Author: Jeorge Bird

Ormonde-Ottewill continues his quest to make the first-team

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Arsene Wenger has long considered Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill to be a promising player for the future, with the young left-back having trained with the senior side on several occasions during the past three seasons.

Today, the 18 year old, along with goalkeeper Matt Macey, was temporarily promoted from the U21 training group to the first-team one, with several players still away following their participation in the World Cup. If he is to make that transition a permanent one in the future, however, Ormonde-Ottewill has a rather difficult challenge on his hands.

Ormonde-Ottewill is an England U19 international Dave Thompson/Getty Images Europe
Ormonde-Ottewill is an England U19 international
Dave Thompson/Getty Images Europe

Like many modern left-backs, Ormonde-Ottewill is adept in an attacking sense, frequently delivering dangerous crosses into the opposition’s penalty area, but concerns have emerged about his defensive capabilities over the past year, with his lack of positional awareness horribly exposed by the likes of Everton U18s and Barcelona’s UEFA Youth League side.

With Kieran Gibbs, another Academy product, having been handed the number three shirt today, Ormonde-Ottewill faces an immense task if he is to succeed at Arsenal in the long-term, but he will be hopeful of making his senior debut this season in the Capital One Cup.

Macey, meanwhile, is edging closer to the first-team picture and it seems as if he is locked in a battle with fellow shot-stopper Damian Martinez for a place in the senior squad as third choice, presuming a deputy to Wojciech Szczesny is acquired in this transfer window.

Ignasi Miquel, Chuba Akpom, Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson, Julio Pleguezuelo, Benik Afobe, Semi Ajayi, Thomas Eisfeld and Isaac Hayden have also been training with the first-team this week, with each of those 10 players possessing varying short-term aims. For Miquel, Ajayi, Afobe and Eisfeld, this is perhaps their final chance to make the breakthrough. Akpom, Bellerin, Olsson and Hayden will be hoping to add to their limited experience of professional football and perhaps earn a promotion this Summer.

The most intriguing case, though, is that of Pleguezuelo. The Spanish centre-back is almost unrecognisable from last season having dyed his hair and switched to Puma boots, but his potential remains hugely encouraging. There have been tentative murmurings that the youngster could be named as the club’s fourth-choice centre-back for the new season, although, at just 17 years of age, he may initially be restricted to outings in the Captial One Cup.


Coquelin returns as several youngsters train with first-team

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The first batch of Arsenal first-team squad members returned to training this week, and today saw them make their first forays onto the pitches at London Colney.

Source: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe)
Source: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe

Amongst those who participated was Francis Coquelin, back from his difficult loan spell at Freiburg, whilst there were several familiar faces on show including Wojciech Szczesny, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Mathieu Flamini, Yaya Sanogo, Nacho Monreal, Gedion Zelalem and Abou Diaby. Tomas Rosicky was surprisingly absent.

With many players afforded extra time off following their World Cup exertions, several players from the development squad also participated, including Chuba Akpom, Ignasi Miquel, Damian Martinez, Isaac Hayden, Jon Toral, Thomas Eisfeld and Hector Bellerin. This group will form the bulk of the squad that will face Boreham Wood and New York Red Bulls in the club’s first two friendlies this Summer.

Serge Gnabry, Ryo and Theo Walcott are all still recovering from injuries suffered last season.

Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla, whose countries all exited the World Cup in the group stages, are due to return to training later this month, with Joel Campbell, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud scheduled to return in early August.

* Update- Kris Olsson and Julio Pleguezuelo also trained with the first-team today.

Arsenal confirm Kamara and Vickers contracts

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Arsenal have belatedly confirmed that defensive-midfielder Glen Kamara and goalkeeper Josh Vickers have signed their first professional contracts with the club.

Dan Istitene/Getty Images Europe
Dan Istitene/Getty Images Europe

Both players started every game of the run to the Semi-Finals of the FA Youth Cup last season, with Kamara particularly catching the eye in the second-leg defeat to Chelsea at Emirates Stadium. A player who has developed impressively since joining from Southend United in 2012, he has been capped by Finland at U21 level and has also made 12 appearances for Arsenal at that age group.

Vickers, meanwhile, made several outstanding saves in the Youth Cup, turning in a man-of-the-match display away to Charlton Athletic, and the commanding shot-stopper spent the majority of the campaign on loan at non-league side Canvey Island, for whom he was a regular.

Kamara will seek to establish himself as the midfield lynchpin for the U21 side this season, particularly if Isaac Hayden goes on loan, but Vickers has a fight on his hands for regular action, with Damian Martinez, Matt Macey and Deyan Iliev all currently ahead of him in the club’s goalkeeping hierarchy.


