Arsenal FC’s search for their first Premier League trophy in 12 years continues, as their manager Arsene Wenger looks to prepare his team for the upcoming season.

 

While the Frenchman will be plotting new transfers over  the summer, he also needs to make sure that his players are in proper shape when the season finally starts in August.

A number of their star players have already started their preseason training. The likes of Per Mertesacker, Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers, Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal, and Mohamed Elneny have all taken to the training ground, with the new season looming on the horizon.

However, most of their first team players are yet to return, as they are currently on holiday after a grueling summer of international football. Both the 2016 Copa America and the European Championships involved a number of Arsenal players.

According to the UEFA rules, if a player has taken part in an international tournament in the summer, his club is obligated to give him three weeks off. A number of the Gunners’ stars have taken part in the two international tournaments in the summer and will be absent for the first few weeks of their pre-season.

The likes of Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Mesut Ozil are yet to return from their holidays, after participating in the European Championships. Ramsey (Wales) and Ozil (Germany) had to play till the semifinals, while Olivier Giroud was a part of the French side that lost in the final of the Euros last Sunday.

Alexis Sanchez, who won the Copa America with Chile last month, is also yet to return from his holidays. The 27-year-old has picked up a horrible ankle injury during the final of the Copa America against Argentina and is still in recovery mode. The Chile star tweeted pictures of his injured ankle recently.

With so many first team players missing, Wenger is expected to call upon his younger players to take up the mantle in the upcoming preseason friendlies. The likes of Alex Iwobi, Yaya Sanogo, Serge Gnarby, Joel Campbell and Chuba Akpom are set to play an important part in the friendlies as they look to impress their manager for a more regular spot in the team during the main season. So let’s take a look at three of Arsenal’s biggest upcoming pre-season friendlies.

RC Lens

22nd July, 2016

Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens

Lens' French forward Yoann Touzghar (R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between OGC Nice and RC Lens at the Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice, southeastern France, on May 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK PENNANT (Photo credit should read FRANCK PENNANT/AFP/Getty Images)

Lens’ French forward Yoann Touzghar (R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between OGC Nice and RC Lens at the Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice, southeastern France, on May 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK PENNANT (Photo credit should read FRANCK PENNANT/AFP/Getty Images)

The Gunners kick off their pre-season campaign against Lens next week, with Arsene Wenger looking to put together a competitive team for the fixture. As explained earlier, most of their main players are on holiday after a grueling summer, and the Frenchman will have to turn to his young guns for this match.

Arsenal are a bit short on strikers at the moment, with Olivier Giroud given some time off after Euro 2016 and Danny Welbeck suffering from a long term injury. As such, manager Arsene Wenger is all set to start with the 20-year-old Chuba Akpom up front for this match. The Arsenal academy graduate has had a decent spell on loan at Hull last season and will look to impress his manager who is said to be looking to sign a new striker this summer.

RC Lens have a couple of promising players of their own, in the form of 19-year-old English defender Taylor Moore and 20-year-old Danish midfielder Patrick Olsen. It will be interesting to see how the young Gunners match up to the Ligue 2 side.

MLS All-Stars

28th July, 2016

San Jose, California

Didier Drogba of the Montreal Impact warms up prior to kickoff against the LA Galaxy in their MLS match on September 12, 2015 in Carson, California which ended 0-0. AFP PHOTO /FREDERIC J.BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Didier Drogba of the Montreal Impact warms up prior to kickoff against the LA Galaxy in their MLS match on September 12, 2015 in Carson, California which ended 0-0. AFP PHOTO /FREDERIC J.BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

This could potentially be Arsenal’s trickiest game of preseason. While all the European clubs are in their preseason mode right now, their American counterparts are in the middle of their own season. This means that all the MLS players will be fully fit to take on the Gunners at the end of the month. A win in this match will surely pump a lot of confidence into the Arsenal team, who are yet to reach full fitness this summer.

Arsene Wenger will have to prepare hiss young side to deal with some tricky All-Stars players. Coach Dominic Kinnear looks set to play the 3-4-3 formation for his side, with a number of former European legends donning the All-Stars shirt.

The All-Stars midfield has stellar names like Giovani Dos Santos, Kaka, and the great Andrea Pirlo. The Italian pass-master is no stranger to the three-at-the-back system, as he has thrived in the Juventus and Italy midfield in the past. To add to that, they have Sebastian Giovinco and David Villa attacking from the flanks.

However, the biggest threat that Arsenal will face will come from former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. The Ivorian has absolutely terrorised Arsenal defences in the past, and will like nothing better than to score another goal against the Gunners. In fact, Drogba has scored 15 goals in as many games against Arsenal.

Manchester City

7th August, 2016

Gothenburg, Sweden

Manchester City's Spanish football coach Pep Guardiola poses for photographs outside the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northern England, on July 8, 2016. Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players that they have to prove themselves all over again following his arrival at the club. / AFP / OLI SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR "LIVE" SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS. (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Manchester City’s Spanish football coach Pep Guardiola poses for photographs outside the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northern England, on July 8, 2016.
Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players that they have to prove themselves all over again following his arrival at the club. / AFP / OLI SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR “LIVE” SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS. (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

This will be a crucial pre-season fixture for Arsenal. With the Premier League set to kick off just one week after this match, both Arsenal and Manchester City will be looking to get their act together. The Gunners are set to have most of their stars back in training by this time, and could name a full strength XI against the Sky Blues.

Manchester City  have built themselves into a formidable outfit, with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola pulling the strings from the touch-line. City are bound to play an ultra attacking system, with long bouts of possession — something that Arsenal have not always been able to handle in the past.

In fact, the Gunners have a poor record against Barcelona, who play the system laid out by Guardiola. Arsenal have only been able to register one win against Barcelona, with the Catalans winning five against the London side.

City have an important addition to their midfield, with Dortmund star Ilkay Gundgan being roped in by Guardiola this summer. However, it will be interesting to see what role Guardiola has for Yaya Toure, who was sold by the Spaniard during their time at Barcelona.

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