For the majority of Arsenal’s young professionals the past couple of weeks have proven to be rather enjoyable as they spent time in and around the first-team set-up, with several even forming part of the senior squad for the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup hosted by Southampton last weekend.
For many, though, it will be back to the day job tomorrow when an Arsenal XI travel to the more humble surroundings of Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park for their opening pre-season friendly in what will be new coach Terry Burton’s first game in charge since he returned to the set-up.
There will be some notable absentees, however, with Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke, Henri Lansbury, Ignasi Miquel, Nico Yennaris and Craig Eastmond left out of the squad for the now traditional encounter with the Blue Square Bet South side. Some, if not all of those players are likely to be part of the first-team squad that travels to the Far East this weekend for a three-stop tour of Asia that includes a game against Manchester City.
For some, Aneke, Lansbury and Eastmond in particular, their chances of going on the tour can be seen to have benefitted greatly from their performances in the aforementioned pre-season competition on the South Coast. Lansbury scored the only goal of the game against Anderlecht by latching onto Carl Jenkinson’s cross, Aneke showed some diligent touches prior to succumbing to injury and Eastmond was the only player to start both fixtures against the Belgian side and the hosts.
The tournament was also notable for maiden first-team call-ups for some of the younger members of the Reserve squad. Promising Swedish midfielder Kris Olsson, who is extremely comfortable in possession, has not yet featured for the second-string let alone trained with the senior squad, yet acquitted himself well in unfamiliar surroundings, whilst Kyle Ebecilio, usually a midfielder, filled in at right-back for a period in the second game.
With regards to the squad that will take on Boreham Wood, goalkeeper Damian Martinez will be present and, if truth be told, probably a little disappointed that he won’t be heading to Asia, whilst the inclusion of Sanchez Watt in the Reserve squad will surely ring as a death knell for the 21 year old’s Arsenal career.
Midfielder Conor Henderson is also included, but for a different reason as he seeks to build up his fitness having missed almost the entirety of last season through injury, whilst there is a first call-up at this level for new scholar Chuba Akpom, an exciting England youth international who can play in a variety of attacking positions and possesses a skill-set not commonly seen among home-grown youngsters.
Meanwhile, the under-18s travel to Cobham to take on their Chelsea counterparts today in their first friendly, with the side likely to be comprised mainly of the new intake of scholars. Schoolboy Jordan Brown, another England youth international with an impressive scoring record, could make his debut against the Blues.