Pre-season pics + Xhaka fee increased

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Yesterday was another quiet day, but it does feel as if this week could be a busy one.

Some of the players are back for pre-season, doing some fitness assessments and the like, but the return is staggered due to the mid-June internationals. There were some pics on the official website. There’s a lot of Gabriel Jesus and Ben White, a dash of Eddie Nketiah and Rob Holding, some Marquinhos, and right at the end, a picture of Cedric attached to a load of wires which I assume are trying to mine any residual value out of him before we sell him somewhere.

It also looks as if the stress of being a top flight football manager is manifesting itself in Mikel Arteta’s coal-black hair. Are those flecks of grey, or is it simply like the sunlight reflecting off Obsidian? You could understand if last season turned him a bit grey though. Maybe winning the league is the antidote (along with Grecian 2000).

I’m not quite sure when the others will be filtering back, but perhaps by the end of the week we’ll have the full complement given our first game of pre-season is next Thursday. Chances are that will be a team bolstered by the inclusion of some young players, which is always an interesting part of the summer. Who will get a chance to impress and perhaps stake a claim for a place in squad for one of the cups?

The reality of being a much improved team, and one with greater expectations placed upon it for the season ahead, is that it’s much more difficult for young players to make a breakthrough. The stakes are so high domestically they have to be much more ready, and there’s a big difference between the Champions League and the Europa League group stages – typically an opportunity to mix things up a bit. Next season we’ll have a bigger, deeper squad, but this is precisely what Mikel Arteta was referencing when he spoke about the need to be able to play at the top level every three or four days. These are the demands, and beyond some kind of injury crisis, you don’t go too far outside your pool of first team players.

Meanwhile, there were a slew of reports yesterday about Granit Xhaka and his long-mooted move to Bayer Leverkusen. We’ve all just assumed it was going to happen, as if the Swiss international doesn’t have a bit of a history when it comes to being in the departure lounge and then ending up right back where he started, bags unpacked, the whole lot.

However, this time around, it’s all about how the move is close, and get this: it looks like we’re going to get more money than we initially thought. The reported fee of around £13m always felt way too low, and it now appears as if it’s going to be in the region of €25m (£21.5m). Whether that’s with every add-on taken into account, it’s hard to say, but all in all it’s a much more respectable figure for a good player who still has plenty left in the tank.

Whether the delay on this one has been because Arsenal wanted to be 100% sure on Declan Rice, or because they were negotiating upwards, I don’t know. Perhaps a little from Column A, a little from Column B. But even taking into account the fact he’s being sold outside the Premier League, when a 20 year old reserve goalkeeper is set to fetch £15m (potentially rising to £19m), Arsenal were absolutely right to demand more from Granit Xhaka.

Elsewhere, there’s a link to Leipzig defender Benjamin Henrichs, but given he’s a right back and we seem to be quite some way down the line with a move to Jurrien Timber, I suspect any interest in him might be as a safety net option. I do think our defence is shaping up in an interesting way for next season, but let’s get business done before we dive into the nuts and bolts of that.

Ok, I’m gonna leave it there for this morning. Let’s hope there are some bits and pieces happening today to cover, and for now I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast Extra – recorded last night. We chat about Xhaka, Fabregas, Rice, Timber, Steve, and lots more. Enjoy!