I’ve spent the last few minutes looking at the latest photos from our training camp in Germany. It’s good to see players like Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mo Elneny featuring after their injuries last season. The former, in particular, is a key player for me in the season ahead, and I’m glad to see him involved.
Kieran Tierney is there, looking like he’s having a grand time with Ben White and Rob Holding. A bit of a Brit-pop trio (but Ben is already thinking of breaking away and going solo because the other two don’t share his artistic vision). The lads are all on bicycles which, and I know this is ridiculous, gives me a mild amount of fear. I’m sure they’re all competent cyclists, but wherever there are bikes there’s a man in a powerful car ready to knock them down because they’re not doing it in single file.
One man who isn’t on the trip is Albert Sambi Lokonga, who has a muscular injury and sits this trip out to continue his rehab. It’s a bit of a shame for him and for us. I suspect his future lies elsewhere, so availability and visibility could be quite useful if we’re trying to move him on and he’s looking for a new club. The summer is long though, and there’s still plenty of time. We’ll have to see if he’s going to make it for the US leg of pre-season.
It will be interesting to see where he goes and how he gets on. On the ball, I think there’s a good player there. He was obviously very highly rated at Anderlecht when we signed him, but he kinda fell between two stools here as the team developed. He’s not really a 6, not in the way that we ask Thomas Partey to play it, and not quite an 8 in the style Mikel Arteta wanted. It’s hard to envisage him doing what Granit Xhaka did, for example.
And sometimes that’s what happens. A good young player makes a move which, for various reasons, doesn’t quite work out. Not necessarily the wrong club at the wrong time, but just not the right fit. We’ve seen it happen to a couple of more established players in this squad as the team has developed of late, and I think that’s what happened with Sambi, so I’m curious to see where he might end up. There’s a lot of talk of Burnley, given his past association with Vincent Kompany, but let’s see.
One man I haven’t seen in the pictures is Nicolas Pepe. Maybe he’s hiding, but when you see Cedric there – another player with one year left who we’re probably more than happy to let go – it does make Pepe’s apparent absence a bit more notable. I’ve already written about him this summer, but it’s a curiosity that he doesn’t appear to be there. Whether it speaks to an imminent move, or something else, we’ll find out in due course.
It’s interesting too to see Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly there. The pair just signed scholarship terms with the club last week, so there’s still some way to go for them to start really pushing for first team involvement. However, much like Nwaneri’s debut against Brentford last season, it feels like a decision to show them what lies at the end of the pathway – one well trodden by the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah etc.
They have got to develop in the right way, on and off the pitch – and with regard the latter, thanks to Andrew Allen who pointed me in the direction of a Training Ground Guru podcast with Des Ryan. He was formerly the Head of Sports Medicine and Athletic Development at the Arsenal Academy, and he’s really interesting on the physical development of young players and the benefits of structured training from an early age.
It’s well worth a listen, not least because it gives us another little insight into the job Per Mertesacker is doing as the Academy manager. I really love the human element to his work, preparing these young guys for a future in the game, but also for the reality that many of them won’t reach the heights they dream of. He’s a good, tall man.
Right, that’s your lot. The Arsecast Extra is here if you haven’t had a chance to listen already.