Late last month, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the inaugural Currys FIFA Cup, a competition that saw eight writers and bloggers compete to win tickets to see Arsenal take on Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup Semi-Finals.
It was an excellent evening of entertainment, with games of table football and pool also taking place. It was also a great opportunity to meet and socialise with different bloggers, who supported teams ranging from Stevenage to Charlton Athletic, as well as a fellow Arsenal supporter from SheWore.
After some close-fought and competitive matches I eventually managed to win the competition and hopefully similar events will be held in the future.
Johan Djourou played the entirety of Hamburg’s 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, whilst Francis Coquelin watched from the bench as Freiburg lost 2-0 to Stuttgart. Djourou is set to join Hamburg permanently in the Summer.
Wellington played the whole game as Real Murcia beat Sabadell 2-0. The Brazilian came close to scoring with a fierce effort.
Chuks Aneke played 87 minutes as Crewe Alexandra beat Crawley Town 2-1.
Joel Campbell played the whole game as Olympiacos lost 2-0 to PAS Giannina.
On Friday night, Ignasi Miquel was again not part of the Leicester City team that beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1. Leicester subsequently secured promotion to the Premier League over the weekend. Damian Martinez and Benik Afobe were unused substitutes for Sheffield Wednesday.
Ju-Young Park was not involved as Watford drew 1-1 with Burnley. Daniel Boateng‘s Hibernian side take on Aberdeen tonight.
Zach Fagan missed Boreham Wood’s victory over Chelmsford City because of injury. Josh Vickers wasn’t involved as Canvey Island lost 2-0 to East Thurrock United, with the goalkeeper instead being named on the bench for Arsenal U18s against Newcastle United.
U18 Premier League- Game 28
Arsenal 1 (Mavididi 32) Newcastle United 0
Arsenal U18s salvaged some pride from what has been a difficult week for the youth system as they beat Newcastle United 1-0 at London Colney today courtesy of a strike from Stephy Mavididi.
Mavididi scored his fifth goal in ten starts at this level this season to earn Arsenal victory, whilst the game was also notable for the debuts of two promising youngsters. Jonatas Centeno, recently recruited from Fulham, impressed at right-back, whilst schoolboy Joshua Da Silva came on as a second-half substitute.
There were two other changes from the side that lost to Tottenham Hotspur, with Marc Bola and Aaron Eyoma also starting. None of the players on show today are expected to start Thursday’s FA Youth Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Alfred Mugabo, who spent time on trial at Sheffield Wednesday last week, was amongst the substitutes.
subs: Vickers, Mugabo, Maitland-Niles, Da Silva.
Arsenal have three remaining league fixtures at this level this season, with games to come against Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Ham United and Fulham.
U21 players Semi Ajayi, Kristoffer Olsson, Isaac Hayden and Hector Bellerin trained with the first-team this morning as Arsene Wenger’s side concluded their preparations for tomorrow’s trip to face Everton in the Premier League.
Gedion Zelalem was also involved, whilst Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal, who have made full recoveries from injury, also participated and are likely to be in the squad tomorrow. However, Kieran Gibbs and Serge Gnabry are doubtful having sustained minor problems. Nicklas Bendtner wasn’t present.
Abou Diaby is back training individually, but is not yet fit enough to join in with the main group, whilst Laurent Koscielny could return for next week’s FA Cup Semi-Final against Wigan Athletic. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Ryo are all still sidelined.
Players involved in training today:
Szczesny, Fabianski, Viviano, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Rosicky, Flamini, Arteta, Cazorla, Giroud, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain,
Ramsey, Kallstrom, Sanogo, Monreal, Jenkinson, Zelalem, Bellerin, Olsson, Ajayi, Hayden.
U21 Premier League- Game 17
Everton 2 (Gueye 5, 48) Arsenal 1 (Maitland-Niles 67)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ first goal at U21 level was not enough to prevent Steve Gatting’s side from suffering their third defeat in a week as they lost 2-1 away to Everton this evening. Maitland-Niles, back from international duty, scored with a fine strike in the second-half, but only after Magaye Gueye had struck twice to put Everton in control. This result follows recent defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers.
Chuba Akpom and Kristoffer Olsson returned from injury and illness respectively to start in place of Zak Ansah and Gedion Zelalem. Maitland-Niles, meanwhile, replaced Glen Kamara.
subs: Ansah (for Maitland-Niles, 84) Not used: Huddart, Kamara, Zelalem, Iwobi.
Everton were on top early on, with Christopher Long shooting just over. They were ahead with just five minutes on the clock when Gueye, who has 24 Premier League appearances to his name, beat Matt Macey with an excellent free-kick.
