Aubameyang selection hint, Saka fails to impress Leno – four things spotted in Arsenal training


Arsenal have been preparing for their crucial Europa League quarter final second leg match against Slavia Prague in training at London Colney.

The Gunners looked to have seized the initiative in the tie when Nicolas Pepe fired home in the 85th minute of the first leg at the Emirates only for Tomas Holes to head in an equaliser in the final minute of stoppage time.

That result means Mikel Arteta‘s side now have to score in Prague to stand a chance of going through as they are currently going out on away goals, as things stand.

The tie is absolutely vital if Arsenal harbour any aspirations of playing European football next season as even a top six finish looks out of their grasp at the minute with the Gunners seven points off sixth placed Liverpool with just seven games to play.


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With all that in mind they have been training hard to build on the momentum gathered in their 3-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

Here football.london takes a look at four things we noticed from the final session at London Colney before the team fly out to Prague.

Gabriel embarrasses Arsenal coach

It was an eventful session for Arsenal’s Brazilian centre back Gabriel Magalhaes.

The Brazilian has had a tough few games recently, struggling during the final half hour against Liverpool in particular before putting in a less than convincing display against Slavia Prague last Thursday.

That doesn’t seem to have affected his confidence too much though as the Brazilian was seen nutmegging the Gunners’ strength and conditioning coach Sam Wilson during a game of ‘El Rondo’.



Gabriel celebrates nutmegging Arsenal’s strength and conditioning coach Sam Wilson during training

The impressive display did not stop there from Gabriel, who later went on to fire a shot from distance past Mat Ryan during a game of five-a-side.

He is line to start on Thursday night in place of Pablo Mari, who came in for the win against Sheffield United, and if he’s able to find similar form like that in the game against Slavia, Arsenal will fancy their chances of going through.

Saka’s new position

Throughout his Arsenal career Bukayo Saka‘s versatility has been a massive strength.

The England international broke into the side on a regular basis at left back despite coming through the academy as a left winger.

He then played a period at left wing back before switching over to right flank after Christmas and even filling in as a number 10 during the victory at Sheffield United on Sunday.



Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka tried out a brand new position during training for Arsenal

One position the 19-year-old has never played though is in goal, and on the basis of his brief showing in training that may well be for the best.

As the main part of the session finished Saka stayed out with Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey and Nicolas Pepe and went in goal as the Ivorian perfected his heading on the end of crosses.

Watching on in dismay was Bernd Leno as his outfield teammate failed to stop a single shot before eventually giving up and jumping on Pepe’s back to celebrate a good finish from the Gunners’ record signing.

Five youngsters called up

Arsenal’s Hale End academy graduates have made quite the impression on the first team this season and if this training session is anything to go by it seems like several more are set to come off the conveyor belt very soon.

Miguel Azeez was included in the Premier League squad to face Sheffield United on Sunday and was also in the Europa League group to face Slavia Prague at the Emirates alongside under-23 left back Joel Lopez.

The pair were joined by under-23 goalkeeper James Hillson and under-18 skipper Alex Kirk, who is a centre back.



Miguel Azeez
Young midfielder Miguel Azeez during Arsenal training

The most high profile of the youngsters to make the step up to senior training though was Folarin Balogun.

The 19-year-old is set to sign a deal to extend his contract with the Gunners soon, after previously seeming as though he was going to leave on a free at the end of the season.

Speaking in his press conference ahead of the game against Slavia on Thursday, Mikel Arteta revealed it was now a matter of when rather than if the signing was going to be announced.

“Yeah we’re going to make it official when it’s official and everything is done,” he told the press.

“As is said before I’ve always been very positive that he wants to stay at the club. We want him to stay at the club, so we are very close.”

Aubameyang and Odegaard miss out



Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard at Arsenal (Image: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

While the youngsters may have been heavily involved senior professionals Martin Odegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both missed the training session.

Aubameyang was unavailable on Sunday due to illness while Odegaard is still nursing an ankle injury that has kept him out since the defeat to Liverpool.

When asked about the pair in his pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Slavia Prague, Mikel Arteta admitted their chances of making it depended on how well they came through the training session.

“I don’t know we have to see today how they are,” he said.

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“We still have a couple of other ones as well in the last few days so we will have to see how everyone is today and after training how they react for tomorrow’s game.”

The fact that neither were involved would seem to suggest that they won’t be available for selection.

This will be a huge blow for the Gunners in what is arguably their biggest game of the season.





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