Author: Jeorge Bird
Ilias Chatzitheodoridis joined Arsenal on scholarship terms in the summer following a successful trial, but, owing to complications with paperwork, he has yet to feature for the club at U18 level.
That looks set to change next week, with Chatzitheodoridis scheduled to play at last some part when Arsenal U18s host Tottenham Hotspur at London Colney on Friday.
The Greek left-back, who is impressive defensively as well as going forwards, featured for the U16s in their game against Southampton yesterday, but he will be sure to find that playing at U18 level, particularly against Tottenham, will be a much tougher challenge.
Marc Bola has started every game at left-back so far this season for Frans de Kat’s side, but that could be set to change in the coming weeks.
Chatzitheodoridis’ compatriot, and fellow summer arrival, Savvas Mourgos, has already played twice for the U18s, but has yet to develop an understanding with his new team-mates, as evidenced by him conceding possession on numerous occasions against West Ham yesterday. However, it is still very early days for the midfielder and it is hoped that his performances will improve as the weeks progress.
The other two foreign recruits, goalkeeper Hugo Keto and centre-back Krsitopher Da Graca, will also hope to be cleared to play for the U18s in the near future.
As ever, Arsenal have often deployed very young teams at U18 level so far this season. For instance, yesterday, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor, Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley could have all featured if necessary, whilst the likes of Renny Smith, George Dobson, Julio Pleguezuelo, Tyrell Robinson and Ben Sheaf were all unavailable.
Goalkeeper Ryan Huddart and centre-back Elliot Wright were the only second-years involved yesterday, but de Kat’s team have still delivered an impressive set of results in the early weeks of the campaign, registering 15 points from their opening eight fixtures.
They have just three fixtures left, against Tottenham, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion, before reaching the halfway point of the first stage of the season.
Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom emerged off the bench to score two goals in the final two minutes of the game, helping England U20s to secure a dramatic late victory over the Netherlands today.
The striker has been in prolific form for Arsenal U21s so far this season, scoring six goals in four matches, and also featured for the first-team against Southampton in the Capital One Cup.
England are participating in a Four Nations tournament with Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey. Having prevailed past Germany in their opening fixture, things took a turn for the worse for England when they found themselves 2-1 down against the Netherlands.
Akpom wasn’t going to give up without a fight, however, and, having scored from the penalty spot, he then found the net again in the dying moments, prompting wild celebrations. Isaac Hayden captained the side.
England take on Turkey on Monday.
U18 Premier League- Game 8
West Ham United 0 Arsenal 0
By Jeorge Bird @ Little Heath
They may not have been able to match the drama of Chelsea’s incredible 12-2 victory over Aston Villa, but Arsenal and West Ham U18s still conjured up a hard-fought encounter at Little Heath today.
This was an engrossing battle between two sides that have started the season in splendid form. Arsenal have lost just once under new coach Frans de Kat, whilst West Ham remain unbeaten this campaign, although that wouldn’t have been the case had Stephy Mavididi converted an inviting opportunity in the second-half.
In the end a draw was probably the correct result, however, with both sides enjoying periods of sustained dominance without creating too much in the way of attacking opportunities. Arsenal had goalkeeper Ryan Huddart to thank for keeping them level on several occasions, with many of West Ham’s best moves involving Hale End graduate Jordan Brown.
De Kat made four changes from the team that were held by Southampton last time out. Huddart returned in goal, whilst there were also re-calls for Elliot Wright, Chris Willock and Kaylen Hinds.
Centeno-Wright-T. Bola- M. Bola
subs: Da Silva (for Mourgos), Tabi (for Mavididi). Not used: House, Johnson. Booked: Willock.
There were very few chances created by either side in the early exchanges, with both defences proving difficult to break down. Wright, who will be seeking to follow Stefan O’Connor in turning professional with Arsenal, made some important interventions, but eventually West Ham managed to outmanoeuvre the Arsenal defence.
Brown was spotted in space and, upon receiving the ball, forced a good save from the alert Huddart. The tall goalkeeper was in action again just moments later as he produced a superb double stop to preserve parity.
West Ham’s pressing made it difficult for Arsenal to retain possession, with the young Gunners struggling to get many of their flair players into the game. Willock was impressive when he received the ball, but he wasn’t always offered much support and was the victim of some robust challenges from the opposition.
It was from a Willock free-kick that Arsenal created their first chance of note, but Harry Donovan couldn’t quite connect with it properly. An incisive Willock pass then located Marc Bola in space, but the left-back’s cross was cut out before it could reach the waiting Mavididi.
