be asked to fill in on the left side of defence, but given the new man’s recent arrival you would imagine Arteta will want to get him up to speed as quick is possible.
This is particularly the case given that Kieran Tierney is not set to return to Arsenal for training for a while after representing Scotland in the Euros this summer.
Youngsters given their chance
As with all pre-season matches, the low stakes nature of the fixture means it’s a perfect chance for youngsters to be blooded in to the first team.
Arsenal have had plenty of talented players come through from Hale End into the first team recently, with Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and several others having made an impact on the first team.
It seems as though they are set to continue that tradition with several academy players having travelled to Scotland to make up for the absence of injured players and those who have been away with their countries at international tournaments this summer.
Arthur Okonkwo – who recently committed his long-term future to the club by signing a contract extension – is in line to start, but the likes of Omari Hutchinson, Omar Rekik, Harry Clarke, Jack Henry-Francis, Tom Smith and James Hillson could all be in line to feature.
Smith Rowe’s new shirt number
Much of the transfer talk around Arsenal this summer has been surrounding the future of Emile Smith Rowe.
The 20-year-old had an outstanding breakout season last time out and has attracted interest from Aston Villa and reportedly Real Madrid this summer.
The Gunners though are keen to lock the England under-21 international down to a long-term contract which football.london understands they are confident of doing.
The club could choose to reward the youngster’s decision to sign long-term with a brand new shirt number and plenty of theories have been circulating as to what that could be.
All photos of Smith Rowe released by Arsenal have been very careful to hide what shirt number he is wearing, but the fact that academy prospect James Hillson was spotted wearing number 32 would suggest that he could be in line for a new shirt.
The number 10 is available after Mesut Ozil ‘s departure and Gunners fans will be keeping a keen eye on proceedings at Easter Road to see if there is anything new on the back of the Hale Ender’s yellow Arsenal away kit.
Source by Football London