September is usually a time of excitement for Arsenal fans as they prepare to kick off the European campaign.
Not this year though…
For the first time in a quarter of a century the Gunners have failed to qualify for continental football and will be forced to watch on while their rivals face off in some of the most glamorous fixtures the game has to offer.
Still, there are some silver linings.
The lack of midweek matches provides Mikel Arteta with a crucial extra bit of time to work with his players on the training pitch – something the Spaniard has hardly had any time to do since he took over at the Emirates in December 2019.
After finally picking up a first Premier League win of the season against Norwich last weekend, Arteta will be keen to ensure that momentum continues into his side’s trip to Burnley this coming Saturday.
With that in mind, the Spaniard has been working hard with the Arsenal players at London Colney. Here are some of the things football.london spotted in the session.
Saka finds his scoring touch
Bukayo Saka is one of the most talented players in England, if not the world, but he has come in for a little bit of stick recently.
The 20-year-old has been criticised by some on social media for his lack of output when it comes to scoring goals, after failing to net since January in the Premier League.
This kind of argument is pretty thin though as it seems to imply the only attacking contribution players make is in terms of goals and assists.
For example Saka was heavily involved in the build up for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s winner against Norwich on Saturday, playing the ball to Nicolas Pepe whose shot eventually found its way to the Arsenal captain, although this will not go down as a goal contribution in the stats.
Regardless of the scrutiny though the Gunners’ player of the season seems to be finding the net in training relatively consistently, and popped up at the back post to tap in an Alexandre Lacazette square pass during an 11-a-side match in the session.
Xhaka is back
Granit Xhaka was unavailable for Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Norwich after picking up a red card in the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City, but even if he had been available, the midfielder would not have been able to play.
This is because he picked up COVID-19 while on international duty with Switzerland, meaning that he was forced to isolate there before returning to London on Monday.
Having come back the 28-year-old has gone straight into training with the rest of his teammates at London Colney and was involved in the session.
He will be unavailable for Saturday’s trip to Burnley and next week’s Carabao Cup third round tie against AFC Wimbledon, but could be in line to make his return for the North London Derby against Tottenham just after that.
Youngster misses out
Xhaka’s return means that Arsenal’s central midfield options – in their training sessions at least – have now been bolstered.
Mohamed Elneny is still out due to a hamstring injury, but aside from that it’s more or less the full roster at this point.
This was bad news for youngster Charlie Patino who grabbed headlines with an incredible solo goal against Manchester United under-23s at the weekend.
Many were calling for him to be involved against Burnley as a result, but after missing out on this session with the senior side, it would seem that’s unlikely.
That’s not to say he won’t be involved come the match against AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup next week, though.
All this could mean some involvement for Patino, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles the only other senior option in the middle of the park for the Gunners.
Leno left frustrated
The German international’s performances waned somewhat last season, but it was assumed that he was still number one despite Ramsdale’s £24 million arrival.
However, the England under-21 international was picked instead and seems to have formed an instant connection with the Arsenal back four and fan base that could see him keep his place.
Goalkeeping rivalries are nothing new for the Gunners though.
For now though it doesn’t seem anything like that is happening between Leno and Ramsdale.
It hasn’t been a great start for Arsenal as Mikel Arteta looks to arrest the slide
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The pair strode out onto the training pitch alongside third choice stopper Arthur Okonkwo in conversation and appear to be getting on.
However, in a training game Leno’s frustration’s came to the boil as he started yelling furiously towards the coaching staff over their failure to give a freekick for a perceived foul on Nicolas Pepe in the build up to a Folarin Balogun goal during an 11vs11 match towards the end.
The anger did not last long though, and he could be seen laughing and joking with Sead Kolasinac not long after.