Monday, February 26, 2024

First team players return for pre-season as Xhaka edges towards exit

Arsenal’s preparations for the 2023/24 campaign are up and running with Mikel Arteta welcoming a first tranche of senior players back to the training ground on Monday morning.

The likes of Ben White, Gabriel Jesus, Rob Holding, Cedric, Marquinhos, Leandro Trossard, Sambi Lokonga, Eddie Nketiah and 18-year-old Lino Sousa all hit the gym to have key metrics assessed by the medical and strength and conditioning teams before taking part in a light ball work session on London Colney’s immaculately manicured lawns.

None of the players who were called up to play international football following the conclusion of the Premier League season were present and no pictures have been shared of those who were still nursing injuries (Saliba, Elneny, Tomiyasu) six weeks ago.

As for observations, the perma-tanned Ben White had an extra glow about him following his honeymoon, Bobby Holding has trimmed the Aslan-esque mane he was growing, Arteta looks a little grey (the world is ending!) and the black training gear with neon highlighter effects looks very naff.

While it all appeared very chilled we expect that will change in the coming days given Arsenal head to adidas HQ in Herzogenaurach next week and then play Nurnberg in the first of five friendlies.

Behind the scenes, Edu’s team are working through a lot of paperwork. The club are in the process of organising medicals for Declan Rice and Jurrien Timber – both should be Arsenal players by this time next week – and a fee has been agreed with Bayer Leverkusen for Granit Xhaka.

It was originally reported that Arsenal would recoup £13 million for the Switzerland international but Kaya Kaynak, writing for Football.London, says that has now jumped to more than £21 million; a decent fee for a 30-year-old.

All going to plan, Xhaka’s departure will be announced in the coming days so that he can join Leverkusen’s pre-season camp.

In terms of other outgoings, the Gunners still need to resolve the futures of Folarin Balogun and Thomas Partey, and are keen to rehouse Nuno Tavares, Alex Runarssson, Auston Trusty, Charlie Patino, Nicolas Pepe, Cedric, Sambi Lokonga and Marquinhos. The usual raft of academy players will also head off on loan moves to gain experience of senior football.

Can we expect more incomings? The Times report this evening that Arsenal “are ready to make a move” for Southampton’s Romeo Lavia and that a deal could cost £50 million.

A report by Sky Sports Germany also claims talks have been held with RB Leipzig’s Benjamin Henrichs. The 26-year-old is a Germany international with experience playing as a full-back and in midfield. It is suggested he’d provide backup.

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Great fee for Xhaxha, if the reports are to be believed


For me £13mill was always way too low for a player of his stature, with a brilliant injury record and at least a couple of years left at the top level.
£21 mill feels just about fair.


All these fees seem a bit nonsensical these days. Hence why it’s not really with getting wrapped up about how much these billionaires pay each other in their bank and forths. As for Granit, I cannot believe I’m saying he’ll be missed, but he’ll be missed. What a crazy tenure he had. Miscast badly as a mythical “deep-lying playmaker” that doesn’t exist anymore, then after telling fans to fuck off, having one foot out the door after flirting with Hertha, Newcastle and Roma he absolutely crushes it as a number 8 in our best season in probably 15-20 years. He… Read more »


Well said. But curious why you think the deep-lying playmaker position doesn’t exist anymore? Isn’t Gundogan exactly that? Kroos? Kimmich? Our own Jorginho? (Potentially Havertz soon too?)

Forest gooner

Deep lying playmaker is DM + CM combined in one player like Pirlo

Ethan Hunt

From the names mentioned above Jorginho for one is definitely a deep lying player maker / dm in the Pirlo, Alonso mould….


Kroos too, 100%. Gundogan played more attacking at Man City recently but was much more deep lying at Dortmund. Sorry but to say it’s a mythical position that doesn’t exist anymore is silly, it’s just the rare player that has the talent and intelligence to do it. With Pirlo and Alonso you’re talking more about a “regista” which is similar but not quite the same as a deep lying playmaker.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Arteta sees Rice as that too, hence being willing to spend 105 million on him.

A Different George

I think Rice is able to carry the ball forward, at pace, and that is a dimension of their game shared by very few defensive midfielders / deep-lying playmakers / registas (including even Pirlo).

Cannon and ball and arsen’all

The stats back this up – he was alongside the likes of grealish and Saka in-terms of ball carrying last season


maybe they’re returning some of the sell-on money they got when chelsea sold us havertz

David C

I’m sad to see Xhaka go especially after the amazing season he had last year. Didn’t imagine I would feeling this way after the issues with him and the fans years ago.

Best of luck Xhaka!


If we get that sort of money for Xhaka then Edu deserves plaudits for the selling side ay well as recruitment .

Heavenly Chapecoense

How many fullbacks Arsenal is going to have? Hope they score plenty of goals.


Would be strange to sign another. Probably bullshit tbh


If KT and Holding are leaving, we would have Timber (assuming he‘s coming), White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior, Tomiyasu & Zinchenko. 7 players for 4 positions, so room for 1 more.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Cancelo would be a decent signing but even though he’s for sale I doubt City would sell him to us.


