I was fortunate enough to score a press credential for Arsenal’s training day in
Los Angeles Carson yesterday, which was fantastic. It’s not necessarily a wholly accurate look at what Arsenal training is like all season, because so much of it was stage-managed for the public, but it was fun to take a peek behind the curtain, as it were, that we don’t normally get from all the way over here on the west coast.
The Press Conference
Waiting for the Arsenal brass to take the press conference stage was a little anti-climatic. Especially since Josh Kroenke decided to get ahead of the storm that many Arsenal fans and writers started on Twitter through the #WeCareDoYou movement. Unai Emery took his seat alongside Granit Xhaka, who looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but in front of the media, and took questions.
He answered one in particular that caught my ear.
Emery: “We are waiting on two, three or four players to come in and help us.— arseblog (@arseblog) July 17, 2019
“We have big targets. Our first target is a very expensive player, after that the rest will follow.’
The key word that stood out to me was “waiting”, and I can only feel for Unai Emery who has had to do exactly that over the last few months to see if the squad that he is in charge of managing will get any improvements or reinforcements. He followed up his statement by putting his faith in his backroom staff, while almost acknowledging that these deals would already be done if Arsenal would have won a couple more matches down the stretch.
Emery probably knew something was obviously in the works, as the always trusty David Ornstein tweeted out this update the morning after.
Arsenal set to win race to sign William Saliba. Close to completion after Saint Etienne centre-back opted for #AFC. Loan back to #ASSE next season. Also working on loan for Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos & continue pursuit of Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney #RMFC #CelticFC— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) July 17, 2019
It’s good to see the club finally get the ball rolling on transfers with just a few weeks left in the window, even if this particular transfer won’t benefit Arsenal until next season.
This was the part that I had been waiting all day for. I was excited to see young players like Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock fly around, but also excited to see the likes of Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up close and personal for the first time. And boy, they did not disappoint.
Ozil came strolling out of the locker room as cool as ever, with his new hair color that is either a signal for his best season ever or the biggest cry for help that I have seen in a while. His play though, was much easier on the eye. Smooth, controlled, and confirmation as to why Arsenal players in the past rave about how easy he is to play with. He seemed to always be two steps ahead of everyone, which got me a little frustrated when I thought about this past season and how inconsistent he was.
The young players I wanted to see didn’t disappoint either. Nelson was flying around in the team drills, his quick bursts and close touch allowing him to maneuver past experienced players. Willock was able to use his bigger frame and positioning to allow him time and space on the ball.
Another great sign in training was Rob Holding. The guy kept up with his teammates and played so well that I forgot for the first ten minutes or so that he had been injured for the last several months. He seemed quick, confident, and composed, which was a nice little surprise for me as an onlooker.
Rob Holding taking a full part in the training, sprinting around, making tackles— arseblog (@arseblog) July 17, 2019
A surprise that wasn’t as welcomed was Aubameyang going down during a team-based exercise that had him on the floor, not moving for more than a couple minutes. Players cleared out, physios rushed onto the field with their medical bags, and all of the bad thoughts came streaming into my head.
Aubameyang has gone down in open training. Has been on the floor for 2 minutes, just got up but looks to be in a lot of pain.— James Benge (@jamesbenge) July 17, 2019
“It’s because i’m here isn’t it,” “Yup, my first time seeing the club in person and the best player goes down, not a coincidence” are among the things I muttered to myself as I started to shove things into my backpack in order to leave, so that Lacazette wasn’t going to go down in the next drill he was going to take part in.
Then, he got up.
Loos like he's trying to run it off— James Benge (@jamesbenge) July 17, 2019
And I was able to stay and watch the rest of the training, which I was happy about.
A couple things that I noticed in training that caught my eye, from a structural point of view, was that Arsenal went and worked on their cutbacks almost immediately after warming up as a team. They would work on their build up from their centerbacks, work it to the wing, with the runner heading to the byline, and then cross it in for the attackers who were working on a variety of finishes.
It made me think of how crucial Hector Bellerin’s return to the starting XI will be, and additionally how helpful it would be if Arsenal could sign Kieran Tierney from Celtic, who might have only one good leg, but that one leg can complete a cross and that is much better than what Sead Kolasinac can do at this moment.
I’ll be heading to the match tonight in LA and will provide an overall update on the night and the match goings. A proper European night in Los Angeles, or so the marketers tell me.