Author: Jeorge Bird
U21 players Chuba Akpom, Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden, Ignasi Miquel, Damian Martinez and Matt Macey have joined the first-team squad for their training camp in Austria this week.
New signings Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers also participated in their first training session with the team this morning, although Alexis Sanchez is still awaiting his visa.
In addition, Yaya Sanogo and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who missed the trip to New York due to fitness reasons, have both reconvened with the squad, whilst Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny have returned following their World Cup exploits. Joel Campbell is also back at Arsenal as he hopes to earn a place in the squad for the new campaign.
Thomas Vermaelen, who has been linked with a move away from the club, is still absent, whilst the World Cup-winning trio of Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil are not due to return to training until August 11th, meaning they will miss the start of the domestic campaign.
Kristoffer Olsson and Jon Toral, who had been part of the senior team’s preparations until now, were left in England and will go back to training with the U21 squad.
Gedion Zelalem travelled, but it appears that Carl Jenkinson was left out. Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry and Ryo are all still injured.
Arsenal training squad in Austria: Wojciech Szczesny, Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby, Gedion Zelalem, Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,Yaya Sanogo, Joel Campbell, Damian Martinez, Matt Macey, Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden, Chuba Akpom, Ignasi Miquel, Francis Coquelin.
Calum Chambers became Arsenal’s fourth Summer signing today after the club completed a deal for the talented Southampton right-back.
Chambers’ signing is likely to have significant repercussions for Carl Jenkinson, who is set to depart either permanently or on loan in the near future. The arrival of the England U19 captain will also have an impact on Hector Bellerin, who, until now, it had been assumed was being nurtured to be the club’s future first-choice right-back.
The landscape in that regard has now changed dramatically and, with Mathieu Debuchy having also been signed recently, Bellerin is unlikely to see much first-team action this season. The Spaniard has been relatively assured in his two pre-season outings to date, but it is likely that he will spend the majority of the 2014/15 campaign away from the club on loan, having previously gained valuable experience at Watford last season.
Impressive going forwards and also steadily improving in a defensive sense, it would be an immense shame if Arsenal were to barricade the progress of a player who has immense potential. Barcelona were heavily reluctant to lose Bellerin to North London three years ago, and he has developed very well since joining, so it seems unlikely that he will simply be cast by the wayside.
One possible solution could be for Bellerin to be deployed more regularly as a right-winger, a position in which he thrived during his formative years at La Masia. The 19 year old is a good crosser of the ball and also possesses a ferocious shot, which could aid his cause if he was re-converted to that role.
There have been suggestions that Chambers could alternatively play as a centre-back or in central-midfield, but he will initially go into the first-team squad as the second-choice right-back behind Debuchy.
One thing is for certain, the signing of Chambers has ensured that Bellerin’s previously obstacle-free route to the first-team has now become rather more challenging. Such is the determination of the latter, however, he will certainly not give up his chance of making the grade without putting up a considerable fight.
It was a frustrating game for Arsenal as they failed to break down a well-organised New York Red Bulls side today, but one player to emerge with credit from the disappointing 1-0 friendly defeat was Isaac Hayden.
The 19 year old, who formed an unorthodox central-defensive partnership with Nacho Monreal in the first-half, made several important interventions during his 45 minutes on the pitch as he staked his claim to be the club’s fourth choice in that position for the new campaign.
Chuba Akpom, who was rather surprisingly left out of the starting line-up, showed some neat touches after the interval but failed to get on the scoresheet, whilst Damian Martinez was assured in goal as he looks to finally earn promotion to the senior squad this Summer.
Hayden was the only member of the U21 squad to start in the first-half as Arsene Wenger opted for a rather bizarre formation that included no orthodox striker; Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla alternating up front.
Wojciech Szczesny made an impressive save to deny Thierry Henry a dream goal in the opening stages, with Santi Cazorla, who was making his first appearance of pre-season, responding by shooting just wide at the other end.
Gedion Zelalem, stationed primarily on the right flank, struggled to have much influence on proceedings, and much of Arsenal’s play seemed a little too intricate at times, which wasn’t exactly surprising given the number of midfielders on show.
Abject defending from a corner enabled Bradley Wright-Phillips to score what would prove to be the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time, although the introduction of Akpom did at least mean that Arsenal had a recognised striker on the field after the break.
Hector Bellerin and Ignasi Miquel also received run-outs, although neither of the Spaniards were posed too many problems defensively, whilst Bellerin was unable to venture into the attacking third very often given the resilience of the opposition.
