It’s that time of year again when thoughts begin to turn to preparations for the new campaign, and with much of Arsenal’s first-team squad due back at London Colney a fortnight on Monday, anticipation is beginning to ramp up a notch ahead of the 2012/13 season.
With several of the club’s most prominent players still in action at Euro 2012 and with doubts persisting over whether many of the returning loanees, in particular the likes of Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela, will stay at the club, opportunities are likely to emerge for some of Arsenal’s young professionals to be involved in the early stages of pre-season.
Goalkeeper Damian Martinez, for instance, is likely to be promoted to the first-team squad on a permanent basis should he sufficiently impress on the Asia Tour, where he will provide back-up to Wojciech Szczesny and, possibly, Vito Mannone. Striker Benik Afobe, meanwhile, who is already back at the training ground seeking to build up his fitness, will see his preparations for the new campaign at club level somewhat disrupted after he was called up to the England squad for the U-19 European Championships which will take place in Estonia next month. However, Afobe, who has spent time on loan at Huddersfield Town and Reading, should return to play some role in the club’s later pre-season friendlies, such as the game in Nigeria.
Kyle Bartley, back from his spell at cash-stricken Rangers, will hope to secure a place in the squad for the new campaign, although he may come under competition from fellow centre-back Ignasi Miquel, who received several first-team outings last season.
Conor Henderson, meanwhile, is back from injury and will seek to stake his claim again, although the midfielder will be hoping for better luck than last pre-season when he suffered a serious knee problem after coming on at left-back against Cologne. Nico Yennaris is another seeking to be involved, whilst there have been some suggestions that 16 year old Serge Gnabry, who will sign a professional contract once he turns 17, could feature in some capacity for the first-team this summer. That may eventually prove to be the case, but Gnabry is likely to start off with the second string upon their return.
Speaking of the Reserves, they have devised a pre-season programme of their own, with games to come against Boreham Wood, Stevenage, Dartford and Chesham, although, as things stand, it is still currently unclear who will be overseeing their progress for the new campaign. Dermot Drummy, who was formerly a youth coach at Arsenal but is now with Chelsea’s Reserves, remains the favourite for the role, but no concrete decision regarding the position has yet been made.
The second-string friendlies will provide the opportunity for the likes of Hector Bellerin and Kris Olsson, who enjoyed impressive debut seasons at the club following their moves from abroad, to bed into the Reserves ahead of more regular involvement at that level next season.