Wonderkid aims to impress as Smith Rowe features – Four things spotted in Arsenal training



The countdown is officially on.

There are just five weeks to go until Arsenal face newly-promoted Brentford in the opening game of the 2021/22 Premier League season at the Brentford Community Stadium.

After a disappointing 2020/21 campaign, which saw the club finish a distant eighth in the table, resulting in them missing out on a place in Europe for the forthcoming season for the first time in 25 years, manager Mikel Arteta is determined to ensure no repeat of that happens again this time around.

Whilst much of the talk around the Emirates Stadium in the last few weeks has been dominated by transfer speculation, the hard work has officially begun at the club’s London Colney training base, with the first-team squad reporting back for pre-season training on Thursday.

Although the first few weeks will be spent on getting fitness back into the players’ legs following their time away, there was plenty of ball work on show, as well as no shortage of smiles.

With that in mind, football.london has picked out four things we spotted from their training session at London Colney from the images shared on Arsenal’s club website.

Pepe all smiles

Although the 2020/21 campaign was one to forget for Arsenal collectively, winger Nicolas Pepe finally started to show signs as to why the Gunners felt it was wise to splash out £72million on his signature almost two years ago.

The Ivory Coast international enjoyed a highly productive campaign in the final third of the pitch, notching 16 goals in all competitions, as well as claiming five assists.

Of those 16 goals, five of them came in his final three matches of the Premier League season, meaning the conclusion of the campaign probably came at the worst possible time for him.

However, he most certainly appeared to be happy to be back at London Colney on Thursday alongside his teammates, being pictured grinning from ear to ear with a huge smile on his face.

Smith Rowe features

Despite continuous talk that Aston Villa are desperate to sign Emile Smith Rowe this summer, the attacking-midfielder, as expected, was present at London Colney on Thursday.

The Hale End graduate has been closely linked with a move to Villa Park in the last few weeks and Villa have seen offers for the youngster turned down, with the Gunners adamant that he is not for sale under any circumstances.

The club is determined to tie him down to a new contract, which he is expected to sign, and it seems as though Smith Rowe is fully focused on the season ahead at the Emirates Stadium.

He was pictured with the ball at his feet working on his technique.

Loanee back involved

Having spent the second half of the 2020/21 campaign on loan at West Bromwich Albion, Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be hoping to resurrect his Gunners career in the forthcoming campaign.

The midfielder, with opportunities proving limited in north London, joined the Baggies back in February and made 15 appearances.

But despite having returned to Arsenal, football.london understands that Maitland-Niles is one of several players that will be available to leave this summer on a permanent deal.

Nevertheless, he has reported back for pre-season training and will be looking to change the Gunners’ mind in the next few weeks about their current stance on his future.

Wonderkid aims to impress

Having signed a new contract at the Emirates Stadium back in April, young striker Folarin Balogun will be determined to make his mark in the forthcoming campaign.

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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Deemed as one of the most exciting prospects to have emerged from the Gunners’ academy in recent years, Balogun barely featured at first-team level during the 2020/21 campaign, being restricted to just six appearances, five of which came in the UEFA Europa League.

But Balogun will have grand ambitions to make his mark in the forthcoming campaign and prove himself to Arteta as being capable playing at the highest level week-in, week-out.

And he has certainly looked to make his mark on day one of pre-season training, getting stuck in and chasing down Pepe in a battle for possession.





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