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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Former Arsenal midfielder Chuks Aneke is heading to Belgium for the next stage of his development after signing a contract with Zulte-Waregem.
It is a rather unexpected move for Aneke, who had been targeted by a host of Championship clubs following his release by Arsenal last month.
Despite leaving Arsenal with just a cameo appearance in the Carling Cup to his name, Aneke has made tremendous progress over the past couple of years whilst on loan at Crewe Alexandra in League One having previously endured less successful stints at Preston North End and Stevenage.
Aneke could well act as a replacement for Thorgan Hazard at Zulte-Waregem, with the Chelsea loanee having enjoyed two temporary spells with the Belgian club.
Aneke becomes the third youngster who was released by Arsenal this Summer to have already found a new club. Zach Fagan will join Welling United, with Zak Ansah poised to join Charlton Athletic.
Daniel Boateng, Leander Siemann, Alfred Mugabo, Tarum Dawkins and Arinse Uade, who were also let go by the Gunners, are still on the lookout for new clubs.
Although it is yet to be officially confirmed by the club, Jon Toral signed a new contract with Arsenal in late April, and the Spaniard will be seeking to make some sort of impact in the professional game next season.
Toral has been largely impressive since joining from Barcelona three years ago, but has been plagued by a series of injury problems during his time in North London. However, he was in impressive form in the second half of last season, scoring five goals in 15 appearances for the U21 team.
Now 19, Toral will be hopeful of finally making his first-team debut for Arsenal in the near future, most probably in the Capital One Cup. The midfielder has trained with the senior side on numerous occasions and could be heavily involved in the club’s pre-season plans, with many players away at the World Cup.
Although he prefers to play as a central-midfielder, Toral has often been deployed on the left wing for Arsenal’s development sides, but he has still delivered some consistent performances and could experience a loan spell at some point during the 2014/15 campaign.