After suffering a disappointing 2-1 defeat in their pre-season opener against Hibernian on Tuesday evening, Arsenal will be hoping to produce a better performance and earn a better result when they face Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday.
The Gunners, who face Brentford in their Premier League opener in four weeks time, produced a lacklustre showing against Hibs and found themselves 2-0 down before pulling a goal back with eight minutes remaining through Emile Smith Rowe.
Although both the result and the performance were nowhere near at the standards manager Mikel Arteta would have expected, it did provide Arsenal’s players with the chance to get some mileage into their legs ahead of the big kick-off.
Nevertheless, Arteta will be hoping to see an improvement against Rangers on Saturday, with Steven Gerrard’s side likely to pose another tough test for the Gunners.
With a collection of first-team regulars still on holiday, after featuring at the European Championship, a number of the club’s younger players have been included in the Gunners squad that has made the trip to Scotland, including the likes of Omar Rekik, Harry Clarke, Omari Hutchinson and Jack Francis.
Those four will have benefited massively from training alongside the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, all of whom will have been able to share plenty of experience and know-how.
Ever since Arteta landed the Arsenal job in December 2019, he has often invited the club’s younger players to train with the first-team and learn the ropes, as well as experiencing what it is like to train alongside some of the biggest names that the Premier League and world football has to offer.
Amongst them, of course, is central-defender Clarke, who spent some of last season on loan at League Two side Oldham Athletic. The 20-year-old made 25 appearances for the Latics and has since returned to the Gunners and been handed a chance to prove his worth by Arteta.
Interestingly, over the last few days in training, Clarke has been spotted wearing a jumper with No.35 on it, which, of course, is the shirt number currently assigned to Brazilian sensation Gabriel Martinelli.
Martinelli is currently with the Brazil squad in preparation for the Olympics and is, obviously, away from the Gunners’ pre-season training camp.
However, some Arsenal fans believe that by Clarke being spotted in the No.35 shirt it means that Martinelli could be in line to earn a new shirt number this coming season, just as it is expected for Smith Rowe as well.
This theory has attracted plenty of comments on social media from Arsenal fans. Here, football.london has taken a close look at what some have had to say on Twitter.
@SavSavvz wrote: “Is he getting a new number then (Martinelli) given Harry Clarke was wearing his #35 yesterday?”
@SamDoherty25 posted: “Harry Clarke wore 35 when he was playing could mean a new number for Martinelli?”
Kabzu1 said: “Clarke number 35 Martinelli got a new number!!!”
@DiffKnock posted: “Harry Clarke in 35. Definitely a new number for Martinelli then.”
@Willyam1800 added: “What number is Martinelli taking?”
Ever since joining Arsenal ahead of the start of the 2019/20 campaign, the Brazilian ace has always worn shirt No.35, meaning he could be in line for a change just to freshen things up.
At the moment, it seems like Smith Rowe is destined to bag the No.10 shirt, meaning Martinelli could swoop for No.11, with Lucas Torreira set to leave the club this summer. That is a number associated with an attacker, particularly one like Martinelli.
Should he land No.11, he would follow in the footsteps of some famous Gunners players to have donned that particular number, including the likes of Paul Merson, Robin van Persie and Mesut Ozil.
However, it should be considered that the numbers worn in training sessions and pre-season can differ from players’ confirmed squad numbers ahead of a new season, highlighting that this theory Martinelli could be in line for a change and that Clarke is the new owner of the No.35 shirt should be taken with a pinch of salt and caution.
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