Rob Holding is on course to hand Arsenal a huge boost by returning to action during pre-season.
Arsenal are quietly optimistic Holding will be able to get some minutes under his belt at the end of their run of warm-up fixtures after making significant progress in his comeback bid.
Centre-back Holding, 23, suffered a serious knee injury in December and was expected to miss the start of the season.
Arsenal’s Rob Holding has returned to full training after recovering from a serious knee injury
But he is now around a month ahead of schedule after spending some of his summer in America undergoing intensive one-on-one work with a specialist as part of his rehab.
Holding took a big step forward on his road to recovery by returning to full training for the first time ahead of Arsenal’s overnight friendly with Bayern Munich in LA and has been earmarked to feature in one of the Gunners’ final pre-season fixtures ahead of the new season.
Arsenal face Lyon in the Emirates Cup on Sunday July 28 and French side Angers three days later.
Though their August 4 trip to Barcelona, the week before their Premier League opener against Newcastle, is a more likely comeback date for Holding as it stands.
Having Holding back in the mix early will be a major plus for boss Unai Emery, with Laurent Koscielny’s future uncertain after he went on strike and refused to be part of Arsenal’s touring squad in the States.
The early return of centre-back Holding will come as a huge boost to manager Unai Emery
Emery is set to win the race for St Etienne defender William Saliba though the 18 year-old will return to the French club on loan for the forthcoming season and the Gunners boss also remains in the market for a senior centre-back who can add to Arsenal’s defensive ranks immediately.
Arsenal were forced to change the structure of their £27m offer, and increase the guaranteed amount in the package, to fend off Spurs’s attempt to hijack the move.
Meanwhile, Emery will stick with his plans to have a captaincy group despite seeing his first break up inside less than a year.
Koscielny was the lead figure in the captaincy group Emery picked following his appointment last summer backed up by Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka.
Emery has already seen that group dismantled.
Along with Koscielny’s troubles, Cech and Ramsey have left the club while Arsenal would be keen to move on Ozil his £350,000-per-week wages placing huge strain on their wage bill.
Holding is a month ahead of schedule and will hope to play a key role for the Gunners next term
The undeterred Gunners boss, though, will construct another leadership group ahead of the new season.
He said: ‘We have players with the capacity [to be captain other than Koscielny]. One is Granit, last year he played some matches as captain and he was like a captain in the dressing room.
‘We have another, like Mesut and Nacho [Monreal] and other players who can take this position also. I want between three and five captains in the team.’
Xhaka is now the leading candidate to Koscielny and the Swiss midfielder said: ‘I have been the captain here and I was before in Germany, and in the national team as well.
‘If a coach gave me the armband I would be very happy of course, it is something special. ‘But in the end it’s not about the armband, we have to work all together on the pitch, off the pitch and take a leadership from all the players.’