The remaining two youngsters, Jon Toral and Kristoffer Olsson, were introduced during the second-half, although neither was especially influential.
A trip to Austria and then the Emirates Cup are the next assignments for Wenger’s side, and it will be interesting to see which youngsters remain with the squad over the next week. Martinez, despite the impending arrival of David Ospina, seems likely to be named as third-choice goalkeeper, whilst the confident Hayden has barely put a foot wrong so far this pre-season.
The situation is more complicated for Bellerin, given the expected acquisition of Calum Chambers, whilst Olsson and Toral may be limited to Capital One Cup appearances this season. For Akpom, things are still undecided, but, despite his obvious technical qualities, the 18 year old is still in need of a loan to a Championship side. Miquel, meanwhile, has a lot of experience for a 21 year old, but Hayden appears to be the more intriguing prospect.
Harrow Borough 1 (Driver (45) Arsenal XI 5 (Pleguezuelo (7), Crowley (14), Afobe ( 27, 44), Iwobi (52).
By Jeorge Bird @ Earlsmead Stadium
Arsenal U21s continued their pre-season preparations with a largely impressive victory over Harrow Borough this afternoon. The Isthmian League Premier Division side were not complete pushovers, and forced Arsenal goalkeeper Josh Vickers into action on a couple of occasions, but the young Gunners’ technical superiority was clear for all to see.
What made the victory even more commendable was the fact that it was achieved without the seven U21 regulars who are with the first-team in New York. There were still four players on show, however, in Semi Ajayi, Julio Pleguezuelo, Benik Afobe and the prodigious Chris Willock, who featured in the senior side’s win over Boreham Wood last week.
Afobe’s chances of making the grade at Arsenal appear to be receding by the week, and the striker will have been bitterly disappointed to have been left out of the squad for the New York Red Bulls fixture, but he was on target twice here, which, added to goals from Pleguezuelo, Dan Crowley and Alex Iwobi, ensured a comfortable success for Steve Gatting’s side.
subs: O’Connor (for Pleguezuelo, 36), Smith (for Willock, 62), Kamara (for Jebb, 71), Lipman (for Maitland-Niles, 71), Wright (for Moore, 77). Not used: Huddart.
A slightly younger U21 side had easily dispatched of Bournemouth last week, and the players on show today quickly set about securing another win. Arsenal signalled their intent very early on, with Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill’s cross skimming off the crossbar following a sustained spell of pressure.
Crowley, operating in his preferred position as a number 10, was dictating proceedings in the early stages, but Arsenal survived a scare when a weak goal-kick from Vickers presented an opportunity to a Harrow player, who fired over.
It wasn’t long until Arsenal opened the scoring, however. The goal was expected, but the identity of the scorer certainly wasn’t, with Pleguezuelo claiming his first goal for the club since joining from Barcelona last year. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, deployed in a deep-lying midfield position on this occasion, led a swift breakaway up-field and swept the ball into the path of the Spaniard. Pleguezuelo’s effort was unconvincing, and it took a very hefty bobble following an intervention from the goalkeeper, but he was delighted to find the net all the same.
Tafari Moore, whose hopes of making the grade at the club may be complicated by the impending arrival of Calum Chambers from Southampton, embarked on several overlapping runs down the right flank in the first-half, and on one such occasion he won a free-kick after being scythed down on the edge of the area.
Nothing came of the set-piece, but Moore was soon involved in proceedings again, with the England U17 international cleverly cutting the ball back for Crowley to emphatically thump home the second goal past the stranded goalkeeper.
Arsenal were certainly turning on the style, with Willock, who, on this evidence looks set to be fast-tracked to the U21s during the first season of his scholarship, producing a superb piece of skill before seeing a shot saved. Willock, as was the case last weekend, didn’t appear fazed by his new surroundings, and is extremely confident on the ball.
Harrow had a couple of efforts of their own, but Arsenal continued to dominate and it was soon 3-0 and effectively game over with just 27 minutes on the clock.
Iwobi located Willock with a neat cross, and the latter proceeded to strike both the crossbar and then the post with a fierce effort. Afobe, demonstrating his predatory instincts, was on hand to turn home the loose ball and score his first of the afternoon.
Pleguezuelo was then forced to withdraw with an injury, but his replacement, Stefan O’Connor, had an excellent game at the heart of the defence. Iwobi came close to scoring twice in quick succession, before a move involving Crowley, Jack Jebb and then Afobe culminated in the latter making it 4-0 with another close range strike.
