Lens vs Arsenal Preview: Gunners look to start pre-season strong

Arsenal travel to France on Friday for their opening pre-season game as they take on Ligue 2 side RC Lens.

Lens vs Arsenal Preview: Gunners look to start pre-season strong
Arsenal begin their pre-season preparations against Lens.

Many fans will be familiar with the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens, after all it played host to England's only victory of Euro 2016 when they beat Wales. However on Friday, it will see Arsenal put through their paces for the first time ahead of the new campaign, as they take on French second division side Lens in the North of France in their first pre-season friendly. 

Gunners supporters will be hoping that proceedings on the pitch are a lot better than matters off the pitch, as barring the marquee signing of Granit Xhaka, this summer on the transfer front has been worryingly quiet for Arsene Wenger

Intriguing pre-season

Arsenal's game with Lens signals the start of a hugely intriguing pre-season for Wenger's men. With no Emirates Cup this year due to Euro 2016 and the pitch reconstruction that has been taking place over the summer, all of Arsenal's games will be away from home or at neutral venues.

After the game in France, the squad travel to the USA for two fixtures before a trip to Scandinavia to play in Norway against Viking FK and then in Sweden for a test against Manchester City

Although getting results will be beneficial to team confidence ahead of what is shaping up to be a hugely difficult Premier League season to call, rebuilding fitness is essential for the players that weren't at the European Championships a few weeks ago. 

Euros stars to miss out

Wenger revealed last week that the players that starred at Euro 2016 would be given a lengthy break before returning to North London. Therefore Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey will be missing for much of pre-season. The same can be said for Alexis Sanchez, who picked up an ankle injury during Chile's successful Copa America campaign.

Xhaka, fresh from his exploits with Switzerland this summer is likely to miss the trip to France too, after only just arriving in England on Thursday. Meanwhile Jack Wilshere may also not play despite being in training.

The Arsenal players have been putting in the yards in pre-season | Photo: Arsenal.
The Arsenal players have been putting in the yards in pre-season | Photo: Arsenal.

The travelling squad

Theo Walcott missed out on England's Euros squad but will now have the chance to travel to France as he and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be among the party that travels. Defenders Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers and Gabriel should also be in the team for Friday evenings clash along with January signing Mohammed Elneny.

Alex Iwobi also looks set to be in the squad along with other first team players Francis Coquelin and Joel Campbell, despite the latters future at the club remaining in doubt. 

A host of youngsters are also set to feature against Lens with Jeff Reine-Adelaide who impressed in the Emirates Cup last year expected to return to the club that he left the Emirates for last year. Chris Willock, a player that was excellent for the U21's last term could be among those that go to France, as could Stephy Mavididi

The likes of Serge Gnabry could be included before heading off to play in the Olympics with Germany, whilst Krystian Bielik, Gedion Zelalem and Chuba Akpom have all been training with the first team. 

Previous encounters

Arsenal go to Lens having lost only once to their French opponents in four previous meetings. They played against each other in the Champions League in 1998, drawing and losing, before winning twice against them in 2000 in the UEFA Cup, as Thierry Henry and Kanu sealed a 2-1 win the last time the Gunners took to the field in Lens. 

There was a lot more at stake on those occasions, but this is simply a pre-season friendly as Arsenal look to build fitness ahead of the upcoming season.