Just when you were worried about what to do now Euro 2020 is over, Arsenal get their pre-season fixture list underway on Tuesday with a trip up to Scotland to play Hibernian.
The Gunners travelled north of the border on Monday to begin a period of preparation for the 2021/22 campaign that Mikel Arteta has already said will be crucial.
“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.”
While the tactical side of things on the training ground will be key across the coming weeks, settling new members into the first team set-up is going to be vital.
Amongst those is Arthur Okonkwo. While the 19-year-old is not exactly a fresh face after being included in several Gunners squads for the Europa League knockout phase last season, his promotion to the senior squad was only officially confirmed with his contract extension last week.
The Hale Ender could well celebrate the new deal with a first senior start for Arsenal, with Runar Alex Runarsson – who is deemed surplus to requirements by Arteta – his only other competition in Bernd Leno’s post-Euros absence.
A completely new player on the scene, though, is the club’s latest signing Nuno Tavares.
The Portuguese left-back became the Gunners’ first signing of the summer last week and could well be thrown straight into the line-up at Easter Road after travelling up with the group.
Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles could well spend some time there as the game goes on, but with Kieran Tierney set to return late after representing Scotland this summer, Arteta will want to get his new back-up up to speed.
Inside of him will probably be Pablo Mari. The Spaniard is enjoying his first pre-season with Gunners after being injured last time out, and is set to be given plenty of game time in Gabriel’s absence.
He could well be partnered at the back by Calum Chambers, but with Hector Bellerin being heavily linked with a move away to Italy or Spain, Arteta may not want to risk the Spaniard’s fitness.
This would see the England international move over to right-back, where he finished last season as first choice, with youngster Omar Rekik probably just about ahead of Harry Clarke in the pecking order for the other centre-back spot.
Into midfield and Thomas Partey is one of the few guaranteed starters for Arsenal in the upcoming season.
The Ghanaian struggled with acclimatising to the English game last season following his arrival from Atletico Madrid, and the Gunners will want to manage his fitness very carefully as a result.
Alongside him could be Joe Willock upon his return from a very successful loan spell at Newcastle, but Arteta may be tempted to go with the more defensively secure Mohamed Elneny, if he is preparing his side for how they are likely to play in the upcoming Premier League season.
In front of them could be Emile Smith Rowe, who may well be unveiling a new shirt number come kick-off. The Hale Ender is being linked with a contract extension and you would imagine that if he is given an upgrade on the 32 he wore last season, that the 20-year-old could be set to stay in north London for the foreseeable future.
To the right of him, Nicolas Pepe came back to London Colney on Wednesday in fine physical condition ahead of what promises to a crucial season for the Ivorian after he ended the last one in such good form with five goals in his last three starts.
On the left, it is slightly more tricky for Arteta given that he had seemed to prefer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a centre forward towards the end of last campaign.
But with Gabriel Martinelli off at the Olympics, Bukayo Saka recovering from his Euro 2020 heartbreak and Willian and Reiss Nelson linked with moves away, the Spaniard may be forced to play his captain on the wing once more.
This would see Alexandre Lacazette a likely starter down the middle, even though the Frenchman is still unsure where his future lies with just one year left on his deal.
Folarin Balogun could be given chances this pre-season so he’ll be one to keep an eye out for, while Eddie Nketiah has also travelled north with the squad.
Arsenal predicted XI vs Hibernian: Okonkwo; Chambers, Rekik, Mari, Tavares; Partey, Elneny; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
Source by Football London