Arsenal FC: 7 Youngsters Looking to Impress on Gunners Far East Tour
Arsenal.com has released the squad list for the club's pre-season jaunt to Asia. Notable absentees begin with captain Cesc Fabregas who is said to be rehabilitating his troublesome hamstring. Manuel Almunia and Nicklas Bendtner have also been omitted, possibly a sign that the two under achievers are heading towards the exit door.
The most high-profile inclusion is Samir Nasri. Amidst increasing speculation that the french midfield maestro is inching towards a move to one of the Manchester clubs, Nasri's place on the tour, could be a sign that Arsene Wenger is confident of talking him round.
Despite the obvious commercial motives, the trip to the Far East gives Arsene Wenger his first opportunity to asses some of the talented youngsters in his squad who could be thrust into first team action this season. A run out in friendly matches may not be the best way to gauge a player's readiness for the rigours of the Premier League, but Arsenal's prospects and fringe players should still be keen to impress.
Here are seven Gunners prodigies who will be looking to make their mark.
7. Aaron Ramsey
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Aaron Ramsey certainly possesses the talent to merit a place in Arsene Wenger's strongest eleven. He made a decent start to his comeback from injury, during the second half of last season. He was outstanding in the 1-0 victory over Manchester United and was Arsenal's best player in the disappointing conclusion to the home campaign against Aston Villa.
But Ramsey floundered against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium and Arsene Wenger will no doubt be keen to determine how far along the Welsh dynamo is in his recovery. A positive showing from Ramsey in Asia will improve his chances of a more regular inclusion in the starting squad this season.
The tour will give Wenger the opportunity to gauge how well the blossoming partnership between Ramsey and Jack Wilshere is coming along. If Arsenal lose one or both of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer, Ramsey could need to be thrust into the fray from day one of the season.
6. Carlos Vela
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Talented Mexican forward Carlos Vela is heading into a make or break season with the Gunners. After returning from loan spells in Spain, Vela has spent the last three seasons in North London. Those three years culminated in a loan move to West Bromwich Albion. It's high time for Vela to show the desire to realise his tremendous potential with Arsenal.
Vela needs to seize the opportunity presented by the Asia tour to remind Arsene Wenger of his deftness and class in front of goal. Vela has exceptional pace and clinical finishing ability. He needs to work hard and prove that he merits increased opportunities in the first team.
With Gervinho's arrival imminent and Andrey Arshavin, Theo Walcott and Marouane Chamakh currently ahead of him in the pecking order, the time is now for Vela to finally show his true worth.
5. Armand Traore
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French starlet Armand Traore is another player who must double his efforts if he is to remain a part of Arsene Wenger's thinking. The young left back has returned from a loan spell with Turin giants Juventus. Gael Clichy's move to Manchester City has created an opening for Traore.
Kieran Gibbs is the likely starter heading into the season. But his injury record makes him a big gamble. Given his history, it would seem unlikely that Gibbs will stay healthy for the majority of the campaign. This only increases Arsenal's need for an able deputy.
Traore can certainly be that player. Blessed with sprinters speed and sharp crossing ability, Traore can certainly offer a lot going forward. He needs to improve his defensive positioning and become more disciplined in the tackle.
Traore must maximise any opportunities he receives in Asia to show Arsene Wenger that he can be a valuable member of the squad for 2011/12.
4. Emmanuel Frimpong
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Expectations are high for combative midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong. He seemed destined for a role in the first team last season, before an achilles injury cruelly curtailed his development. The Gunners Asia tour provides Frimpong the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how well he has recovered.
A fierce tackler and efficient distributor of the ball, Frimpong needs to use pre-season to remind Arsene Wenger how close he is to first team inclusion. Any action Frimpong sees in Asia will provide Wenger with the chance to see whether or not Frimpong's injury has dulled the physical edge to his game.
Alex Song's inconsistency coupled with his potential African Cup of Nations duty, means that Arsenal need quality competition and depth at the defensive midfield position. A strong pre-season from Frimpong could reveal him as the player capable of providing both.
3. Carl Jenkinson
As Arsenal's only signing at the time of writing, there will be a lot of interest in how Carl Jenkinson performs in the preseason. Arsene Wenger will no doubt be eager to get a keen sense of Jenkinson's potential to break into the first team early.
Capable of playing anywhere across the back line, Jenkinson's defensive versatility could be very useful to Arsenal this season. The 6'1" defender will need to demonstrate the ability to make a quick transition from English football's third tier to a Premier League squad.
Most commonly touted as a reserve for right back Bacary Sagna, it will be interesting to see exactly where Jenkinson is deployed during preseason. The Arsenal staff will explore ways to best utilise their new signing.
2. Kieran Gibbs
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Arsenal's tour of the Far East may offer the first glimpse of what Kieran Gibbs will bring to the starting left back berth. The former Wimbledon prodigy's performances will be closely monitored.
The number one question mark concerning Gibbs is his fitness. He will need at the very least, to demonstrate some durability in Asia. If he is once again struck down by injury, Arsene Wenger may be forced into the transfer market.
Arsenal's two friendly contests will also offer a decent insight into how well Gibbs may function in the Gunners style of play. A more accomplished attacker than Gael Clichy, it will be interesting to see how proficiently Gibbs links up with Arsenal's forward players. The midfielders and strikers should make good use of the England under 21 international's clever runs into the box.
Arsenal staff and fans will also pay strict attention to how Gibbs fares when he is tested defensively. He was occasionally guilty of drifting out of position last season. The Asia tour represents the first chance for Gibbs to make a good impression, heading into potentially the most important season of his career.
1. Ryo Miyaichi
It's easy to get caught up in the tremendous hype surrounding Ryo Miyaichi. After a highly impressive loan spell with Feyenoord last season, Gunners fans are eager to see Miyaichi display his dazzling skills in an Arsenal shirt.
A direct and fleet footed attacking wide player, Miyaichi has generated great excitement since he arrived at Arsenal. Expectations for the talented Japanese youngster are understandably high. Some strong performances on the Asia tour could help prove Miyaichi is ready to be accelerated into the Arsenal first team squad.
If Miyaichi can deliver, it may even increase Arsenal's chances of securing a work permit under the exceptional talent exemption. This would allow Miyaichi to begin his Premier league education this season.
Most of all, if Miyaichi can match the hype it could provide Arsenal fans with some welcome encouragement concerning the future prospects of the team.
With many fringe players being linked with moves away from the club, some of Arsenal's promising fledglings may have to take on more prominent roles this season. If these players can use their youthful exuberance and hunger to prove themselves to improve the depth of the squad from last season, then Arsenal will be better off this campaign.