Pre-Season & Season Outline
Steve Gatting’s U21s side suffered a disastrous pre-season, losing three of the five games, only winning against Sutton United. Carl Laraman’s U18s travelled to Germany for a pre-season tournament held by Borussia Dortmund, competing against the National Chinese football team, Hamburg and Valencia. Unfortunately, the U18s only came home with a 5th place trophy, only managing to defeat Dortmund. The U21s will be contenders in the FA Youth Cup, U21 Premier League Cup and the U21 Premier League, the U18s will also fight in the U18 Premier League, while twenty U19 players will be chosen to compete in a new trial tournament; the UEFA Youth League. Which follows the same composition and calendar as the Champions League.
New boy Daniel Crowley is an English sixteen-year-old center-midfielder signed from Aston Villa this summer, for a reported fee of just under £1m. Crowley commonly deemed as one of England’s most promising youngsters and is a starter for the England U17 side, and was recently part of the squad for the FA International Tournament that faced Portugal (L), Turkey (W) and Italy (L), along with teammates Ryan Huddart and Tafari Moore. Crowley made his first competitive appearance for the club for the U18s in their season start success over Liverpool though was subbed just before half time after picking up a slight knock. Crowley is yet to make his U21 debut, as the season advances we could see him becoming a regular in Gatting’s squad by the end of the season. Unluckily, Crowley was substituted early in the U18s fixture versus Manchester United last weekend due to an injury on his ankle. We wish Daniel our best for this season and we look forward to watching him progress.
Spaniard Julio Ple… Plgue… Plegueoz… Pleguezuelo. Finally! Spaniard Julio Pleguezuelo is a center-half signed from Barcelona’s La Masia Academy this summer; the young Spaniard is as comfortable when playing at right back too. The sixteen-year-old is highly rated, Arsenal had to battle it out with Spuds and Manchester City. Pleguezuelo becomes the fifth player to be signed from La Masia; Miquel, Bellerin and Toral are still with the club. Julio hopes to add value to Laraman’s U18 side this season. Pleguezuelo came on after half time in friendly matches against Colchester, started against Luton and was unused in other pre-season friendlies, he is yet to make his competitive debut, as paper work is still unofficial.
Striker Jamaal Raage was signed this summer from IF Brommapojkarna, the Swede sixteen-year-old has previously had trials with the club on more than one occasion and has now successfully made a move to North London. Raage was barely used during pre-season, only making appearances against Sutton and Boreham Wood before getting injured, making himself unable to face Leyton Orient, Luton and Colchester and the first three U18 PL fixtures leaving his chance in the starting XI at risk. Raage has recently recovered and started alongside Lipman and Hinds up against a strong Sunderland performance, Raage was on the bench but was unused in Arsenal U18s latest fixture against Man United. Jamaal will be consistently used for the U18s this season; in some cases he could possibly be involved in the U21s team nearer to the end of the 2013-14 campaign.
Arsenal also took on trilaist Kasha Wallace, an American center back who is also capable playing as a defensive midfielder too. The fifteen-year-old could feature for Laraman’s U18s side by the end of the season. He impressed Liam Brady when the U16s travelled to Singapore for the Lion City Cup. Arsenal missed out on trialists Dusan Jajic, Mads Døhr Thychosen, Hampus Dahlquist, Sebastian Perez who played against Man City during pre-season but is not eligible for a work permit and Ramy Bensebaini who played for the U21s against Colchester.
Arsenal has ten first-year scholars this season, three of which are new signings:
1. Ryan Huddart
2. Tafari Moore
3. Eliott Wright
4. Stefan O’Connor
5. Julio Pleguezuelo
6. Renny Smith
7. Gedion Zelalem
8. Dan Crowley
9 Jamal Raage
10. Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Zelalem almost instantly become part of the U21 squad near the end of last season, he also travelled with the Arsenal squad on Asia Tour this summer and was involved in four games, even picking up an Vs. Nagoya Grampus. Gedion has now been named in the first squad still being only sixteen-years-old and signing in January. His future is clearly bright and the kid has major talent, he has made the bench for Arsenal in the Premier League and Champions League this campaign. He will sign a professional contract with the club in January. Zelalem will still be active for the U21s this season, and without reason will still star for the U18s too. Arsene Wenger just recalled Zelalem from international duty with Germany U17s, as he would be away too long.
Huddart made his competitive debut last season against West Brom, he also was named in the FA Youth Cup squad. Huddart would usually be a backup for U18s regular keeper, Vickers, but with Vickers on a four-month loan at Canvey Island this could be Huddart’s ‘time to shine’. Ryan has already made the bench numerous times for the U21s and started for the U18s, though competition is rising with Iliev becoming an option as a starter as Martinez looks to soon go on loan.
