Ozil and Arsenal stars return as Arteta misses session – sources



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Arsenal’s first-team players including Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette returned to their London Colney training base for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic suspended Premier League action, with sources telling ESPN the “vast majority” of the squad took up a voluntary offer to use the club’s private space.

Players continued the individual programmes they have been pursuing amid the lockdown in the United Kingdom, while sources told ESPN that neither head coach Mikel Arteta nor any of the senior coaching staff were in attendance. Instead, a skeleton set-up comprising members of the medical department and fitness coaches were present, with only five players permitted on-site at any one time.

Those five players were spread across Colney’s 10 pitches to remain in accordance with the British government’s social distancing guidelines. Players were also given designated spaces in the car park upon arrival, where they were asked to change if not arriving in their training kit.

No other facilities — such as the gym, canteen or dressing rooms — were open and each set of five players could remain for only an hour before the next group arrived separately on rotation.

Later on Monday, Tottenham announced that they would open their Enfield Training Centre for members of the squad to use for running sessions starting on April 28.

The club statement said: “No more than one player per pitch will be permitted at any one time to undertake on-pitch exercise, with only a restricted number of the squad coming to the Training Centre each day.

“Each player will travel independently and arrive at the facilities already dressed in training wear before returning home immediately after they have concluded their session.

“All activity will be conducted in line with government guidelines with social distancing maintained at all times and there will be no access permitted to any building on site.”

The moves by Spurs and Arsenal are designed to enable players to maintain their fitness without resorting to using public parks, where it would be more difficult to stay isolated with fans asking for photographs.

Last week, Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe, Granit Xhaka, David Luiz and Lacazette were reminded of their responsibilities after they were pictured in public appearing to break social distancing rules.

The players have been told not to stop for fans or to sign autographs when entering and exiting their Colney base.

Ozil, Lacazette, Luiz, Hector Bellerin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Bukayo Saka were among the players at Colney.

Arsenal are the first Premier League club to reopen their training facilities, having been the earliest into lockdown when Arteta tested positive for COVID-19 on March 12. The first-team squad went into an initial 14-day isolation period, while the club’s £10 million London Colney facility has since undergone a deep clean.

West Ham have also begun to make their training ground available, while Chelsea are considering similar moves to Arsenal and Spurs as talks continue over a possible resumption of Premier League football behind closed doors in early June.

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