Forgotten man Galindo training with Bolivian club

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He hasn’t played competitive football for well over a year, but Samuel Galindo has returned to his native Bolivia in a desperate attempt to revive his once-promising career.

The 22 year old, who is out of contract at Arsenal next Summer, endured a failed trail spell at Colorado Rapids last season and has spent the past week training with Oriente Petrolero in his home country.

Although he was considered a player with considerable potential when he joined from Real America, Galindo’s career has gone dramatically downhill in the past few years. Previously capped twice by his country at senior level, the midfielder struggled to assert himself during loan spells at Salamanca, Gimnastic, Lugo and Jorge Wilstermann, and now looks set to see out the remainder of his Arsenal deal in Bolivia.

Galindo has only ever represented Arsenal in U21 friendly matches and would be classed as a senior player if he remained in North London during the forthcoming campaign.


Moore celebrates his birthday with professional contract

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Arsenal youngster Tafari Moore turned 17 today and the right-back could hardly have wished for a better present than signing his first professional contract with the club.

The deal had long been expected, but Moore will still be delighted with the news following an impressive first season as a scholar which culminated in him helping England U17s to win the European Championships for that age group.

Matej Divizna/Getty Images Europe
Matej Divizna/Getty Images Europe

On the domestic front, Moore was heavily involved in a range of competitions during 2013/14, most notably making eight appearances for the U21 side, whilst also playing every minute of the FA Youth Cup run. An adept reader of the game, he still has some developing to do, but has made impressive strides in recent months and trained with the first-team towards the end of last season.

As previously communicated, fellow second-years Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Dan Crowley are scheduled to sign their first professional contracts when they turn 17 later this Summer, which would leave Stefan O’Connor, Renny Smith and Elliot Wright as the remaining players striving for an extended stay at the club.

Last season, Gedion Zelalem, Julio Pleguezuelo and Ryan Huddart, the other members of the 2013 intake, all signed their first professional deals with the club.



Arsenal sign Finnish goalkeeper Keto

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Arsenal have agreed a deal to sign 16 year old Finnish goalkeeper Hugo Keto.

The youngster, who spent part of his childhood in England, joins from HJK, and will provide competition for Ryan Huddart in Arsenal’s U18 squad this season.

Capped three times by Finland at U16 level, Keto impressed whilst on trial with Arsenal in April and also spent time training with Liverpool, but has now sealed a move to North London.

His signing comes shortly after it was announced that the club have signed promising midfielder Ben Sheaf from West Ham United.



Youngsters eye promotion as training gets underway

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After a seven week break, the majority of the Arsenal U21 squad has reconvened at London Colney ahead of the new season, with several players determined to make an impact on the first-team picture before the campaign gets underway.

Overseen by Steve Gatting and Carl Laraman, who will share coaching duties at second-string level during 2014/15, the youngsters were put through their paces, although Wellington Silva and Samuel Galindo were conspicuous by their absence. Gedion Zelalem, interestingly, is still training with the U21 team, suggesting that his transition into a senior player isn’t quite yet complete, whilst Benik Afobe has returned from his loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday as he approaches a crucial time in his Arsenal career.

Chuba Akpom, Hector Bellerin and Kristoffer Olsson, who all represented their respective countries in UEFA U19 European Championship qualifiers towards the end of last season, are not pencilled in to return until Monday, but there were still plenty of familiar faces on show, with Ignasi Miquel, Isaac Hayden, Semi Ajayi and Thomas Eisfeld all hopeful of featuring for the senior side during pre-season.

Winger Alex Iwobi, meanwhile, who turned professional in May, has been handed a low training number, 44, which could suggest that he is closer to senior squad than was initially expected. Iwobi was an un-used substitute in the Capital One Cup victory away to West Bromwich Albion last season. He, along with those listed above, is a candidate to feature for the first-team in their opening friendly against Boreham Wood later this month.

Glen Kamara, having recently put pen to paper on his first professional contract, was also present, and the Finland U21 international was joined by the club’s second-year scholars, including the promising Dan Crowley and Julio Pleguezuelo.

The new first-years, including recent recruit Ben Sheaf, are training separately for now, but the two groups are likely to merge as the new campaign approaches.

Meanwhile, the first batch of first-team players, those who are not currently injured and didn’t participate at the World Cup, are due to return on Monday.


Arsenal sign Ben Sheaf from West Ham

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Arsenal have moved to add another player to their promising new scholarship intake after completing the signing of Ben Sheaf from West Ham United.

