This year Arsenal had the unusual advantage of having almost a complete squad reporting for the first day of pre-season training, with Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka missing. Bernd Leno was given an extra week off to help with his move to London, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos slotted straight into the hard work, as his deal has been tied up for weeks, despite the official announcement only coming on the 2nd July.
With almost two full weeks training under their belt, fans will be excited to see the team in action, during Saturday’s clash with Boreham Wood. Despite strong interest, Boreham Wood still have a few tickets for the game remaining, which you can get here.
Who can we expect to see in action this weekend?
Bernd Leno only joined the Arsenal pack on Monday, so it’s unlikely that he will feature in this fixture, so Unai Emery will probably look to Petr Cech and Emiliano Martínez. The pair have been training hard with new goalkeeping coach Javi Garcia for the last two weeks, and can be expected to play a half each.
Having missed out on the Spain squad, Hector Bellerin has been training for two weeks, and has tweeted about learning from day one. He will be keen to get some game time in his legs, and this is an opportunity to test what Unai Emery has been teaching him on the training ground. While game time is important, Emery will not want to overexert him, so he could be used for 45/60 minutes with Jordi Osei-Tutu being given a run out for the remainder.
Fans will be hoping to catch a glimpse of Sokratis Papastathopoulos for the first time, and Unai Emery may well use him, along with Mustafi, Chambers, Mavropanos and Holding across 90 minutes, with each of them playing 45 minutes.
This will give the new gaffer an opportunity to have a look at his defensive options, without them being over worked. All four will want game time, and with no game for almost two weeks, it’s important to get them on the pitch as quickly as possible.
With Bosnia failing to qualify for the World Cup, Sead Kolasinac has been training for two weeks, and appears to have slimmed down. With a number of fitness issues last season, it will be important that Kolasinac plays as many games in pre-season as possible, and that Unai Emery gets his message across early. Cohem Bramall, who returns from his disastrous loan spell at Birmingham is a potential rotation option.
With Unai Emery favouring a 4-2-3-1 formation, it’s likely he’ll go with this from day one. Ainsley Maitland-Niles could be given a run out in his favoured position, with Aaron Ramsey partnering him. Ramsey captained the team at Boreham Wood in 2014, and may well do the same on Saturday.
With Granit Xhaka, Mohammad Elneny and Lucas Torreira yet to report to training, midfield options are limited, and Emery may take the opportunity to have a look at Joe Willock, along with a few other young players that have impressed.
With Mesut Ozil returning late, it’s likely Henrik Mkhitaryan will play at 10 against Manchester City on the 12th August, and he will want to get a run out in this position early. However, there is the option of that Lacazette could play there, with Aubameyang up top, and Mkhi moving to the right.
Along with the three big names above, fans can expect to get a look at Reis Nelson, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Eddie Nketiah, three young players who will be expecting plenty of game time this season. Lucas Perez is also likely to feature, with the Spaniard determined to prove his worth to the club.
Why so many big names?
In previous years, Arsene Wenger used this an opportunity to have a look at the kids, however Arsenal’s next game is not until the 26th July, against Atletico Madrid, and Unai Emery cannot afford to wait that long to wait that long to give his players game time.
This will be the first time the new boss will get to see his players under his instruction, and with a huge tactical shift occurring, the players will need as much practice in their new roles as possible, before the season begins.
Where can you watch it?
If you haven’t got a ticket, the game will be streamed on Arsenal player, with the pre-match show starting at 2pm, with kick-off at 3pm.