Brown turned down a scholarship deal at Arsenal as he felt he would receive more opportunities at West Ham and the striker was heavily involved here, with Huddart having to intervene again to make a sprawling save at the feet of the striker.
When Arsenal were forced to defend they largely went about their task well, with a particular highlight being Wright’s superb sliding challenge to deny Brown, who was bearing down on goal.
Arsenal had one opportunity before the interval, with Savvas Mourgos combining with Willock, who eventually found Mavididi. However, the striker, who was so prolific in the early weeks of the season, couldn’t quite direct his effort on target on this occasion.
There was a little more rhythm to the game in the second-half, with Arsenal finally managing to free themselves from the shackles that West Ham had imposed on them. Arsenal were starting to get Mavididi involved in the game, with the striker heading wide from Willock’s cross before a well-timed challenge prevented him from getting his shot away in the next attack.
West Ham still posed a threat on the counter-attack, however, and Tolaji Bola did well to clear the danger with Brown in close proximity.
Hinds was a hub of creativity for Arsenal, with the England youth international seeing a couple of efforts go narrowly wide.
Hinds was involved in perhaps Arsenal’s best move of the game and it was one that really should have yielded a goal. Aaron Eyoma played a perceptive pass into the path of Hinds, who crossed invitingly for Mavididi, but the striker was unable to find the net from close range.
Arsenal then introduced Josh Da Silva in place of Mourgos, who had struggled to impose himself on his second start at this level.
West Ham still threatened, with Huddart watching a shot go just wide of his goal, with Mavididi then directing an effort off target after good work from Donovan.
In an engaging final few minutes, Hinds struck the side-netting, with West Ham then squandering several opportunities to snatch a late winner.
In truth, defeat would have been rather harsh on either side, with both teams defending well. Arsenal’s play was not quite as fluent as expected, but there were some good performances at the back, with Wright and Jonatas Centeno acquitting themselves well.
Hinds and Willock continue to appear to be the club’s standout talents in this age group, even though not everything they attempted worked today. Huddart’s excellent performance didn’t come as too much of a surprise, whilst Tabi did well after coming on as a substitute.
De Kat could be forgiven for being a little worried that, following the glut of goals his team scored in the early weeks of the season, they have now gone two games without finding the net. He will be hopeful that Arsenal, and Mavididi in particular, will be able to rediscover their goalscoring touch in time for their next assignment against Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsene Wenger said in the summer that Gedion Zelalem will not be ready to feature for the Arsenal first-team for at least six months.
That statement raised eyebrows in some quarters, with fears arising that the 17 year old was struggling to fulfil his vast potential. However, with hindsight, Arsenal’s decision to allow Zelalem to develop in the youth teams, rather than rushing him into first-team action, has been an informed one.
When Zelalem made his debut for the Arsenal first-team against Coventry City in the FA Cup last season, his appearance was expected to be the first of many, with some even suggesting that he would feature in the Premier League before the end of the campaign. That didn’t materialise and Zelalem has had to be mightily patient for his opportunity, having not even made the bench for the recent Capital One Cup tie with Southampton.
What he has been doing in the interim, however, hasn’t gone unnoticed at London Colney. Having first played in the U21 team as a schoolboy, Zelalem now possesses considerable experience of second-string football, and, at last, is beginning to develop the sort of consistency and ability to influence matches that was so lacking from his game last season.
Whereas previously Zelalem could go an entire U21 game without making a notable contribution, he is now, gradually, beginning to become more tactically aware to add to his renowned technical gifts. He scored his first goal for the club with a superb strike for the U19s against Galatasaray in the UEFA Youth League and is starting to play killer passes with the regularity that he has done so when afforded an opportunity in first-team friendlies.
Having previously appeared too afraid to go into challenges, Zelalem is now prepared to fight for the ball. His talent has always been obvious, but his all-round game is now improving immensely. He still needs to develop physically, which is perhaps why he hasn’t featured in the Premier League yet, but, slowly but surely, he is getting towards the stage where he’ll be ready to represent the first-team regularly.
He hasn’t quite developed as quickly as Cesc Fabregas, who slotted into Premier League action as a 17 year old, or Jack Wilshere, who was dominating Carling Cup games in the first year of his scholarship, but Zelalem’s time will come eventually.
U18 Premier League- Game 7
Arsenal 0 Southampton 0
Last week Ryan Huddart produced a superb display as Arsenal U18s took on Fulham and Frans de Kat’s side were again heavily reliant on their goalkeeper this weekend.
