Author: Jeorge Bird

Joe Willock amongst four Arsenal schoolboys named in England U16 squad

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New coach Dan Micciche has named his first England U16 squad, with four promising Arsenal schoolboys included in the group for the fixture against Belgium on Wednesday August 20th.

Joe Willock, the younger brother of fellow Arsenal youngster Chris, is amongst those included, along with fellow midfielder Charlie Gilmour, who previously represented Scotland at U15 level.

Defender Tolaji Bola, who made his debut for Arsenal U18s towards the end of last season, has also been included, in addition to highly-regarded striker Reiss Nelson.

Earlier this month Chris Willock and Kaylen Hinds were named in the England U17 squad for the FA International Tournament at the end of August in which the Three Lions will take on Czech Republic, Italy and Portugal.

 

Loan report- Afobe and Lipman feature; Jenkinson could miss start of the season

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Pete Norton/Gettyimages Europe
Pete Norton/Gettyimages Europe

The new season is underway and so far four Arsenal players have joined various clubs on a temporary basis. Carl Jenkinson will spend the season with West Ham United in the Premier League, whilst Benik Afobe has linked up with League One side MK Dons. Austin Lipman has returned to Boreham Wood of the Conference South and Wellington is back in Spain once more, this time with La Liga outfit Almeria. You can follow their progress here throughout the season.

Benik Afobe made his competitive debut for MK Dons yesterday, with the striker playing the last 13 minutes as a substitute as his temporary side beat Gillingham 4-2. MK Dons were 2-0 down after 29 minutes, but recovered to win the game, although all of the goals had been scored by the time Afobe entered the field as a replacement for Will Grigg.

Austin Lipman made the first appearance of his second stint at Boreham Wood. The Hale End product started and played 70 minutes at Meadow Park as his side dispatched of Farnborough with a 2-0 victory. Lipman was impressive throughout his time on the field, with the youngster playing some intelligent passes.

Carl Jenkinson could miss the start of the new Premier League season after sustaining a hamstring injury during his West Ham debut last weekend. The right-back endured a nightmare start to his Hammers’ career as he gave away an early penalty in their friendly defeat Malaga before sustaining the aforementioned injury.

Wellington‘s Almeria don’t start their league campaign until August 23rd, when they host Espanyol.

Ozyakup set for Arsenal return in Champions League

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Stories of young players who have furthered their careers having failed to make the grade at Arsenal are considerably scarce, but Oguzhan Ozyakup is one of the few individuals who falls into that category.

The 21 year old opted to leave Arsenal to join Besiktas two years ago and the diligent central-midfielder has thrived since making that switch, establishing himself as a regular for his club whilst also breaking into the Turkey national team despite having represented the Netherlands at youth level.

Now, following this morning’s Champions League play-off draw, Ozyakup will be making a return to Emirates Stadium. It will be interesting to assess just how far he has progressed since leaving the club, whilst he will also be looking to show that the decision that he made to relocate to Turkey was the correct one.

Having impressed for Arsenal at youth level, Ozyakup broke into the first-team set-up in the 2011/12 season, playing twice in the League Cup and also making the bench in the Premier League and the Champions League.

 

Lipman to spend the season at Boreham Wood

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Arsenal U21 striker Austin Lipman has rejoined Boreham Wood on loan for the entire 2014/15 campaign.

Lipman, who came through the Gunners’ Hale End Academy, scored two goals in 12 appearances whilst on loan at the Conference South side last season, with his hard-working nature endearing him to the club’s supporters.

The England U17 international has made nine appearances for Arsenal’s second-string as well as featuring in the UEFA Youth League.

Lipman’s temporary departure comes just days after Benik Afobe joined MK Dons on loan, leaving Chuba Akpom as the U21’s sole striker going into the new season. Akpom himself is likely to go on loan at some point during the campaign, meaning an opportunity could arise for new scholars Stephy Mavididi and Kaylen Hinds to break into the second-string set-up. Alternatively, Alex Iwobi, who is usually deployed as a winger, has played as a central striker in the past and could be an option in that position.

 

Four U21 players join first-team for Members’ Day training

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Arsenal held their annual Members’ Day at Emirates Stadium this morning with the majority of the first-team squad in attendance.

The squad assembled on the pitch at 11.30 am, but Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry, David Ospina, Ryo and Thomas Vermaelen, who are all currently injured, retreated down the tunnel thereafter.

There were several U21 players in attendance, with Damian Martinez, Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden and Chuba Akpom all playing a full part in the session. Ignasi Miquel was also present, but it appears that the Spaniard is injured as he also went back down the tunnel.

New signings Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy were present.

World Cup winners Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker return to training on Monday.

Abou Diaby trained separately with the fitness coaches.

The following players were involved in training today: Szczesny, Debuchy, Gibbs, Koscielny, Monreal, Chambers, Rosicky, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Flamini, Coquelin, Zelalem, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Sanogo, Campbell, Martinez, Bellerin, Hayden, Akpom.

