Five Arsenal academy players have joined the first team on their pre-season trip to Germany this week, after many featured in the Ipswich Town friendly.
When Arsenal took on Ipswich in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the weekend, Mikel Arteta named almost an entire team of youth players for the second half.
That gave plenty of youngsters the chance to impress, but it was also somewhat out of necessity, with so many senior players still on holiday after the June internationals.
That’s changed in the last few days, with eight more first-team outfield players returning to training to fill the gaps.
So as Arsenal flew out to Germany, Arteta cut down on the number of youth players joining the trip.
From photos of the sessions so far, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, Charlie Patino, Matt Smith, Lino Sousa, and Reuell Walters have all made the trip.
The upside for those players is that it increases the likelihood they might actually be involved as pre-season progresses.
Playing a half in a League One friendly behind closed doors is one thing, but playing in front of fans against a Bundesliga club is another. The quintet above may now get that chance.
Why were these five selected?
Salah-Eddine, Patino, and Smith are all central midfielders, which isn’t a surprise given the only first-team midfielders to travel are Mohamed Elneny, Albert Sambi Lokonga, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles (if you don’t count Emile Smith Rowe for the deeper roles).
Assuming at least two of the three start Friday’s match, youth midfielders will need to be available to come on and give the starters a rest.
Meanwhile, Sousa is a left-back, and without Nuno Tavares and with Kieran Tierney only recently returning from injury, it’s clear why he’s travelled.
That leaves Walters, a right-back. Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares are both available, but Cedric might end up rotating with Sousa at left-back if Tierney isn’t ready to play.
Essentially, it seems the primary criterion for selection is necessity.
Arsenal have more options in forward areas, with Nicolas Pepe, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Jesus, Folarin Balogun, Gabriel Martinelli, Marquinhos, and Smith Rowe all available.
So that’s why Omari Hutchinson and Marcelo Flores ended up playing and scoring for the u21s on Tuesday night instead.