Arsenal were supposed to be taking on one of Everton or Millonarios in Florida on Tuesday, but instead they found themselves working hard at London Colney.
The cancellation of the Gunners’ proposed trip to America may have disrupted their pre-season plans, but it could well prove to be a blessing in disguise for Mikel Arteta.
This is because it gives him more time to work with his players on the training ground safe in the knowledge that they are more energetic than they would have been had they made the near 7,000 mile round trip to the States.
The rearranged schedule also allowed Arsenal to score a morale-boosting 4-1 win over Milwall on Saturday in a far easier contest than the game against Inter Milan they were supposed to be playing that day.
It seems to have raised spirits around the camp with the Gunners players all looking pretty buoyant as they trained in overcast conditions at London Colney.
Here are some of the things football.london noticed in the session.
Leno’s blushes spared
Arsenal’s goalkeeping situation right now is complicated to say the least.
The Gunners are on the still on the lookout for a new goalkeeper to play back up to Bernd Leno for the coming season despite Runar Alex Runarsson ‘s loan move to Altayspor having collapsed at the last minute, football.london understands.
Until they get that player though they need the German to be in top form with Arthur Okonkwo having shown in the pre-season matches so far he’s not quite ready to make the step up to first team level just yet.
However, Leno will not have been happy about the fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was able to chip him in a one-on-one training drill.
Luckily for him Arsenal’s lead sports scientist Tom Allen was on hand in the drill to rush back a make a miraculous recovery to head the ball over the bar before it could find the back of the net.
Patterns of play
One of the things Mikel Arteta has been keen to use this pre-season for is further indoctrinating his team into his preferred style of play.
The Spaniard has been in charge for a year and a half now, but due to COVID-19 and European fixtures he has hardly had any time to work with his players on the training pitch.
One of the key aspects he wants to improve is the amount of goals Arsenal score. Last season the Gunners had just the joint ninth highest scoring tally in the Premier League.
A way he wants to improve that is by getting his side to creating shooting opportunities from better areas via the kind of cut back goals we have seen from Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
A shooting drill where wide players were encouraged to dribble to the by-line before dragging it back for the strikers to finish was a perfect example of the patterns of play we can look forward to at the Emirates next season.
We have already seen several youngsters make an impact on the senior stage this pre-season for Arsenal so far.
Arthur Okonkwo, Karl Hein, Omar Rekik, Harry Clarke, Omari Hutchinson and Jack Henry-Francis are among the latest off the conveyor belt to make their step up into the first team for some of the friendly matches.
One name who we’re slightly more familiar with though is Miguel Azeez.
The highly-rated midfielder was absent for the trip to Scotland, but has been promoted from the under-23s to train with the first team this summer.
Sporting a new haircut and a new number – 36 – the 18-year-old celebrated his call up with a fantastic curled finish during a training match after having showed the confidence to demand the ball from Flo Balogun.
Bellerin shows his frustration
One of the oddities of pre-season is that several players who are expected to leave clubs return for training if they have not been able to secure moves away early in the window.
There are plenty of these at Arsenal with Sead Kolasinac, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Willian all present at London Colney despite having been linked with a move away.
Hector Bellerin is another on that list and football.london understands has informed the club that he would like to leave with Inter Milan currently leading the chase for his signature.
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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The Spaniard has still taken part in pre-season though, appearing in both the games in the tour of Scotland.
Despite being on his way out Bellerin’s competitive edge has not dulled and after Nuno Tavares allowed Flo Balogun to dribble away from easily to finish low in a training game, the 26-year-old could be heard letting out an exasperated “come on!”
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