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Young trio remain with first-team ahead of new season

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Arsenal play their first competitive match of the season, the Community Shield against Manchester City, on Sunday, yet there are still three young hopefuls training with the senior squad as the new campaign draws ever nearer.

Whilst the majority of the young professionals were back in the U21 set-up for the 6-4 victory over Forest Green Rovers yesterday, Damian Martinez, Ignasi Miquel and Hector Bellerin continued to train with Arsene Wenger’s squad at London Colney.

Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe
Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe

All three players possess a genuine chance of officially being promoted this Summer and the trio could all make the bench for the game at Wembley.

Martinez, having impressed in pre-season, looks set to be named as the club’s third-choice goalkeeper for the new campaign. He may even start the season as temporary back-up to Wojciech Szczesny if new signing David Ospina doesn’t recover from injury in time.

Miquel provides cover at centre-back, a position in which the first-team are considerably light at present. Per Mertesacker is not yet back from holiday and Thomas Vermaelen looks likely to leave the club, with Laurent Koscielny and Calum Chambers both likely to start in the heart of the defence against City.

Nacho Monreal is another, albeit very unconvincing, option in that position, but Miquel will be hopeful that his time to impress has finally arrived.

Bellerin’s future was cast into some doubt following the acquisition of Chambers, but, with the former Southampton player being utilised at centre-back for now, the path is clear for Bellerin to be the primary back-up to Mathieu Debuchy at right-back.

All three players are likely to partake in tomorrow’s open training session at Emirates Stadium. If Martinez and Miquel, as seems likely, remain at the club, then they would both have to take up a place in the club’s 25-man Premier League squad for the new season. No such restrictions apply to Bellerin.

 

Hayden hits brace and Crowley scores great goal as Arsenal U21s beat Forest Green 6-4

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Pre-season Friendly

Forest Green Rovers 4 (Norwood (7, 38), Sinclair (63, 90) Arsenal 6 (Maitland-Niles (20), Toral (59), Crowley (65), Hayden (83, 85), Ajayi (90))

Arsenal U21s continued their pre-season preparations with a highly-entertaining 6-3 victory over Forest Green Rovers this evening. Steve Gatting’s side were behind on several occasions but showed terrific resilience to come back, even if some of their defending at times left a lot to be desired. Arsenal’s goals came courtesy of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jon Toral, Dan Crowley, who scored an excellent long-range effort, Isaac Hayden, who hit a brace, and Semi Ajayi.

Gatting made five changes from the side that drew with Boreham Wood on Friday. Gedion Zelalem, Chuba Akpom and Hayden, who were all part of the Emirates Cup squad, returned, whilst Matt Macey and Glen Kamara also started. Alex Iwobi was missing through illness.

Damian Martinez, Hector Bellerin and Ignasi Miquel remain with the first-team squad ahead of the Community Shield.

Macey

Kamara-Ajayi-O’Connor-Ormonde Ottewill

Hayden-Olsson

Maitland Niles-Zelalem-Toral

Akpom

subs: Crowley (for Maitland-Niles, 55), Iliev (for Macey, 59). Not used: Jebb, Lipman, Willock, Moore.

Forest Green are the longest-serving members of the Conference Premier and they certainly weren’t fazed by the visit of the Arsenal youngsters. The hosts took the lead with just seven minutes on the clock when James Norwood latched onto Marcus Kelly’s corner to head the ball past the stranded Macey.

Arsenal responded quickly, though, with Hayden doing well to find Maitland-Niles, whose shot was wayward. Maitland-Niles was far more accurate just minutes later, however, as he found the net after impressive work from Akpom.

Hayden was the architect of the majority of Arsenal’s attacking moves and the midfielder came close to giving the Gunners the lead, but his shot was saved by Sam Russell.

Instead, it was Forest Green who went into the break in the ascendancy after Norwood found the net again, with Kurtis Guthrie the provider on this occasion.

Arsenal were looking to their creative players for inspiration and they eventually managed to draw level when Zelalem received the ball from Toral and quickly played it back into the path the Spaniard, who beat the goalkeeper with a deft chip.

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images Europe
Isaac Hayden was impressive on his first appearance for the U21s this pre-season                                                                                                                                           Ben Hoskins/Getty Images Europe

Forest Green were soon back in front, however, with substitute Rob Sinclair capitalising on Macey’s hesitancy from a corner to make it 3-2.

It was, by now, an enthralling encounter, and there was yet more drama to come. Crowley, who signed his first professional contract yesterday, had replaced Maitland-Niles early in the second-half and the midfielder drew Arsenal level again with a superb strike from distance.

It was Crowley’s fifth goal of a hugely impressive pre-season, but the youngster instantly set about trying to put Arsenal ahead. He found Akpom with a clever pass, but the angle was against the striker and he could only divert his effort into the side-netting.