On this occasion it was Josh Vickers, captaining the side as an over-age player, who made several excellent stops to keep a clean sheet with an inexperienced defence ahead of him against bottom of the table Southampton.
Arsenal created little going forwards in the first-half, but their build-up play improved in the second period following the introductions of Kaylen Hinds and Chris Willock. Hinds was unfortunate not to score himself, whilst Tyrell Robinson perhaps should have done better in front of goal when a Willock pass scythed open the Southampton defence.
In the driving rain, this wasn’t a particularly fluent performance from Arsenal, but it has to be taken into consideration that, of the outfield players that started the game, only Renny Smith was a second-year. Schoolboys Mich’el Parker and Tolaji Bola were deployed at centre-back, whilst Savvas Mourgos made his debut in midfield.
Many of Arsenal’s first-year scholars have already featured for the older age groups this season, but that has come at a cost for de Kat, with Hinds, Willock and George Dobson, arguably the three standout players from this year’s intake, all missing from the starting line-up on Saturday.
Stephy Mavididi failed to score at this level for the first time this season, although he did come close with a header on one occasion, whilst Harry Donovan was denied in the final seconds following a mazy run from Hinds.
The plaudits should go to Vickers, though. The goalkeeper has long been tipped as having a bright future, but his development has been rather held back due to the plethora of young shot-stoppers on Arsenal’s books at present. With Emiliano Martinez, Matt Macey and Deyan Iliev all ahead of him, Vickers struggles to even make the bench for the U21s these days, although, on this evidence, the 18 year old, who spent last season on loan at Canvey Island, should be provided with some opportunities at a higher level soon.
The dropped points saw Arsenal relinquish their status at the top of the southern section, and they face West Ham, one of the two sides that are now above them, next week.
Centeno-Parker-T. Bola-M. Bola
subs: Huddart, Johnson, Willock, Hinds.
Wellington started and delivered an impressive performance in Almeria’s 2-2 draw with Elche. The Brazilian winger won the penalty from which Verza scored, although the foul on him actually took place outside the area. Wellington was a threat throughout and will hope to feature against Villarreal next week.
Carl Jenkinson started and played the whole game as West Ham United beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0.
Benik Afobe was surprisingly not amongst the goals as MK Dons beat Yeovil Town 2-0. The striker, who played the entire 90 minutes, missed two chances.
Kristoffer Olsson‘s quest for first-team football is not going as expected. The midfielder wasn’t in the squad as Midtjylland thrashed Hobro and he has made just one substitute appearance for his temporary side so far.
Ryo was brought on for the final half an hour as FC Twente drew 2-2 with AZ Alkmaar.
Jon Toral was introduced for the final six minutes as Brentford took on Reading. By that stage Brentford had already virtually secured a 3-1 victory.
Austin Lipman played the final twelve minutes as a substitute as Boreham Wood lost 2-1 to Havant & Waterlooville. Lipman had a shot blocked shortly after his introduction.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Isaac Hayden trained with the Arsenal first-team squad ahead of tomorrow’s game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Hector Bellerin was also present, although the Spaniard may be left out of the squad to face Jose Mourinho’s side, with Nacho Monreal set to return. Centre-back Semi Ajayi also participated.
Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry are set to return to action later this month, but Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Debuchy are all still out injured. Abou Diaby is available but may not be called upon tomorrow as he continues to build up his fitness.
Maitland-Niles has trained with the senior team on several occasions, having made massive strides since signing his scholarship at the start of last season. Somewhat surprisingly, the youngster, who has recently been deployed as a central-midfielder rather than in his usual position on the right flank, has yet to put pen to paper on a professional deal, but that should be rectified in the near future.
Jack Wilshere could return to the starting line-up tomorrow, although, if he does, then Arsene Wenger faces a difficult decision over who to leave out of the team, with one of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez likely to make way.
Arsenal U19s continued their excellent start to their UEFA Youth League campaign by thrashing Galatasaray 5-1 at Meadow Park this afternoon.
Gedion Zelalem put Arsenal ahead with his first goal for the club on the stroke of half-time and the floodgates opened in the second-half, with Kaylen Hinds, Chris Willock, Alex Iwobi and Dan Crowley all finding the net, the latter scoring a penalty.
A victory over Anderlecht in their next game would move Arsenal ever closer to progression to the knock-out stages of the competition, which would be a commendable feat considering the inexperience of this side.
There are, however, some outstanding talents in this group, and Galatasaray struggled to cope with Arsenal’s quick movement and possession football.
