Players To Watch As Arsenal Start Pre-Season Today
Arsenal return to football today in the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup in Southampton, two months after the final day scramble against West Brom to seal third place. Granted that most first teamers haven’t joined up with the squad yet, but there are still a few senior members around and a couple of players knocking on the first-team door plus some promising young talent and the returning loanees.
Unfortunately the game will not be televised live so we’ll have to make do with updates on Twitter and wait for the highlights on Arsenal Player on Sunday. From a senior team perspective, the players to watch out for will be Gervinho, Kyle Bartley and Marouane Chamakh.
Most supporters regard Gervinho’s first season at the club as being poor. It’s true his goal return wasn’t spectacular and his decision-making and final pass let him down consistently. Nevertheless, Gervinho didn’t too badly in comparison to Theo Walcott on the other wing – in the Premier League, the Ivorian created a chance every 56 minutes as compared to Walcott who created one every 85 minutes. And having started 13 games less than Theo, Gervinho still managed 6 assists compared to the Englishman’s 8 (stats courtesy EPLIndex.com). His form dropped before and after the ACON, but the Ivorian showed glimpses of coming back to his best towards the end of last season and I am really looking forward to seeing how he goes this time around.
With Arsenal trying their best to find a new home for Sebastian Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel likely to be loaned out this year, the returning Kyle Bartley has a good opportunity to impress Le Boss. His last season at Rangers was marred by injury and while his performance were hardly spectacular, he certainly was a key member of the Scottish sides’ defense. Whether that is enough for the Premier League remains to be seen but if his performances in pre-season are impressive, he could force his way into the reckoning alongside Johan Djourou as back up to our three main central defenders.
With Van Persie’s departure imminent, Chamakh might still have a future at Arsenal. The Moroccan hardly got a chance last season with RvP in blazing form, although it’s fair to say he looked lethargic and short of ideas when he did come on. The main issue with Chamakh is that he doesn’t have enough skill on the ball to merit a regular starting place in a team that relies heavily on link-up play. Having said that, he certainly has (or had) an eye for goal – perhaps the opening up of competition for the striker’s role might motivate him. Today’s game could provide a sign of whether the player is likely to stay, or move away.
Of course, the media are still speculating on Robin van Persie’s status at the club. While one report suggests that Manchester City have opened the door to sign him by offloading Adebayor to the Spuds, another indicates that Robin’s outburst was only a tactic by his agent to secure a better deal. Although the latter provides hope for Arsene Wenger, it would be most unlike the Dutchman to make a u-turn now. But if he did, would we Gooners forgive and forget?
Post your thoughts. More tomorrow.