Arsenal decide on Gabriel replacement for pre-season and it’s not William Saliba

Arsenal’s players returned to London Colney after their summer break this week to begin preparations for the upcoming 2021/22 campaign.

Senior players like Nicolas Pepe, Thomas Partey and Pablo Mari were all in attendance as Mikel Arteta oversaw training for the first time in just over a month.

The Gunners will keep working at their base in Hertfordshire before heading up to Scotland for their first pre-season friendlies against Hibernian and Rangers next week.

While these games represent a chance for more established players to get their fitness levels up they also off a huge chance for some of Arsenal’s young players to impress.

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This is particularly the case at centre back.

David Luiz has left the club after his contract expired while Mark McGuinness and Zech Medley have both sealed permanent moves to join Cardiff and Oostende respectively.

Dinos Mavropanos has also moved to Stuttgart for a second consecutive loan, this time with a view to a permanent move, while Daniel Ballard has joined Milwall until the end of the season although the Northern Ireland international is expected to return at the end of his spell at the Den.

Gabriel is also unavailable after withdrawing from the Brazil squad for the Olympics with a knee injury of which the severity is not yet fully known.

This has left the Gunners a little short in the position for their early pre-season games and from footage released on the club’s website it seems as though they have drafted in some youngsters to plug the gap.

Harry Clarke and Omar Rekik were both pictured training with the first team ahead of their trip north of the border next week.

Clarke spent last season out on loan with Oldham where he earned rave reviews and showed his versatility filling in at right back and even right wing back.

Rekik meanwhile joined Arsenal from Hertha Berlin in the January transfer window and earned his first cap for the Tunisian national team last month.

Arsenal defender William Saliba is close to a switch to Marseille. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Arsenal defender William Saliba is close to a switch to Marseille. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

While the pair have been called up to the early training sessions taking place at London Colney this week, one person who was absent was William Saliba.

The lack of centre backs at Arsenal seemed to present the perfect opportunity for the Frenchman to come in and finally earn a spot in Arteta’s first team.

Noises from the club seemed to suggest that he would be given a chance to impress this pre-season, with some even making the case that he could start the Premier League season at the heart of the Gunners defence in place of Gabriel if the Brazilian’s injury turns out to be serious.

However, with the impending arrival of Ben White after England’s involvement in Euro 2020 ends on Sunday it appears that Saliba is instead going to have to wait again for his chance in North London.

The summer window is officially open, and it’s going to be tough to keep up with the comings and goings in and out of the Emirates.

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It is frustrating for many who are still yet to see the 20-year-old in an Arsenal shirt after his £27m arrival from St. Etienne two years ago.

However, it also presents an incredible opportunity for Clarke and Rekik who are likely to be involved with the camp that travel up to Scotland next week.

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