Arsenal are in a buoyant mood after recording two important victories in a row.
The win against Olympiacos in the Europa League last 16 first leg provided the perfect platform for Sunday’s north London derby.
Mikel Arteta’s side dominated the majority of the game against Tottenham and they will be looking to continue their impressive recent form when they host Olympiacos again on Thursday night.
Most of the headlines focused on the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the Gunners starting line-up for the match, but the Gabon forward is expected to return to lead the line against the Greeks this week.
With the likely return of Auba and a fully fit squad to choose from, football.london takes a look at four things we spotted from Tuesday’s training session at London Colney.
Hale Enders working hard
It’s been a tough few months for Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah at Arsenal.
After initially starting the season with games under their belt in the Europa League and cup competitions, both players have been frozen out of the first team squad.
Nelson was expected to head out on loan in January but a move didn’t come to fruition, while Nketiah was linked with West Ham – although Arteta had always maintained he would be staying put.
Despite Nelson’s impressive form for the Under-23s in recent weeks, there appears to be no sign of him being named in a first team matchday squad anytime soon.
But that could be about to change.
Nelson and Nketiah both trained with the first team ahead of Thursday’s game against Olympiacos and they will be hoping of working their way into the squad for the match at Emirates Stadium.
For Nketiah, a summer move could be on the cards as he’ll have one year remaining on his deal. Nelson may look to go elsewhere in search of regular first team football.
Okonkwo’s time to shine
19-year-old goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo has been training regularly with the first team in recent months.
Okonkwo has a realistic pathway to the first team with Mat Ryan currently on loan from Brighton and Alex Runarsson’s long-term future unlikely to be at Arsenal.
Karl Hein was recently the third goalkeeper who Arteta included in the squad to face Benfica, but it appears that the Arsenal boss wants to rotate his young shot stoppers which could still mean Okonkwo has a future with the Gunners.
His contract expires this summer and it’s not known whether his stay in north London will be extended.
Auba back in business
Much of the talk before, during and after Sunday’s north London derby win was about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence from the starting XI.
The Arsenal captain was late to the game after being struck in traffic, which Arteta described as ‘disciplinary reasons’ after benching his star striker.
Auba looked glum throughout the match with the manager saying he would ‘draw a line’ under the situation after dealing with it internally.
Fortunately for Arteta, his decision worked out smoothly.
The 31-year-old looked in fine spirits at London Colney on Tuesday afternoon and could be seen sporting his infectious smile in many of the training photos.
He’ll be desperate to put the events of the weekend behind him and fire Arsenal to European glory on Thursday in typical Aubameyang style.
Chambers listening carefully
Calum Chambers is now fully fit and raring to go as he looks to compete for a place in the Arsenal team.
He showed with his recent performance at right-back against Burnley that he’s more than capable of filling in for other players, but he will be determined to secure regular football for himself next season.
Chambers could be seen taking on board instructions from Arteta during Tuesday’s training session, with the Spaniard insisting that he will compete for a place in the team with Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares.
Arsenal star earns reward for his fine form at the expense of Leicester City and Wolves men
Arsenal defender Cedric Soares has been called up to the Portugal national team for the first time since November 2018.
The 29-year-old has been rewarded for his fine form under Mikel Arteta this season, where his consistent performances have seen him make nine Premier League appearances so far.
Former Southampton defender Cedric will be in the squad for Portugal’s World Cup qualification matches against Azerbaijan, Serbia and Luxembourg.
Portugal’s national team squad boasts the likes of Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira and Wolves defender Nelson Semedo who both play in the same position, although Pereira has only recently come back from a long-term injury.
Cedric Soares called up to the Portugal squad for the first time since November 2018.
He’s in ahead of Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira and Nelson Semedo of Wolves.
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) March 16, 2021
Cedric has started in eight of Arsenal’s last 10 Premier League matches and become a mainstay at right-back in the Europa League.
“When he joined us he had various injuries and some difficult times,” Arteta said in January.
Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin has been linked with a move away this summer, as Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona continue to be named as potential suitors for the 25-year-old.
It could mean that Cedric will go into next season as Arsenal’s first choice right-back if his impressive performances continue.