Seems to be a kent. Don’t want kents in this team.
Also rather an overlapping full back than an inverted one.

A Different George

Yeah, he was the best left fullback in the league two seasons ago (and a serious candidate for the best player in the league, at any position) and Pep let him go, and for nothing, even though he had lost Zinchenko. I think he and Areta overlapped only briefly at City, so unless they developed some special rapport, it just seems unlikely that Arteta would want a player that Pep thought was toxic.


I think Henrichs will be backup for Zinchenko and will replace Tierney. The fact he can also play midfield screams inverted to me


Perhaps you are right. Will be interesting to find out where we end up.
Shaping up to be a great window already.


Henrichs is a right-back.


returning to the late arsene era when we would bring on all the fullbacks!


Gotta take these with a pinch of salt, sometimes these are like late news. Meaning the club was looking at him and Timber and decided to go with Timber, then later something like this comes out when the club already moved on. We will see.


That would be 6 million for Mari and 21 for Xhaka so far, right? You have to figure between Partey, Nketiah, Balogun, Tierney, Tavares, Pepe, Soares, etc. (depending on which ones we sell vs keep or loan) we could expect to get at least 60 million. I would hope for much more, but of course we are one of the worst clubs at selling so don’t expect too much in return.

The Beast

If we get close to £21m for a 30 year old with 12 months on their contract, I wouldn’t exactly call us one of the worst clubs at selling.

Chels just sold a younger player in a similar position in Loftus-Cheek for £13m.

Rambo Sambo

I thought we’d be seeing more action on the striker front but I guess we’re going for the city model (prior to haaland) of lots of attacking midfielders rather than a main goal scoring striker. Still have this nagging feeling we should be keeping Balogun but who knows how that will play out.


balogun is angling for an exit, and i say let him go if the fee is right. we’ve done enough for his agent in the recent past and some other club can pay his percentage.


Think a top class forward will be on the agenda for next summer. Keeper and defensive was more or less sorted last summer, midfield gets most of the attention this time around and next year we don’t need to spend big on any position so there should be funds available for an exciting addition for the front 3.

Eric Blair

Who could we be lining up to bring in next summer? I don’t want to get the rumour mills grinding but there are two French and English national team strikers out of contract and available for free then.


Apart from them guys Leao from AC Milan gives me Henry vibes cutting in from the left.. dono if our play would allow that type of striker though. I’m still convinced martinelli or saka could end up banging 25+ prem goals a season and then all of a sudden you don’t need 25+ from striker(not saying I’d turn it down)


Agree 100%. 15 and 14 goals respectively at 21 years old- the overwhelming likelihood is that at least one of them develops into a 20-25 goals a season forward, if not both.

Last season I thought it was going to be Martinelli, but Saka has just developed such a ruthlessness in front of goal. Add in Odegaard getting 15 last season and improving all the time, and we really shouldn’t be short of goals any time soon.


Yes I agree.. I get that people want everything nailed down but I think after this summer or transfer windows will be 1 big target for the next few seasons.. let’s be real a serious forward will cost 120. I’d rather wait for the Goldilocks than bring in a 45-55mill one that’s a bit of a risk

Billy bob

Why sell Patino and Marquinhos? Thought they were ones for the future? Patino looked good when I watched him play!!

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Patino apparently wants first-team football.

Marquinhos I reckon will be another loan somewhere. He’s only 20 years old, it wouldn’t make any sense to sell him after only 12 months.

Naked Cygan

Can someone please explain how Newcastle get one of the best young talent in Italy Tonali for $55 million and we are paying 100 million+ for Rice. Do these people actually watch matches or buy players based on new paper rumors and hypes. This is crazy how Tonali picked Newcastle. I think they will definitely be in the mix for a top 4 finish again. Rice will be great for us but for that price we could have got Tonali from Milan and Macalister from Brighton and still have 10 million to waste in another mavropanos and him back to… Read more »

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Rice is Premier League proven and I guess you pay a premium for that.

Tonali coming from Serie A there’s a much higher chance could be an expensive flop.

I’m not sure why we were never in the race for Macallister, especially at that price.

Naked Cygan

I see what you mean about Rice being a proven PL player, but we can’t just overpay and only buy from the PL. We got Odegard who was playing in Spain and now he is our captain. I have watched a lot of AC Milan games and I just don’t understand how Milan let him go for $55 million. Absolute bargain for Newcastle in this market. This guy is definitely 100 Million+ category and he is only 23.

A Different George

Milan have a really good tall number 9, with quick feet (though not great pace), who I think we could get on the cheap. Has won everything for club and country; abundant Premier League experience. Also handsome.



Dublin gunner

Because we’re looking to improve on what we have ,not just looking for numbers.

Dublin gunner

Has arteta and edu let us down yet? Until they do I thrust the process and let’s be honest very few Italians do well outside of italy.