The 16 year old midfielder has been capped twice by England at U16 level and joins fellow recent acquisitions Mourgos Savvas and Elias Hatzitheodoridis, who were recruited from the club’s Elite Academy in Greece.

Sheaf pictured with his England U16 colleague Kaylen Hinds
Sheaf pictured with his England U16 colleague Kaylen Hinds

Sheaf could make his Arsenal debut when the U18 team travel to face Lincoln City in a friendly later this month.

The signing of Sheaf increases the number of new scholars to 13, with nine of those having progressed through the club’s Hale End system. Kristopher Da Graca, the promising Swedish centre-back, has also formally completed his move to Arsenal and has been training with his new teammates at London Colney this week.


Jonker set to start work as preparations for new season begin

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July 1st is a pivotal date in the footballing calendar. It signifies the passing of one season onto the next, with many players across the world coming to the end of their contracts at their current clubs, whilst others formally complete transfers elsewhere.

For Arsenal, tomorrow will be significant for two further reasons. Not only do the first batch of players, including the vast majority of the U21 and U18 squads, return to London Colney for pre-season training, but Andries Jonker will officially start work as the club’s new Academy manager.

The appointment of the Dutchman was announced in January, so the 51-year-old has had plenty of time to consider his first steps in his new position. Over the course of his time at the club, his main aim will be to improve the quality of players being developed at the club’s Hale End Academy and ensuring that a greater number of homegrown graduates make the journey into the first-team.

Jonker will also be hoping to oversee an upturn in fortunes in terms of results at youth level, particularly in the U18 league. Although Arsenal, perhaps more than most clubs, have long prioritised development over scorelines with regards to the Academy, some of the results suffered by the U18s in recent seasons have hardly been beneficial to the progress of the club’s youngsters.

The acquisitions of Mourgos Savvas and Elias Hatzitheodoridis from the club’s Elite Academy in Greece, demonstrate that the club is still keen to bring in talented youngsters from abroad, but, despite Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem being promoted to the senior side last Summer, the production line has slowed a little in recent years.

With success so important, and Arsene Wenger fielding fewer youngsters in cup competitions than he did previously, it is becoming increasingly difficult for players to make the breakthrough. Jonker’s task is to ensure that Arsenal have a group of players to supplement the first-team squad who possess the qualities and determination to achieve success. It certainly won’t be an easy task, but, with the long-serving trio of Liam Brady, David Court and Roy Massey all leaving their respective positions, his appointment represents the biggest overhaul of the Academy for some time.


Ryo and Galindo set to be latest victims of 25-man squad rule

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The 25-man Premier League squad ruling was designed to benefit the development of English youngsters by requiring clubs to include several homegrown youngsters on their list of eligible players. However, it has become apparent that the initiative has instead had a rather negative effect on the development of some players, with clubs often deciding to sell or release youngsters who haven’t made an impression on the senior side by the time they turn 21.

For the 2014/15 season those born in 1992 will be classed as “senior” players, meaning that Jack Wilshere, Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell, Damian Martinez, Ryo Miyaichi, Ignasi Miquel and Samuel Galindo would need to be included in the squad if they are to be eligible to feature for the club in the Premier League.

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

Wilshere and Jenkinson, as established members of the first-team squad, will certainly be included, whilst Miquel and Martinez could also take up a space should they impress during pre-season, with the latter hoping to capitalise on the recent departures of Lukasz Fabianski and Emiliano Viviano. Campbell also looks set to be named, especially following his impressive performances for Costa Rica at the World Cup off the back of his spell at Olympiacos last season.

For Ryo and Galindo, however, this Summer could spell the end of their respective Arsenal careers. Ryo hasn’t developed as had been hoped when he arrived at the club three years ago and has struggled to replicate the impressive form that he demonstrated on loan at Feyenoord. Once he recovers from his latest injury setback, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Japanese winger leave on a permanent basis, especially as his contract expires next year.

Galindo, meanwhile, seems set to leave Arsenal without having come close to representing the first-team. The Bolivian international didn’t play any competitive football throughout the whole of last season after a proposed loan move to Colorado Rapids broke down. After four unsuccessful loan spells, Galindo’s Arsenal career could come to an end before it had really begun.

There remains a possibility that Arsenal could retain Ryo and Galindo and only use them in cup competitions, but for the sake of the development of both players, it would be preferable to allow them to leave permanently.

At present, if Ryo and Galindo were to be included, there would be just one remaining space in Arsenal’s Premier League squad, which would not be sufficient if the club make several senior signings this Summer.