Arsenal came perilously close to scoring again on several occasions. Akpom had a penalty claim turned down and the striker then almost found the net with a header that was just kept out by substitute goalkeeper Paul White. The young Gunners were eventually rewarded for their persistence with seven minutes remaining when Hayden did well to work space for himself before firing past White.

Arsenal were utterly dominant in the closing stages and Hayden capped off a fine individual performance when he raced onto Crowley’s pass and finished well again to make it 5-3.

That looked to be that, but, remarkably, there would be two more goals. First Ajayi further increased Arsenal’s tally when he finished well from Olsson’s cross. Then Sinclair scored his second of the game and Forest Green’s fourth moments before the final whistle.

It was an excellent game, although, when the dust settles, the main positives to take out of it from an Arsenal perspective were the performances of Hayden and Crowley.

The U21s play Colchester United at the training ground next week in their final pre-season friendly before commencing their league campaign away to Reading a week on Friday.

Afobe set to see out his Arsenal contract at MK Dons

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Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images Europe

Arsenal striker Benik Afobe has headed out on loan once again, this time to League One side MK Dons in a move that will take him to the end of his contract at Emirates Stadium.

The 21 year old was considered a player of immense promise when he was a schoolboy, as he scored over 40 goals in one season at U16 level, but a succession of injury problems and difficult loans have dictated that his Arsenal career hasn’t worked out as expected.

The England U21 international has previously spent time with Huddersfield Town, Reading, Bolton Wanderers, Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday but has scored a combined total of just nine league goals during those spells.

The Hale End product made a brief return to Arsenal last season, scoring some important goals at U21 level, but it has long been clear that his future lies away from the club after he was overtaken by both Yaya Sanogo and Chuba Akpom.

Afobe will be hopeful of featuring regularly for MK Dons before assessing his options next Summer. It is now looking increasingly likely that he will leave Arsenal without having made a competitive appearance for the first-team, which is certainly something that many would have predicted five years ago.

He becomes Arsenal third loanee for 2014/15, with Carl Jenkinson at West Ham United, whilst Wellington is spending the season with Almeria.

Crowley signs professional terms with Arsenal

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Promising midfielder Dan Crowley has signed his first professional contract with the club.

The England youth international, who turned 17 yesterday, was impressive in his first season since joining from Aston Villa, despite enduring several injury setbacks.

An an excellent passer of the ball, Crowley has also demonstrated during his appearances for the U21 team this pre-season that he is capable of finding the net himself.

Considered one of Arsenal and England’s best prospects, Crowley should become a regular for the club at U21 level this season. He is yet to be called up by the first-team, but has been allowed to develop in the youth sides and is certainly reaping the benefits.

Miquel, Akpom and Zelalem feature as Arsenal lose to Monaco

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There were fewer youngsters on show today as Arsenal missed out on winning the Emirates Cup as they lost 1-0 to Monaco.

Arsenal lacked some of the flair that was on display in their comprehensive win over Benfica yesterday, with a comparatively experienced side creating little in the way of clear-cut chances.

Monaco pounced upon some slack defending to score what proved to the only goal of the game, with Falcao finding the net in the 37th minute.

Things marginally improved for Arsene Wenger’s side after the interval, with Alexis Sanchez moving into the central-striker position, but Monaco proved to be a resilient unit.

Ignasi Miquel was introduced at the start of the second-half in place of Calum Chambers, but the Spaniard wasn’t especially impressive. He came close to scoring, as he did yesterday, but was also booked for a clumsy challenge and, despite his aerial presence, the 21 year old doesn’t seem a reliable option at the heart of the defence.

The decision to introduce Miquel was rendered all the more baffling by the fact that Isaac Hayden remained on the bench throughout. Hayden, who wasn’t even named in the squad yesterday, appears a considerably better prospect, although, for whatever reason, it seems that Miquel is still rated ahead of him for now.

There were late run-outs for Chuba Akpom and Gedion Zelalem and both players made something of an impact during their short time on the field. Zelalem, evoking memories of his performances during last year’s Asia Tour, unlocked the Monaco defence with a precise pass. Akpom raced onto it and was brought down, apparently in the area, but a free-kick was awarded on the edge of the area instead.

Hector Bellerin, meanwhile, replaced Mathieu Debuchy for the final few seconds.

Arsenal squandered the opportunity and the result means that Valencia won the Emirates Cup. There were far fewer positives to take than there were from yesterday’s encounter, although, assessing the weekend as a whole, it was good for some of the youngsters to play in a first-team environment.

Now the decisions will have to be made regarding which of the prospects will be promoted to the senior squad for the new season. Martinez seems a certainty to be named as the third-choice goalkeeper, whilst Bellerin is looking increasingly likely to be installed as the second-choice right-back.

Miquel, on this evidence, is also in with a chance of promotion, even if his performances do not exactly merit such praise. As for Akpom, he has considerable promise, but needs to hone his talents via the medium of a loan spell.