Harrow soon reminded Arsenal that they couldn’t afford to rest on their laurels, with Lewis Driver capitalising on a misjudgement from Semi Ajayi to reduce the deficit before the break.
Normal service was resumed just after the interval, however, with Iwobi, another who played well, making it 5-1 with an excellent finish.
Harrow saw a little more of the ball in the second-half, although Arsenal’s defence, marshalled expertly by O’Connor, withstood the pressure. Vickers made a mistake from a corner which was almost pounced upon, but most of the chances occurred at the other end of the field.
Iwobi found substitute Renny Smith, whose shot was off target, with Lipman then shooting over shortly afterwards. There were numerous substitutions for both sides, which, as is often the case, rather disrupted the flow of the game.
Harrow still threatened intermittently and struck the crossbar and the post as the game wore on. Vickers then made a good save but Afobe really should have completed his hat-trick when he latched onto Lipman’s free-kick, but the 21 year old instead shot over.
The damage had long been done, however, and this was a morale-boosting win ahead of the new campaign, the fixtures for which are released next week.
The creative talents of Crowley and Willock certainly inspire considerable hope for the future, whilst full-backs Moore and Ormonde-Ottewill both got forward well. The sight of Afobe up front, though, with the striker likely to depart soon despite having once been considered one of the club’s brightest prospects, just goes to show that things do not always work out the way you expect them to.
Arsene Wenger has included seven members of the U21 side in his squad for Saturday’s friendly against New York Red Bulls.
Goalkeeper Damian Martinez has travelled as back-up to Wojciech Szczesny, whilst Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden, Ignasi Miquel, Kristoffer Olsson and Jon Toral have all also made the trip to the United States.
With Yaya Sanogo left out of the squad for unknown reasons, Chuba Akpom is the only striker in the travelling party, meaning the 18 year old will have an excellent opportunity to showcase his credentials at the weekend. Akpom, who spent time on loan at Brentford and Coventry City last season, was amongst the best performers in the victory over Boreham Wood and is hopeful of breaking into the squad in time for the new season.
Miquel and Hayden could start alongside eachother in central-defence, but the duo are also competing against eachother for a potential promotion. Julio Pleguezuelo and Semi Ajayi have been left at home, suggesting that they will not be elevated to the senior squad this Summer.
Bellerin, despite the signing of Mathieu Debuchy, still harbours hopes of getting into the squad and the Spaniard could play 45 minutes on Saturday, whilst Olsson will be looking to build on his scintillating showing against Boreham Wood. Toral is finally receiving recognition for his hard-working performances in the U21 team, although his chances of an immediate breakthrough do appear a little remote.
Benik Afobe, meanwhile, has been left out, which doesn’t reflect too kindly on his current standing at the club. The England U21 international is out of contract next Summer, and, on this evidence, it won’t be renewed, despite him finding the net from the penalty spot against Boreham Wood. A loan or permanent departure is likely for Afobe in the near future.
Chris Willock has also not been included, with the youngster instead likely to feature for the U21s in their friendly against Harrow Borough at the weekend. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who returned to training yesterday, has remained in England to work on his fitness, with fellow wingers Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry and Ryo all still unavailable owing to injury.
Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are set to play their first minutes of pre-season, whilst it is interesting to note that Francis Coquelin has travelled, suggesting the Frenchman could well be involved in the squad this season. Gedion Zelalem, already part of the senior squad, returns to the country where he was first discovered by Arsenal.
Joel Campbell should represent Arsenal for the first time in the Emirates Cup, with Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Debuchy and Thomas Vermaelen set to start training on Monday, where they will soon be joined by Alexis Sanchez. The club’s German trio of World Cup winners, Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, are not set to return until much later.
Arsenal squad for New York Red Bulls fixture: Szczesny, Gibbs, Monreal, Jenkinson, Rosicky, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Flamini, Diaby, Coquelin, Zelalem, Martinez, Bellerin, Hayden, Akpom, Miquel, Olsson, Toral.
A few eyebrows were raised when he was left out of the squad to face Boreham Wood on Saturday, and now the reason for Thomas Eisfeld’s omission against the Conference South side has become clear- he has signed for Fulham on a permanent basis.
The 21 year old joined from Borussia Dortmund late in the January 2012 transfer window with a reputation for goalscoring and being injury prone. Thankfully the latter characteristic didn’t affect his time at Arsenal too much, but the German was a regular on the scoresheet, especially during his first couple of campaigns at the club.
