The preseason tour of the US done and the players back in London, but there is not too much time to recover from jet lag or readjust time zones with the trip to Scandinavia around the corner, where Arsenal play against Viking FK at the Viking Stadion in Stavanger, Norway, on Friday August the 5th, before facing Man City on Sunday on August 7th at Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg.
Maybe not the best way to prepare for the season opener against Liverpool the week after, with Arsene Wenger probably having preferred a training camp in some idyllic village in Switzerland instead, but commercial duty beckons. Well atleast we know Liverpool are doing the same, so it probably evens out.
That said, the US tour did give us a chance to see new signings Xhaka and Rob Holding, both of whom looked quite impressive, in my opinion. Xhaka is just continuing his superb form from the Euros (touch wood), but Holding, who I had not seen before, looks surprisingly good for a 20 year old.
He seems to have the right attributes for a central defender, having displayed good positional awareness and capability of attacking the ball in the air, things which I think Callum Chambers lacks.
Other bright spots in my opinion were Akpom and Willock. Akpom we have seen before, but I really liked what I saw from Willock, who has some serious pace. I guess that leaves The Ox, who I think has been the standout performer in the preseason so far, first scoring that chip against Lens and then the brilliant solo goal against Chivas on Sunday. He is actually one of my favourite Arsenal players and I just hope he stays injury-free this season.
Looking ahead, Wenger confirmed in an interview on Arsenal Player that he will give some game time to Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez this weekend, which is good news because it means Alexis’s ankle injury, due to which he missed the US tour, is not too serious. He also said that the last players to return from the Euros, i.e. Ozil, Koscielny and Giroud will most probably not be involved.
We can also expect to see more playing time for Cazorla, who returns to full fitness, though he may not be ready for the start of the season according to the boss, who said to the Arsenal Website:
“At the moment he is not completely there on the fitness front. He’s a bit behind the others physically but I think he will be alright, maybe not on August 15th, but at the end of August he should be alright.”
There is also a familiar injury worry for Wilshere, who missed the last game due to what Wenger described as “a slight problem with his knee”.
Although the boss also added that it was not serious and he would probably make the squad for the Scandinavia tour, knowing Wilshere and injuries, I think we should keep our fingers crossed. Gabriel is also expected to be back in the squad after missing out on the US tour due to tonsillitis.
I think that just about sums up my roundup of the preseason so far as well as the team news, which leaves us to look forward to the games this weekend.