Defenders Moore, Wright, O’Connor, Smith (and Pleguezuelo) will have a competitive Summer this season fighting for a spot in the back four. Moore and O’Connor had an impressive previous season, having over nine U18s apps. Moore has the greatest chance at right back, while O’Connor will have to shine up against Siemann, and Dallison. Gatting has already used O’Connor in his U21s set up this season in a 2-2 draw with Stoke. He started ahead of Fagan. If defenders Moore and O’Connor can maintain their current level of performance, they are on track for success within the U18s and U21s this campaign.
Winger Maitland-Niles claim to fame last season was when he was called up to the NextGen squad, making 2 appearances. This campaign Maitland-Niles has already started for the U21s and made various appearances for U18s, scoring the winner in Laraman’s young guns season opening game in a neck-and-neck game Vs. Liverpool. Ainsley will fight for a fixed spot in the U18s squad, competing against second-year scholars Iwboi and Dawkins, as well as professional winger Lipman.
Other names worth mentioning are Robinson, Ejaria, Mavididi, and Miles-Hinds who have been called up by Laraman so far this season. All, including, Olomola, Eyoma, Toonga, Willock, Donovan, Dobson, Bola and Wallace will be wanting to sign a scholarship at the end of this season.
U21s and U18s
Arsenal released fourteen players this summer; Angha, Bihmoutine, Charles-Cook, Eastmond, Ebecilio, Hajrovic, Henderson, Meade, Monteiro, Neita, Rees, Roberts, Shea, Watt and Wynter. The U21s setup is very thin, and needs to add depth. This is clear in defense as prospects such as Angha, Meade and Hajrovic left the club. Siemann will have a great chance covering center back along with England international Hayden, Boateng and Fagan were recalled by Arsenal after initially being released but were offered a year contract. Since, they are seen as backup with Gatting’s side. From the U18s Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill has just come back to training this week from being injured for 3 months, and is now a great option to have as fullback in the U21s side for this campaign, a long with secnd-year scholar Uade, both whom are hoping for a professional contract with the club.
Jack Jebb, an ambitious and hardworking creative midfielder that will get plenty of chances to start beside his U21 teammates. Gatting has plans to involve the 18 year old in his squad this season; even though he signed a professional contract last September Jebb has only had two U21 apps, but was used throughout the NextGen Series. Defensive midfielder Mugabo has potential to become a regular for the U21s this season, though he is more needed in the U18s. A midfielder fans are hopeful of is Jon Toral; the Spaniard has an unsuccessful past record of injuries so far at the club since joining in 2011. Toral will hopefully be fit by October and running on the pitch in no time, we wish Toral a speedy recovery. Wish Zak Ansah a speedy recovery as well who tragically ruptured his ACL for the second time. Yennaris should be back in training within a couple weeks after suffering sickness and unfitness and possibly the chance of going on loan.
One to keep your eyes on this season is another Brit. Austin Lipman. The seventeen-year-old signed a professional contract the same time as Jebb and his progress has been just as outstanding. A very versatile player, being able to play on either flanks and as a main striker Lipman has great hopes that by the end of this campaign the English forward will be a starter for the U21s.
Gnabry … Arsenal’s most promising player was officially promoted to the first-team squad this summer and is sure to be greatly used during the Capital One Cup, as well as making the bench in the Premier League and Champions League he could have late run-outs too. Zelalem, Akpom, Olsson, Hayden, Bellerin and possibly Martinez will receive run outs in the earlier stages of the Capital One Cup as well. With Viviano and Sanogo brought in during the summer Akpom’s and Martinez’s first team chances have slimmed, it could also take some time for Bellerin to be part of the first team because of senior player Sagna, as his contract extension is in talks again.
- Wellington Silva has joined Real Murcia in LIGA Adelante until June 2014 (One season). He could also receive his work permit in January.
- Ignasi Miquel has joined Leicester City in Sky Bet Championship until May 2014 (One season).
- Chuks Aneke has joined Crewe Alexandra in Sky Bet League One until May 2014 (One season).
- Josh Vickers has joined Canvey Island F.C in Isthmian League until November 2014 (4 months).
I believe only Josh Vickers has a future at Arsenal at this current stage. This season it seems necessary, almost essential that Yennaris, Eisfeld, and Martinez go on loan to learn and show their true potential. Unfortunately, at times loan spells are left too late; an example will be with Miquel.
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Header photo via Kieran Clarke —