Ozil, Bellerin & Holding feature in behind-closed-doors Arsenal friendly


Unai Emery’s side took on Championship side Reading at the Gunners’ London Colney training ground

Mesut Ozil, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding all featured for Arsenal in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Reading during the international break.

The game – which finished 2-2 – was held at London Colney with Unai Emery keen to give minutes to the members of his squad who hadn’t been called up to represent their national teams over the past fortnight.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Kieran Tierney and Shkodran Mustafi were also involved – but Goal has learnt that Alexandre Lacazette wasn’t risked, with the France international close to a return to fitness following six weeks out with an ankle problem.

Lacazette has been progressing well during the past couple of weeks and has been back training outside, but last Friday’s friendly was considered a bit too early for him to be involved.

The frontman has been expected to join in with full training this week, however, when Arsenal’s internationals return – with a decision over his possible involvement against Sheffield United on Monday due to be taken in the coming days.

Bellerin, Holding and Tierney could all feature in the squad for Monday’s trip to Bramall Lane, with the trio having all come through the behind-closed-doors game with Reading unscathed.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke had hoped to call Tierney up to his squad during the international break, but it was decided that the left-back should remain at Arsenal to work on his fitness having only just returned from a long injury lay-off.

“We were close to selecting Kieran,” said Clarke. “Obviously, Arsenal have indicated to us that they’d prefer us not to select him at this moment in time because he’d only played 70-odd minutes of football.

Kieran Tierney Arsenal 2019-20

“You have to respect the club’s decision on that. I’d like to get Kieran in the squad and have him as part of the group but at this moment in time it’s more important that he gets minutes on the pitch and gets himself back to full speed.”

Arsenal sit third in the Premier League ahead of Monday’s trip to Sheffield United, with Emery’s side having been beaten just once so far in all competitions this season.

Whether Ozil returns at Bramall Lane remains to be seen. The German has not featured for the past three games, but did take part in the friendly against Reading.

Emery stated before the international break that the 31-year-old had not done enough to deserve a place in his squad – a stance that received the backing of Arsenal’s head of football Raul Sanllehi.

Speaking to supporters during a fans’ forum, the Spaniard said: “Unai has had many good players in other teams also, and he has always followed the same policy which has been try not to make any distinctions, play the ones who work hard in training and reward the effort with playing time.

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“There has been nothing against Mesut on the contrary and I hope we get to see him much more in the next games because his qualities are without question, but he needs to contribute 24/7 and that’s what Unai expects from him.

“It’s not that he’s not working so well, but there are others who are deserving more playing time, but Unai can’t treat him differently than any other soccer professional.

“You may have read that Unai has put a barrier up, but nothing at all like this has happened.”


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