The young Gunners signalled their intent from the offset, with Iwobi doing well to find Hinds, who shot over.
Iwobi then embarked on another mazy run and teed up Crowley on this occasion, whose effort rattled the crossbar.
Iwobi came anxiously close to scoring himself when his shot struck the post, but Arsenal were finally rewarded for their efforts when Zelalem manoeuvred his way past three players before finishing confidently for his first Arsenal goal.
With Galatasaray’s resistance finally broken, Arsenal could express themselves more in the second-half.
Tafari Moore, deployed at left-back, crossed for Hinds to make it 2-0. Willock then put the game beyond doubt with a calm finish.
The fourth came courtesy of Iwobi, who fired home after excellent work from Crowley. It was fitting that Crowley would then score himself, with the midfielder capping off an excellent display by scoring a penalty after he was brought down in the area.
Crowley almost scored again not long afterwards, and, although Galatasaray scored the merest of consolations through Furkhan Kopuz, it didn’t take any of the shine off an excellent victory for Arsenal.
Arsenal: Huddart; Johnson, O’Connor, Dobson, Moore; Maitland-Niles, Zelalem; Willock, Crowley, Iwobi; Hinds. Subs: Wright (for O’Connor, 67), Bola (for Moore, 74), Mavididi (for Hinds, 80). Not used: House, Smith, Robinson, Sheaf.
Arsenal’s lack of defensive options are such that manager Arsene Wenger was forced to call upon four young defenders for today’s training session.
Hector Bellerin and Isaac Hayden have frequently trained with Wenger’s squad in recent weeks, whilst centre-back Stefan O’Connor and left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill joined them for the final preparations ahead of tomorrow’s UEFA Champions League group stage game against Galatasaray.
Jack Wilshere also took part in training, but the midfielder could be rested against the Turkish side having suffered an injury scare against Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend.
Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal, Yaya Sanogo, Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud are all out.
Abou Diaby is not yet fit enough to play regularly but he came through today’s session unscathed, whilst Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry are back in light training, with the wingers set to return to action next month after long lay-offs.
Players in training today: Szczesny, Ospina, Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky, Podolski, Wilshere, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Cazorla, Flamini, Welbeck, Campbell, Coquelin, Bellerin, Hayden, Ormonde-Ottewill, O’Connor, Diaby.
Arsenal U19s face Galatasaray’s youth team tomorrow in the next instalment of their UEFA Youth League campaign. The game kicks off at 2pm.
Coach Frans de Kat was left disappointed despite Arsenal U18s staging a stunning comeback to win 3-2 against Fulham at Motspur Park on Saturday.
A second-half fightback inspired by substitute Kaylen Hinds, who set up one goal for Stephy Mavididi and scored the other two himself, earned Arsenal all three points, but only after a deeply disappointing first-half display.
Fulham tore through the Arsenal midfield at will, with the Gunners’ defence struggling to cope. Goalkeeper Ryan Huddart was called upon to make a couple of impressive saves, but, in truth, Arsenal were fortunate to go into the break just two goals down, with Tolaji Bola and Marc Bola finding it difficult to prevent the likes of Mattias Kait and Stephen Humphrys from wreaking havoc.
De Kat said that he told the players at half-time that most of them were delivering performances that rated at 2 or 3 out of 10. Their prospective marks would have been much higher for the second-half, but Arsenal owed much to Hinds, whose pace and clinical nature in front of goal helped to drag Arsenal back into the game.
Hinds did well to cut the ball back for Mavididi, who scored his tenth goal of the campaign. Hinds then found the net himself after latching onto Aaron Eyoma’s cross and then finishing well. His second goal and Arsenal’s third was remarkably similar in terms of technique, although Chiori Johnson, another substitute, was the provider on this occasion.
For all their frailties at the back Arsenal could have even extended their lead late on, but Eyoma’s shot lacked conviction. Ben Sheaf was impressive following his introduction from the bench and the midfielder will hope to feature more regularly in the next few weeks.
A large proportion of the squad that faced Fulham are likely to be involved when the U19s continue their Youth League campaign against Galatasaray on Wednesday afternoon. The challenge of playing two games in a week is a tough one but will provide the youngsters with ideal preparation for first-team football.
Huddart is set to be in goal against the Turkish side and the Hale End product certainly deserves to be playing at a higher level after some impressive performances. He will have to bide his time before he can break into the U21 set-up, however, with Matt Macey, Deyan Iliev and Josh Vickers all ahead of him at present.
Arsenal U18s continue their league campaign at home to Southampton on Saturday.