Five Arsenal stars who need to impress Unai Emery during pre-season
- Credit: Archant
Arsenal’s busy pre-season schedule starts on July 6 with a trip to Boreham Wood. Islington Gazette Arsenal reporter Dan Mountney has picked out five players who must impress Unai Emery before the start of the season.
The Englishman impressed on loan at relegated Fulham, and returns to Arsenal this summer for what will be a make or break season at the Emirates.
Signed from Southampton for £16 million back in 2014, he is no longer the promising 19-year-old he was when he first moved to North London.
Having failed to make a real impact in his five years at the club, he showed he can make one in the Premier League last season, but now at the age of 24, he needs to show Emery what he can do - with pre-season the perfect place to start.
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Able to play at centre-back, right-back and in a holding midfield role like he did with Fulham, Chambers' versatility will help him, although he is yet to really find his best position.
It's now or never for Chambers.
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Despite playing just twice for the first-team since signing from Legia Warsaw in 2015, Bielik had an outstanding 2018/19 season on loan at League One Charlton Athletic.
He helped the Addicks return to the Championship as they beat Sunderland in the play-off final, impressing both as a defensive midfielder - where he played most of his games - and at centre-back.
The 21-year-old has also shone for Poland at the U21 European Championship this summer, with plenty of Arsenal fans calling for Bielik to be given a chance in the first-team.
Depending on how far Poland go in the tournament, he will hopefully return for the later pre-season games, where he will have the chance to show Emery what he is capable of.
While he may be sent out on loan again, Bielik will be looking to make a mark on the Arsenal first-team this season.
With Danny Welbeck gone and Arsenal seemingly prioritising other areas, Nketiah could well be Arsenal's second choice striker behind Alexande Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Having played nine times for the first-team last season, he showed Emery he was capable of scoring in the Premier League when he netted against Burnley on the fianl day of the season.
Quick and sharp inside the penalty area, Nketiah can be a key player off the bench for the Gunners next season, with the 20-year-old unlikely to force Lacazette or Aubameyang out of the team.
To secure his place in the squad, he needs to continue showing Emery that he knows where the back of the net is.
He's just one of many young attacking players such as Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe who need a big pre-season showing.
Despite being linked with an exit, the sale of Ozil this summer looks unlikely, and he now needs to show why he was worth the £42 million spent on him in 2013.
Often dropped by Emery in his first season in charge, the 30-year-old must use pre-season to show his often questioned attitude and work ethic has changed.
His poor performances in big games against big teams has also been called into question, but pre-season fixtures against the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona provide Ozil with the opportunity to show what he can do.
While it's only pre-season, the German has a point to prove to his manager.
Petr Cech has gone, David Ospina is likely to leave and Emiliano Martinez could go if he doesn't want to play second fiddle to Bernd Leno, which would leave Okonkwo next in line for second choice goalkeeper.
The 17-year-old is one of many up and coming stars in the Arsenal youth system, and impressed with both the U18 and U23 sides last season, keeping seven clean sheets in 14 games.
A tall, imposing goalkeeper who is a brilliant shot stopper, pre-season will be a real chance for Okonkwo to impose himself and catch the eye of Emery.
The coaching shake-up at the club could also help the goalkeeper, with Freddie Ljungberg stepping up to Emery's first-team staff as Arsenal look to better integrate young players.
With a good pre-season, Okonkwo could make the first-team step up sooner rather than later.