Arsenal’s pre-season plans have been thrown into chaos this week.
The Gunners had been scheduled to face Inter Milan on Sunday in the Florida Cup before facing one of Everton/Millonarios next Wednesday or Thursday.
However, the pre-season tour of the United States had to be cancelled as a result of some positive COVID-19 cases in the Gunners’ camp.
An official statement on Arsenal.com read: “Following a small number of positive COVID tests among the planned party to travel to America tomorrow, we have sadly been forced to withdraw from the Florida Cup.
“This difficult decision is based on ensuring the health and wellbeing of our players and staff.
“We are glad to say the members of staff are not currently displaying any COVID symptoms. They are now in self-isolation at home. We are now making alternative arrangements in line with the Premier League protocols to continue our preparations for the new season.”
Those alternative arrangements haven’t yet been disclosed, but it is hardly the best preparation for the start of what will be a hugely important 2021/22 season.
Therefore it’s back to the training ground where Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff put the Gunners squad through their paces during a session at London Colney on Friday afternoon.
And there has been media footage released to get fans in the mood.
Here’s what we spotted from those training pictures and what it tells us ahead of the big Premier League opener against newly-promoted Brentford in a few weeks.
The Arsenal squad has been a little light since the start of pre-season training as those who were involved in summer international tournaments were extra time off.
Bernd Leno was one of them.
Despite not featuring for Germany at Euro 2020, he went on holiday following their round of 16 exit at the hands of England on June 29 and three weeks later he was back with his club.
Interestingly, there is a possibility that Leno could leave this summer and cause the Gunners to sign two goalkeepers amid links to Aaron Ramsdale and Andre Onana.
football.london understands that the German is open to departing to the Emirates Stadium and with just two years left on his contract Arsenal would be willing to let him go.
However, there were no signs of unhappiness from the keeper as he returned to first-team training.
Three signings involved
Arsenal have made two first-team signings so far in Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga as Arteta’s planned summer rebuild of his squad begins to take shape.
And the pair were involved in Friday’s session.
As was the club’s other summer signing – Nicolas Jover who arrived in north London after leaving Premier League rivals Manchester City when his contract expired last month.
Jover has taken over from Andreas Georgson as a set-piece specialist – a similar role he held at the Etihad Stadium – and Arteta explained the appointment last week.
“Yeah, we had a situation in the summer with Andreas [Georgson], where he had the possibility to leave to his country”, Arteta told Arsenal’s official website. “He had different reasons to do that and I understood that situation, so we needed to recruit somebody.
“After looking through what the best solution would be, a person that I know was on the market, was available, is someone whose expertise are incredibly useful and valuable for us.
“He’s joining us. His name is Nicolas Jover and I’ve worked with him before at City.”
Wonderkids called up
As is the case with almost every Arsenal first-team training session, there were a few of the club’s most promising youngsters that were involved.
Earlier in the week, Jack Henry-Francis – who featured against Hibernian – was put through his paces alongside the likes of Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe and Nicolas Pepe.
On Friday, it was the turn of Karl Hein, Miguel Azeez and Omar Rekik.
The latter continues to work closely with the first-team squad due to the lack of numbers at centre-back coupled with a deal for Ben White yet to be finalised.
Meanwhile, Azeez was called up to boost the midfield options.
He is one player that could possibly be on the fringes of the first-team next season.
After all, he was included in a Premier League squad for the game against Sheffield United and in several of the travelling parties for knockout games in the Europa League last term.
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New season, new Auba
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang endured a torrid outing against Rangers last weekend, missing three clear-cut chances in the first half as the Gunners were held to a 2-2 draw.
But instead of feeling sorry for himself, the Arsenal captain has made a huge alternation to his appearance – not for the first time in 2021.
After landing back in London, it’s clear from the image below that Aubameyang had an appointment at a local hairdresser as he was sporting a new hairstyle on Friday.
This is the second time Aubameyang has changed his hairstyle in 2021 alone having done so after the March international break.
And it caught the attention of teammate Alexandre Lacazette.
The Frenchman uploaded a video to his Instagram account of Aubameyang in the changing room after training and compared his teammate to rapper Travis Scott for the similarity in hairstyle.
We will await Lacazette’s verdict this time around.
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