Arsenal have returned to England to prepare for the opening game of their season against Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday, following a mixed pre-season tour of the US.
Now back in a cooler climate after enduring sweltering humidity in Washington and New Jersey and scorching temperatures in Los Angeles, the pressure is beginning to heat up, with manager Mikel Arteta also keen on trimming his squad ahead of the new campaign.
Kieran Tierney, Folarin Balogun, Rob Holding and Nicolas Pepe are among those who could be headed for the exit at Arsenal with Arteta having already bolstered his squad this summer through the signings of Jurrien Timber, Declan Rice and Kai Havertz.
Hayters TV looks at who benfitted from the tour, and who has plenty of work to do ahead of the new season…
A first full pre-season as an Arsenal player and it could not have gone any better for him. Three goals out in the States, including a fantastic brace against Barcelona, capped off a brilliant tour for Trossard, who has been preferred to Gabriel Martinelli in most of the games across the pond. It is clear that the former Brighton forward’s versatility is what makes him such an attractive prospect for how Arteta wants to play this season, and it would come as no surprise to see him starting against Manchester City in the Community Shield.
One of the three big-money signings made by Arsenal before the tour began, Timber has seamlessly fitted into Arteta’s side, offering a calm and collected presence across the backline. The 22-year-old was tested across the defence, and showed no particular weaknesses in his game. Conceding four goals between Manchester United and Barcelona (Timber had been subbed off prior to Barcelona’s third goal) may not fill Arsenal fans with optimism about the defensive stability of their team, but the Dutchman’s all-round game presents the Gunners with even more options, which is exactly what Arteta wants. It will be interesting to see where Arteta deploys Timber, but the former Ajax player is definitely causing some selection headaches ahead of the season.
This has been another productive pre-season for the Arsenal boss as the Gunners look to challenge Manc City once again. Business was done early, with Timber, Rice and Havertz all arriving in north London before the side stepped foot on the plane to the US. Now, Arteta must switch his focus to outgoings, with the 41-year-old looking to tighten up his squad. After the Barcelona game, he said: “We have 30 players here which is unsustainable, and obviously the market is still open, and things can happen — but we are prepared.”
Despite being the only out-and-out left-back in the squad, not starting a single match during this tour must feel like a kick in the teeth for Tierney, who continues to be linked with a move away from the Emirates. Jakub Kiwior, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Timber were all preferred in the States, despite Arteta’s public declaration of his desire to keep the Scotsman. Despite the limited game time, the 26-year-old still impressed when he entered the fray against Manchester United, and even provided an assist for Arsenal’s fourth goal against Barcelona. He is beginning to look more comfortable in the system Arteta wants to play but it will be interesting to see where his future lies.
A real shame for the Ukrainian, who did not feature for a single minute on this tour, with Arteta confirming after the Barcelona game that the versatile defender had sustained an injury. He said: “With Alex, he had a muscular injury again unfortunately. He’s getting back — I think he’ll be back soon, but it’s a shame that he hasn’t been with us the whole tour.” Still vital to how Arsenal play, the loss of Zinchenko is a blow to the Gunners’ preparations for the new season. However, the 26-year-old’s position is now up for grabs, with three of his team-mates potentially vying for a starting spot.
Returning with plenty of fanfare after a very productive season in France with Stade de Reims, Balogun has not shown the qualities of a player who notched up 21 goals in Ligue 1 last campaign. The USA international received only 25 minutes of game time during this tour, against the MLS All-Stars. He did not get on the pitch against Manchester United and was not in the squad against Barcelona due to injury. Having trained away from the main group prior to the Barcelona match, and with lingering doubts over his future at the club, Balogun’s place in Arteta’s squad looks far from certain.