It could very easily have been 2-0 just moments later, with Long coming close again before Conor McAleny, who made his Everton first-team debut against Arsenal in 2011, shot wide after capitalising on yet another slack pass from Semi Ajayi.
Arsenal began to gather some momentum in an attacking sense as the half progressed. Hector Bellerin was a constant threat against Bolton Wanderers on Monday, and the right-back won a corner after linking well with his compatriot Jon Toral.
Isaac Hayden shot wide just before the interval, but Everton soon re-affirmed their dominance after the break, with Gueye making it 2-0 with a well-struck effort that left Macey stranded.
Calum Dyson then came close with a header from Luke Garbutt’s corner, but Arsenal gave themselves a lifeline with 67 minutes on the clock when Hayden and Olsson exchanged passes, before the latter found Maitland-Niles in space on the right flank. The England U17 international wasted no time in finding the net and making it 2-1.
Maitland-Niles, boosted by that goal, then played in Thomas Eisfeld, but the German, usually so clinical in front of goal, couldn’t find the target. Toral then shot over after yet more good work from Bellerin, but Everton provided a reminder of their attacking threat when Conor Grant’s shot struck the side-netting.
On the day that he learnt that he will continue as Arsenal’s U21 coach next season, working alongside Carl Laraman, Gatting couldn’t prevent Arsenal’s youngsters from suffering yet another defeat. Since Christmas, they have won just one league game out of nine, something they will be looking to address when Manchester City visit Borehamwood on Monday night.
Arsenal have announced a considerable re-structuring of their coaching staff at youth level following the appointment of Andries Jonker as the club’s new Head of Youth Development.
Steve Gatting, somewhat surprisingly, will remain in his position as coach of the club’s U21 team, where he will be joined by Carl Laraman. Dutch coach Frans de Kat will take charge of the U18 team alongside Kwame Ampadu, whilst another new arrival, Jan van Loon, will oversee the development of the U16 side. Terry Burton’s departure from the club has also been confirmed after the 61 year old was overlooked when the club decided to appoint Jonker as Liam Brady’s replacement.
The appointments of de Kat and Ampadu will mark the third change in coaching staff at U18 level since Steve Bould was promoted to the first-team set-up less than two years ago. After some wretched results under the stewardship of Pat Holland and then Laraman, the new pairing will be hopeful of improving the perception of the club’s youth set-up. With 14 new scholars poised to commence their careers in the summer, this is a time of considerable change for the Academy. Ampadu, a former Arsenal player who made two appearances for the first-team, has impressed since re-joining the club as U16 coach, whilst de Kat has vast experience of coaching in Dutch football, with the national team, ADO Den Haag and Willem II.
van Loon has also worked with the Dutch national team’s youth set-up and will be tasked with helping the club’s next batch of promising schoolboys, including the talented Charlie Gilmour, to progress to full-time scholarships.
The decision to retain both Gatting and Laraman would, on the face of it, appear rather bizarre, with both coaches having come under criticism from regular attendees of youth team matches for the disappointing results and performances in league matches that have occurred during their reign. That said, both have guided Arsenal’s youngsters to the latter stages of cup competitions this campaign. Results are not the most important aspect of youth-team football, but Gatting and Laraman certainly do not inspire as much confidence as their predecessors, Bould and Neil Banfield.
It is clear that Jonker, whilst introducing some of his compatriots as coaches, wants to maintain a sense of continuity at the club by retaining some of the existing staff. Whether that will prove to be a wise move remains to be seen, but next season will certainly be another campaign of upheaval for the Arsenal youth department.
Arsenal youngster Alfred Mugabo is on trial with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday and featured in a game against Leeds United’s U21 side yesterday.
The 18 year old, who has been capped by Rwanda at senior level, has struggled for form and fitness at Arsenal this season, making just 11 appearances in the U18 side, whilst also featuring twice as a substitute in the FA Youth Cup.
An extremely versatile player who is capable of playing as a right-back, centre-back, defensive-midfielder or a winger, Mugabo featured for Arsenal’s U21 team during the first year of his scholarship but is now a prime candidate to be released when his contract expires at the end of June.
The club are yet to formally announce their decisions with regards to the remaining second-year scholars, but Glen Kamara, Alex Iwobi and Josh Vickers seem likely to be offered extended stays, whilst the respective futures of Tarum Dawkins and Arinse Uade are less clear.
As things stand, Arsenal will be taking on 14 new scholars for next season, including the recently recruited Jonatas Centeno.