Available to operate in various midfield and attacking positions, he impressed during the first-team’s pre-season tours of Asia in 2012 and 2013 and also featured in the League Cup, scoring against West Bromwich Albion last season. For all his prowess in front of goal, however, there is certainly something lacking in Eisfeld’s game at present. He is not the most mobile player, and, despite his technical ability, he struggles to be a regular influence in matches, often remaining anonymous for long periods.
One of his highlights of last season was his dramatic goal to secure victory over Fulham in the U21 Premier League Cup on a cold January evening. He will now be a regular visitor to Motspur Park and will be hopeful of featuring for the first-team at Craven Cottage under Felix Magath.
It was a little surprising that Eisfeld didn’t go out on loan at some point last season, but, with just a year remaining on his contract at the club, this was the right time for Arsenal to let him go and continue his development elsewhere.
Thomas Eisfeld- Arsenal statistics (competitive fixtures only):
First-team- 2 apps (1 goal)
U21- 42 apps (15 goals)
U19- 7 apps (1 goal)
Pre-season is always a time for youngsters to impress, but for Arsenal’s young centre-backs this Summer is a particularly important one, with a place in the first-team squad for new campaign likely to be available for the outstanding candidate.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are well established as the club’s first-choice central-defensive partnership, whilst Thomas Vermaelen’s future is still the subject of considerable debate. Arsene Wenger indicated yesterday that he would buy a replacement should Vermaelen depart, but, in any case, there is still likely to be a chance for a youngster to be elevated to the position of fourth choice centre-back.
With Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen all granted extended time off following their World Cup exertions, four youngsters filled the centre-back positions for yesterday’s friendly against Boreham Wood- Semi Ajayi, Isaac Hayden, Julio Pleguezuelo and Ignasi Miquel. It wouldn’t be wise to draw too many conclusions based on this fixture given that they only played 45 minutes each and weren’t posed too many problems by the opposing attack, but Hayden was certainly impressive as he frequently cut out the danger when called upon.
There is an argument that Hayden is more comfortable as a defensive-midfielder, where he can use his much-improved passing ability to greater effect, but his versatility may prove to be an added string to his bow when Wenger considers promoting the youngster into his squad. The 19 year old can occasionally be a little rash in the challenge, but he is hugely impressive in most other aspects of his game.
Ajayi, in contrast, looks as if he still has some developing to do before he can be called upon at the top level. The Nigerian youth international is physically imposing but appears vulnerable when faced with skilful attackers and his positioning also requires some work.
Miquel is the most experienced of the quartet, having already featured for the Arsenal first-team in all four major competitions as well as spending last season on loan at Leicester City. The Spaniard is yet to be informed about his long-term future at the club, though, and will be aware that this Summer may well be his last chance to make the breakthrough.
Pleguezuelo, meanwhile, at just 17, has much time on his side and, although he may not possess the same physicality as Ajayi and Miquel, is very good on the ball and is excellent at reading the game.
Choosing between Hayden, Miquel and Pleguezuelo for a place in the squad would certainly not be an easy task, but Hayden’s ability to also play in midfield if required could well be the tipping point.
Boreham Wood 0 Arsenal 2 (Olsson 68, Afobe 86 (pen)
By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park
Second-half goals from Kristoffer Olsson and Benik Afobe ensured that the Arsenal first-team started their pre-season preparations with a victory away to Boreham Wood on a sweltering afternoon in Hertfordshire.
There were a smattering of first-team players on show, but, with an entirely different line-up named in each half, there were also plenty of opportunities for youngsters to impress. Semi Ajayi, Jon Toral and Julio Pleguezuelo all made their senior debuts during the course of the afternoon, but the most notable inclusion was that of 16 year old Chris Willock, the hugely-promising attacking midfielder who recently committed his future to the club amidst interest from Manchester United.
Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal and Yaya Sanogo were amongst those who started the game.
Arsenal began brightly, but struggled to make the most of the few opportunities they created in the first-half. Sanogo squandered a presentable chance, with Ramsey and Toral also coming close to scoring as the half progressed.
Szczesny was a mere spectator in the Arsenal goal, barely being called upon for much of the 45 minutes, but Arsenal’s defence still had to be alert at times, with Isaac Hayden making some impressive interceptions. Monreal was also impressive at left-back, and the experienced Spaniard helped to guide Willock through the game by constantly providing him with instructions.
Willock did not see too much of the ball during his time on the field, but he used possession wisely when called upon and didn’t look out of place in a first-team environment. Francis Coquelin, back from a fitful loan spell at Freiburg, looked as if he had never been away, with the Frenchman snapping into crunching challenges with regularity.
