Arsenal’s pre-season plans disrupted with two key men set for lengthy absence

Mikel Arteta hasn’t had much luck with pre-season during his short managerial career.

His first summer break as Arsenal boss was squashed between the extended 2019-20 season and the start of the current campaign, a knock-on effect of the hectic scheduling which has become synonymous with pandemic football.

Meanwhile, the coming pre-season could be disrupted by the rearranged Tokyo Olympics .

Brazil have just announced their 23-man squad for the men’s football tournament, with Gabriel Magalhaes and Gabriel Martinelli both included. The Selecao have an excellent record at the Olympics, having won gold at Rio 2016, silver at London 2012 and bronze at Beijing 2008.

While Magalhaes and Martinelli will doubtless be delighted, it’s not ideal for Arteta. The tournament starts on July 22 and ends on August 7, a week before the Premier League kicks off again.

That means that, should Brazil reach the final, Arteta will be without two key players for a fortnight as he tries to prepare his squad for the first game of the new season. Assuming that they both start for the Selecao, Magalhaes and Martinelli may also need a rest when they return to England.

Gabriel Martinelli in action for Arsenal earlier in the season
Gabriel Martinelli in action for Arsenal earlier in the season

Given that a number of Arsenal players are set to feature at the Euros this summer, Arteta already had his work cut out for him managing his squad’s fitness while also giving them time to develop their relationships on the pitch. The absence of Magalhaes and Martinelli will only complicate matters further, while he will have to factor in the gruelling travel demands of flying to Japan and back again when deciding how much time they need to recuperate.

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Tokyo 2020 was put back a year in response to the coronavirus crisis and, while the Games are currently set to go ahead, the public health situation is still a cause for serious concern.

There is widespread unease in Japan about the implications of hosting a massive international sporting event in the midst of the pandemic and, as such, there is a degree of uncertainty over proceedings.

Assuming the Games go ahead as planned, however, Arteta will have to make do without a full-strength squad at a crucial stage of his pre-season preparations.

With the Africa Cup of Nations coming later in the campaign, the logistical difficulties aren’t going to end any time soon.

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