Arsenal will officially kick-off their pre-season preparations this evening when they face Scottish side Hibernian at Easter Road.
The Gunners, who completed their first signing of the summer transfer window on Saturday in the form of Benfica left-back Nuno Tavares, travelled to Scotland yesterday in preparation for this evening’s 6pm kick-off.
The clash with Hibernian will represent Arsenal’s first of two matches in Scotland in the next few days, with the second coming against Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday afternoon.
The Arsenal players who have not been on international duty over the summer returned to the club’s London Colney training base last week in preparation for the new campaign and tonight’s clash with Hibernian will represent their first opportunity to get some much-needed miles into their legs ahead of their Premier League opener against Brentford in just over four weeks time.
So far this pre-season, with manager Mikel Arteta not having all of his senior players available to him due to Euro 2020, a number of the club’s younger players have been handed an opportunity to impress.
Amongst those to have been given the chance to express themselves in and around the first-team picture include the likes of Tommy Smith, Omar Rekik, Omari Hutchinson and Jack Francis, meaning they will have all learnt a great amount in the past few days.
Another man that has been handed the chance to train with the first team since reporting back for pre-season last week is goalkeeper James Hillson.
The 20-year-old, who made the substitutes bench for the Gunners’ impressive 4-0 win over Slavia Prague in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final back in May, made just one appearance last season, featuring in the Premier League 2.
However, Arteta has clearly seen enough in him to allow him to train with the first team.
Interestingly, following the release of some training pictures by the club, one eagle-eyed Arsenal fan may have spotted a hint in regards to Emile Smith Rowe’s new shirt number, because Hillson was spotted wearing a training top with Smith Rowe’s No.32 on it.
Taking to reddit, user BignAngry posted a picture of Hillson in training and wrote: “James Hillson wearing No.32, almost surely means ESR gets a new number this season.”
That, of course, drew plenty of comments from fellow Gunners supporters, who quickly shared the same view that Smith Rowe could be in line for a change.
gunner 940 said: “Well, the cat will be out of the bag tomorrow come match time.”
YabuHive posted: “Looks like it, guess we’ll know tomorrow pre match.”
propabanta added: “100%.”
Marcello said: “Must be getting the #10 with a new contract.”
The former Huddersfield Town loanee wore No.32 during his breakthrough campaign last season and could be in line for a change to a more sought-after number after how well he performed during the 2020/21 season.
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And the number that Smith Rowe could be in line to land ahead of the new season is the club’s famous No.10 shirt, which has been worn by a number of household names down the years, including Dennis Bergkamp, Robin van Persie and Mesut Ozil.
Considering Smith Rowe is an attacking-midfielder, the No.10 shirt would certainly suit him and his role well.
However, it should be considered that the numbers worn in training sessions can differ from their actual squad numbers, highlighting that this theory that Hillson is the new proprietor of the No.32 shirt and Smith Rowe will claim No.10 should be taken with a pinch of salt and caution.