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.
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.