Thursday, February 29, 2024

Notes from pre-season

Get your breakfast today at Dino’s Bar and Grill, because the boys are back in town. Well, some of them anyway.

There isn’t a great deal you can take from a gallery on the official website, but in the absence of anything concrete going on, I’m going to do my best. Some observations from the early pre-season pictures to follow.

Mikel Arteta

We saw the manager on his holidays playing football and beach tennis – at the same time! – and he looks fit and tanned. He was keeping a keen eye on goings-on as his mix of senior and young players did their stuff at London Colney.

He’s been notably absent from the new signing photos, so perhaps he had an extended break to recharge his batteries. Being a considerate man, he probably didn’t want to take away from Edu’s desire to show off his extensive wardrobe as he welcomed new players to the club.

Edu: “Mrs Edu, do you think I should wear the blue shirt today, or the blue shirt?”

Mrs Edu: “Have you thought about maybe wearing the blue shirt?”

Edu: “Great idea! I’ll wear the blue shirt.”

Some lads might not stay long

On the one hand, you have Ben White, Arsenal’s central defensive George Michael and a player in whom Mikel Arteta has lots of Faith, and Thomas Partey back in action after his late season injury. On the other, there are players there who are back in training but whose futures probably lie elsewhere.

Hector Bellerin is back after his season with Real Betis, but for how long? There’s talk of interest from Atletico Madrid, and it seems likely he’ll make a move before the end of the window. Similarly, Pablo Mari, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson all feel surplus to requirements right now, and the two young Englishmen with just 12 months left on their contracts will surely be made available to any interested parties. For now though, they stay and train.

Some lads aren’t there

There was no sign of Lucas Torreira, despite the fact he’s in the same contractual situation as Hector and similarly views his footballing future away from Arsenal. He spoke to Uruguayan press about what’s going to happen, saying:

“Chances of staying? None.

“From the beginning they told me that I had no place, so my desire is not either to stay since I suffered a lot, it cost me a lot to adapt.”

Arsenal are holding out for something in the region of the €15m they had agreed with Fiorentina before the Italian side offered only half of that, but at this point I have no idea who is going to pay that for him. He might well be on an extended break due to end of season international duties, so he could well be contractually obliged to return at some point, so let’s see what happens.

There’s no William Saliba either, but he too was involved in internationals for France, appearing for them in the Nations League as late as June 10th, so he has some extra time off. When he does come back, he needs a new number if he’s going to stay, and this might be an interesting thing to keep an eye on.

I know there’s been talk of a new contract, but I’m not necessarily convinced it’s as far down the road as some suggest, so if there’s an announcement about a new number (because Ben White took 4 when he signed), we could probably view it as encouraging regarding his Arsenal future. If he’s handed gear with a random 37 on it or something, I might slip down the bookies and have a fiver on him being sold before the end of the window.

Young guns go for it

There are plenty of young players involved in these sessions. For some it will be a chance to impress and stake a claim for a squad which will have plenty of football to play before the World Cup break, especially in the Europa League group stages.

Charlie Patino looks like he’s had a phone call from Arsene Wenger advising him on his diet and workout regime.

Breakfast: Creatine flakes. Lunch: Creatine pie with a side of Creatine fries. Dinner: Pan fried Creatine with vegetables.

Gym: Lift the shit out of heavy stuff.

Which is to say he’s beginning to fill out and develop physically, which will make him better able to cope with this level. The question then is how ready do the club feel he, and the other top prospects are, for first team involvement? He, Miguel Azeez, Omari Hutchinson, and a couple of others, might well be praying for time on the pitch this season, but then you have to weigh up how much more they might benefit from going out on loan and playing much more regularly – even if it is at a lower level.

The same could be said for Flo Balogun who, in the current pecking order, would be third choice striker behind Gabriel Jesus (when he’s made official) and Eddie Nketiah, but would he better with another full season of football under his belt? These are decisions that I’m sure the manager will make in tandem with his coaching staff after seeing them up close during these few weeks of training and during the pre-season games.

It’s a bit mad to think it’s July tomorrow, and the new season starts on August 6th. It will be on top of us before we know what’s happening, and there’s plenty to do on the training ground and off it. Having got to the edge of heaven last season, let’s hope we can continue to make progress and do better this time around.

Right, that’s it for now. We’ll have any breaking news on Arseblog News throughout the day, and I’ll be back here tomorrow with more and a brand new Arsecast.

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