Toral was heavily involved in most of Arsenal’s passing moves, but does perhaps need to pass the ball quicker at times, whilst Ramsey was far from full sharpness but still provided occasional glimpses of his quality.
As expected, Wenger changed his whole team at the break, with Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky all receiving their first run-outs of pre-season.
With Boreham Wood refraining from making wholesale changes, Arsenal seemed the fresher side in the early stages of the second period. Olsson and Rosicky, two players who are very similar in playing style, saw a lot of the ball, whilst the ex-Barcelona trio of Hector Bellerin, Pleguezuelo and Ignasi Miquel were all impressive at the back.
Diaby also seemed composed and, for once, free of injury troubles, with the Frenchman coming close to breaking the deadlock before Arsenal finally found the net in the 68th minute.
Olsson had been impressive all half, playing plenty of intelligent passes, but it was Rosicky who was the provider on this occasion, with the Czech Republic midfielder spotting Olsson in space. The 19 year old, who made his competitive debut for the first-team last season, finished adroitly, but Arsenal were still searching for more goals.
Along with Olsson, Chuba Akpom caught the eye with some superb runs down the left flank. The England U19 international almost scored himself before another effort caused confusion in the penalty area which led to a spot-kick being awarded. Afobe stepped up to take it and converted to seal the victory.
Boreham Wood should be commended for making the game much more difficult for Arsenal than many would have anticipated, but the Gunners’ vibrancy shone through in the end. There will be more exacting workouts to come in the next few weeks, against New York Red Bulls, Benfica and Monaco, but this was still a useful challenge, and for Willock in particular, a very memorable one.
Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he intends to give several of Arsenal’s promising youngsters the opportunity to prove their worth in a first-team environment during tomorrow’s first pre-season friendly away to Boreham Wood.
The Frenchman intends to field an entirely different side in each half, as he used to during previous fixtures against Barnet, in order to assess the various players at his disposal.
Twelve members of the first-team squad- Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Abou Diaby, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal, Yaya Sanogo, Gedion Zelalem and Francis Coquelin- are due to feature at Meadow Park, leaving ten spaces for U21 players.
If we are to judge by those who have been training with the first-team during the past couple of weeks then Damian Martinez, Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden, Jon Toral, Chuba Akpom, Ignasi Miquel, Kristoffer Olsson, Benik Afobe, Thomas Eisfeld and one of Semi Ajayi and Julio Pleguezuelo are set to be involved. It is not currently clear whether trialist Ahmed Fathi will play any part.
For Toral, it would be his first call-up to the senior squad, as it would be for either Ajayi or Pleguezuelo. The others all have some experience of the first-team environment and their aim will be to perform so well that they prolong their stay with the first-team this Summer, to Austria, New York, the Emirates Cup and maybe even beyond.
Ryo, Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry are all still recovering from injuries suffered last season, whilst most of the players who played at the World Cup, including new signings Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy, are still on holiday. Jack Wilshere is back at the training ground, and is likely to be joined on Monday by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla.
Joel Campbell, along with Sanchez, Debuchy, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud and Thomas Vermaelen, should be amongst the next batch of players to return in time for the Emirates Cup, with German trio Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski granted extended time off after their success in Brazil.
Arsene Wenger was back at the training ground this morning following the World Cup, and the Frenchman’s return coincided with that of Tomas Rosicky, who didn’t train last week but is in contention to feature against Boreham Wood in the first pre-season friendly on Saturday.
Another notable attendee was Egyptian trialist Ahmed Fathi, who can play at right-back or in defensive-midfield. The 29 year old, who lists Sheffield United and Hull City amongst his former clubs, was unimpressive when on trial at Arsenal ten years ago.
A clutch of U21 players continued to train with the first-team, including Chuba Akpom, Hector Bellerin, Thomas Eisfeld, Kristoffer Olsson, Benik Afobe and Semi Ajayi.
A young U21 side, including several of the new scholars, trounced Bournemouth 5-0 in a friendly at London Colney earlier today. Dan Crowley scored twice, with Alex Iwobi, Stefan O’Connor and Ainsley Maitland-Niles also scoring.
First-year scholars George Dobson, Tyrell Robinson, Chiori Johnson and Marc Bola all made their debuts at this level, whilst second-years Renny Smith and Elliot Wright also featured. In addition, young professionals Jack Jebb, Josh Vickers, Glen Kamara, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Tafari Moore and Austin Lipman all received run-outs in front of the watching Andries Jonker, the club’s new Academy Manager.