Arsenal have officially touched-down in Sydney to kick off their preseason tour. The team will play twice in Australia, and twice in China, before flying back to London for the annual Emirates Cup.
Like any preseason, there are absentees, but with the Gunners in a state of flux this summer, certain player’s presence, or absence, speaks volumes.
Petr Cech, David Ospina, and Emiliano Martinez are all travelling with the team. As the first-choice keeper, Petr Cech‘s inclusion is not surprising, even if he is entering the last year of his deal (just like 11 others). Emi Martinez is still at least the third-choice, and he is under contract until 2021, so Wenger probably just wants him along to give him minutes.
David Ospina, on the other hand, looked to be on his way out before the tour even began when he was heavily linked with a move to Fenerbache. However, somewhat surprisingly, the deal hasn’t been completed. That is despite the fact that Arsenal only want $4.5 million for the player.
Just like over the last two regular seasons, Wojciech Szczesny is not with his team. After impressing with Roma on loan, Juventus are reportedly eager to sign him as the long-term replacement for Gigi Buffon. The Pole hasn’t been involved with any international tournaments, so his absence can’t be chalked up to lacking fitness.
Perhaps Ospina‘s inclusion, and Szczesny‘s absence are linked. The Colombian is known to be frustrated with his lack of playing time, and the fact that Szczesny may not return to the Gunners might mean Ospina is the long-term shot-stopper that Wenger wants.
Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal are all included in the preseason tour. None of them were involved with the Confederations Cup, so they are ready to start their training.
Mathieu Debuchy has not traveled, and given the fact he hasn’t been a starter for some time that is no surprise. The only shock is that he has not yet forced his way to another club.
Carl Jenkinson is another defender who is not expected to play in North London next year, and is rightly staying at home this summer. It is somewhat tragic that Jenkinson couldn’t make an impact at his boyhood club, but that’s the real world for you. Hopefully for his career’s sake he gets a move this window.
Kieran Gibbs has also not been invited, and has been linked with a move to Newcastle recently. The left-back hasn’t played very much outside of the Cups, and only played consecutive games once in the last two years. He’s another player who really does need a move to kick-start his career.
Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin are all at home as well. However, their inclusions in international competitions mean that is only to give them a breather before beginning training.
The only question mark is whether or not Barcelona can force a move for Bellerin. But that seems unlikely as the young Spaniard signed a new contract last fall.
Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Granit Xhaka all flew to Sydney. None of those names are surprises, even though Ozil and the Ox haven’t signed new deals yet.
The German even shed some light on his situation after the launch of Arsenal’s alternate kit.
“It is definitely my preference to stay. It is such a great club and I have always said that I feel very good at Arsenal. Once everyone is back in London we will sit down and discuss about the future. For now the most important thing is our preseason and getting through the tour, training and getting fitness. When I’m back in London, we will sit down and discuss.”
Neither Santi Cazorla nor Jack Wilshere could go to Oz with the team, as they are both injured. Meanwhile, as both are in their final year, there is no news about whether or not they have been offered new contracts.
Joel Campbell, also in his final twelve months, is at the Gold Cup right now with his Costa Rican teammates. Given the fact he has only made 40 appearances in his six years at the club, it seems unlikely that he will return for next season.
Olivier Giroud, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck have all landed safely in the land down under. Lacazette will likely make his Arsenal debut and try to gel with his new teammates.
Meanwhile, despite links with Everton, Marseille, and West Ham, Giroud featured heavily in the alternate kit launch. Hopefully that proves he will feature for the Gunners next year.
Alexis Sanchez‘s absence is perhaps not a great sign, but he did just make it to the finals of the Confederations Cup. So, that is likely down to the fact he needs rest rather than a sign he is leaving (at least I hope!).
Meanwhile, Lucas Perez is also staying at home despite not playing since the end of last season. He is known to be frustrated with his lack of minutes, and a return to Deportivo La Coruna seems imminent.
Preseason is the perfect time to give the kids a chance. Cohen Bramall, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Donyell Malen, Reiss Nelson, Krystian Bielik, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock (brother of Chirs, who recently departed for Benfica) will all have something to prove.
Perhaps the only player left in the cold here is Chuba Akpom, who impressed during the last tour before being shipped out to Brighton & Hove Albion on loan in January.
Okay Gooners time for you to have your say; What does this preseason squad tell you about Arsenal’s goals in the transfer window? Who would you sell? Who would you re-sign?