Arsenal players will be allowed to work at the clubs London Colney training ground from Monday in a partial re-opening that marks a cautious step towards normality amid the Covid-19 shutdown.
Their return comes with a number of caveats and will not involve group training sessions. Arsenal decided to act after a week in which Granit Xhaka, David Luiz, Nicolas Pépé and Alexandre Lacazette were all reminded of their social distancing responsibilities, with all bar the latter being photographed training or playing in north London parks. The squad will now be able to operate, albeit to strict guidelines, in their usual workplace with a sharply decreased risk of flouting government regulations.
A club spokesperson confirmed: “Players will be permitted access to our London Colney training grounds next week. Access will be limited, carefully managed and social distancing will be maintained at all times. All Colney buildings remain closed. Players will travel alone, do their individual workout and return home.”
It is understood that the players will be operating on a strict rota basis, with small groups on site at any one time. The training grounds 10 pitches, which have been maintained by a skeleton staff over the past six weeks while the complex was officially closed, will be put to full use in order to ensure there is no overcrowding while members of the team work alone. Drills overseen by coaching staff are not yet in Arsenal thinking.
While the training grounds availability to the squad – 44 days after it was shut upon news of Mikel Artetas Covid-19 diagnosis – is a positive development it seems borne more of a desire to ensure professional behaviour from players than an indication that footballs return has taken a significant leap forward. But other clubs may take note, with Tottenham landing themselves in hot water twice recently over workouts held in public spaces. Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko apologised after staging a joint fitness session in a park, while José Mourinho admitted he had erred in holding a one-on-one session with Tanguy Ndombele.