Man I’m tired of our fans! Complain when we don’t buy and complain when we do. Tonali as good as he can be is no Rice. Rice will be a cornerstone of our team for years to come. Arteta knows this and that’s why he’s was our No1 target. Also we know Rice wouldn’t wake up and say “f*ck it” I hate London, I miss home, I want to go back, and he’s more of a guarantee not to be a flop given he’s Premier League proven. For MacAllister, I agree and also wondered why others didn’t go for him,… Read more »


How is it possible these players are back? It’s too many games. Insanity.


Literally my first thought was “Huh, already?!?”🤔😦

Merlin’s Panini

That sounds more like Xhaka’s value with 12 months left after an excellent season, even at 30 years old. He’s the sort of player that will probably just keep performing consistently until 36-37. He can’t get much slower and he’s smart.
I’d still be happy to keep him but if he wants a move he deserves it.


He will get better

Mikels Arteta

His next move after Leverkusen will be Saudi


I doubt he’d take his lovely family there. He’ll probably play a few years at Leverkusen and then go into coaching/management.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

That sounds right. He has trained the Arsenal under 16’s as part of his coaching license.


Totally unrelated topic, just after reading the Fabregas article and it’s fresh in my mind. Who did you find was the most painful transfer away from Arsenal for you personally, RVP or Fabregas? I would also accept the Sanchez transfer into consideration but for me he’s a very distant third. Interested to hear people’s opinion.


Cesc Fabregas. RVP’s was bad as well, but I’d not grown to love the player as much as I loved Cesc. Cesc was a hero to us young lads growing up. Seeing him in that 2006 Champions League team when I was 9 gave me a reassurance about life that I don’t think I can explain. This was the third Arsenal match I’d watch, so, it was huge for me. The first of many anxious clashes with Barcelona. RVP and Sanchez were just unfortunate. I’d have liked them to stay, but the club and the players both mismanaged the situation,… Read more »


Good Calls. I would add Vieira leaving for Juve, and Henry for Barcelona as some of those that hurt on a personal level.

Rotten Apple

For me Vieira and Henry don’t belong with the 3 guys mentioned above…While their departure may hurt some fans on a personnel level..and there were indeed some constant agitations from Vieira …….I think by the time they actually left there was a mutual understanding it was probably for the best for both parties. Vieira leaving help speed up Cesc development into the first team …and Henry well, it was clear the club made the right decision…


Hey guys! Hurt, a lot

Merlin’s Panini

Of those mentioned so far, Cesc was the most painful given the blatant Barca tapping up. It just rubbed salt into the wound when he joined Chelsea. He could and should have been a real legend. I also believe that was a turning point. If he had stayed the club would’ve looked stronger and we probably would’ve won something big and retained players like RVP. On an emotional level, Paul Merson leaving was the hardest for me. I was 13 and he was my favourite player. Age is always a factor in this. You get used to it after a… Read more »

Emi Rates

I can say that Sanchez didn’t hurt at all by the time he went. His antics leading up to it put me right off him and when he chose the lacklustre Man U over us for money he truly exposed himself for who he is. Accepting Mourinho as his coach further cemented was a twat he is. All the funnier that his decline started from there. I know Miki wasn’t exactly on great form either but at least he wasn’t a wanker like Sanchez.

Sanchez – what a twat!


I go for Cesc, the one whose departure hurt the most. As mentioned he could easily be a legend here.
And by far Sanchez was the one whom I hated the most when he left. I just can’t imagine a professional player under hefty salary intentionally underperforming and behaving like that in his last matches. “Twat” cannot describe that ass*ole.
Since I’m talking about Sanchez, let’s not forget to mention another twat named Adebayor.


Adebayor crosses into more “who did you hate the most when they left”, this list would include, but not exclusive to: Nasri, RVP, Gallas, Ashley Cole, et al.

A Different George

Well, Sanchez (and Ozil) kept us in the Champions League well beyond realistic expectations. He was a unique player–brave, always wanted the ball, lost it and regained it often, a brilliant improviser. If you designed a player that Jose Mourinho would hate, it was Alexis Sanchez.


Cedric still hanging around, still “fighting for his place” in the team. He really needs to move on, but I guess nobody else will pay him the money he gets at Arsenal. Sanllehi.

Public Elneny

This has got to be the last year on that contract, surely? Even madder than the contract was the 6 month loan before his contract expired. We already knew he was carrying a long term injury, which kept him out the majority of the rest of the season, managing a couple of sympathy appearances at the end. Apparently we paid ~£5m in wages and loan fees for that. We weren’t even short in numbers at RB – short in quality sure but how was Cedric ever going to address that? If you’re going to be dodgy, at least pretend that… Read more »

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Gotta admire his resilience.

If White, Tomiyasu, Timber, Zinchenko and Tierney all get injured at the same time, persistence would have paid off!

Santi’s Thigh Grab

Visible reminder what can happen to you if you go out drinking with Kia and Raul, you could end up with a Cedric in the morning. Really weird time at the club when the owners belatedly realized that not everyone in the leadership position at the club was as benevolent intended as Arsene. Cedric, Pepe, Luiz, Pablo, Lichsteiner and others circling the drain were standard fare during that time.

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