Shaun O’Connor, the renowned scout credited with discovering Jack Wilshere, has returned to Arsenal after a five-year absence.
O’Connor, who also recruited Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Sanchez Watt and Cedric Evina during his initial ten-year stint at the club, left in 2009 owing to in-house politics and relocated to Brentford.
However, he has now returned to Arsenal and it is hoped that he will be able to put his vast collection of contacts to good use as the Gunners attempt to drastically improve the quality of players coming through the club’s academy. Wilshere and Ashley Cole are the only players to have established themselves as first-team regulars since the Academy’s reformation who have come all the way through the club’s system.
With Andries Jonker about to commence his tenure as the club’s Academy Manager, this is a time of considerable re-shuffling for the club beyond first-team level.
Arsenal’s Wellington Silva is on the verge of joining La Liga side Almeria on loan for the entire 2014/15 campaign according to Sky Sports.
The 21 year old has spent the entirety of his Arsenal career on loan in Spain, spending time at Levante, Alcoyano, Ponferradina and Murcia. It was only during the most recent of those spells, however, that the Brazilian really demonstrated his potential, and with his Arsenal contract due to expire next Summer this will certainly be his final loan spell away from the club.
With Joel Campbell now back at Arsenal, not to mention the recent acquisition of Alexis Sanchez, it is becoming increasingly difficult to envisage Wellington making the grade at Emirates Stadium, despite his tremendous technical ability. The Brazilian had hoped to be involved in Arsene Wenger’s first-team squad this season, but now seems set for yet another spell in Spain.
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.
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.
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.
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 have belatedly confirmed that defensive-midfielder Glen Kamara and goalkeeper Josh Vickers have signed their first professional contracts with the club.
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.
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.
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.
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.