Toral heads to Birmingham on loan, with Crowley another candidate to depart

Arsenal have announced that Jon Toral will spend the entire 2015/16 campaign on loan at Championship side Birmingham City.

The Spanish midfielder impressed on loan at Brentford in the same division last season and featured for Arsenal during their opening pre-season fixture this summer in Singapore.

However, the 20-year-old’s hopes of making the grade at Arsenal are complicated by the fact that the club currently have several high-profile midfielders on their books.

Toral, who joined Arsenal from Barcelona’s academy four years ago, can operate out wide but is most comfortable as a central-midfielder. Despite featuring for the Gunners in pre-season friendlies, he is yet to represent the club in a competitive fixture and, as things stand, his stint with Birmingham will take the youngster to the end of his current Arsenal contract, after he signed a one-year extension towards the end of last season.

Toral becomes Arsenal’s fifth loanee for the new season, following in the footsteps of Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Ipswich Town), Yaya Sanogo (Ajax), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham) and Wojciech Szczesny (Roma).

Another player who could soon depart the club on loan is fellow midfielder Dan Crowley, who was left out of Arsenal’s squad for the Emirates Cup last weekend. Crowley has been tentatively linked with several Championship sides this summer, but it appears that it may be a while yet until any deal is agreed.

Meanwhile, Wellington’s destination for the new season remains unclear. The Brazilian is still training at London Colney but hasn’t represented the club at any level during pre-season.

Arsene Wenger has stated that wingers Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi won’t be heading out on loan in the near future, but there are other candidates for temporary transfers, including Serge Gnabry, Isaac Hayden and Glen Kamara.

Bennacer confirms Arsenal move as Jonker strives to revitalise the academy

French midfielder Ismael Bennacer has confirmed via social media that he is now an Arsenal player, with the prospect becoming the club’s seventh acquisition at youth level this summer.

Bennacer, who featured six times in Ligue 2 for Arles-Avignon last season, joins Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Yassin Fortune, Kostas Pileas, Vlad Dragomir, Donyell Malen and Jordi Osei-Tutu in signing for the club during the pre-season period.

The sheer number of acquisitions in one summer is unprecedented for Arsenal at youth level and can be seen as evidence of Academy Manager Andries Jonker seeking to make amends after the club suffered the ignominy of finishing as the worst-placed team in the Premier Academy League last season.

It is telling that all but one of the new signings is from abroad, with Jonker seeing to add more flair and dynamism to Arsenal’s youth sides.

Reine-Adelaide has already made a substantial impact for the first-team in pre-season, whilst Fortune, Pileas, Dragomir and Osei-Tutu have all settled in well with the U21s.

Bennacer adds to Arsenal’s crop of central-midfielders and he could well feature prominently for the second-string if Jon Toral and Dan Crowley go out on loan.

It is commendable that Jonker has decided to act decisively in the wake of the disappointments of last season, but the club still remain short of defensive options at youth level, particularly in the U18 team.

There may still be further signings to come, with Portuguese goalkeeper Joao Virginia having been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal of late.

As for the players who have already signed, it will be very interesting to see how they adapt to life in North London. Some of the recent signings from abroad, such as Ilias Chatzitheodoridis and Kristopher Da Graca, have struggled greatly, but there have also been notable success stories like Hector Bellerin and Serge Gnabry, who both fitted in immediately.

It has been a summer of considerable change for Arsenal at youth level. It started with several long-serving players, including Jack Jebb, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Austin Lipman and Josh Vickers, being released  and over the past few weeks we have gradually seen next season’s youth squads begin to take shape.

There are already some promising talents in the system, such as Hale End products Chris Willock, Kaylen Hinds, Tyrell Robinson and Stephy Mavididi. It is hoped that some of the new signings will help to make Arsenal a force again at youth level, whilst also eventually providing Arsene Wenger with further options to supplement his first-team squad.

Video + report- Zelalem assists + scores as Arsenal U19s beat Celtic

An Arsenal U19 side beat Celtic 4-2 today in their first group stage fixture of the Durban Under 19 International Football Tournament in South Africa, with Gedion Zelalem playing a major part in proceedings.

The midfielder set up Arsenal’s opening goal for Tyrell Robinson with a neat pass and also scored the winner from the penalty spot. In the interim, Ben Sheaf had made it 2-0 to Arsenal only for Celtic to restore parity. However, Zelalem’s late spot-kick ensured that Arsenal took all three points, with a strike from Kaylen Hinds adding further gloss to the scoreline.

Arsenal, who were without Dan Crowley and Krystian Bielik, took the lead early on when a superb through-ball from Gedion Zelalem found Tyrell Robinson, who finished confidently.

It was soon 2-0 courtesy of a superb strike from Ben Sheaf, but Celtic reduced the deficit following a mistake from Arsenal goalkeeper Hugo Keto.

Arsenal were playing some entertaining football at times, but Celtic were becoming increasingly dominant and the Scottish side equalised in the 57th minute with a goal from Regan Hendry.

The Gunners then introduced summer signing Kostas Pileas in place of Stefan O’Connor. Arsenal desperately sought to regain the lead, with Sheaf having a shot tipped over.

Josh Da Silva then replaced Aaron Eyoma as Arsenal sought to up the ante and they were eventually rewarded when Zelalem made it 3-2 from the penalty spot.

Arsenal’s victory was confirmed when Hinds made it 4-2 late on following an error by the Celtic goalkeeper.

Two of the main positives from the game from an Arsenal perspective were the performances of Zelalem and Sheaf. Zelalem was left out of Arsenal’s squad for the Emirates Cup last weekend and his task in terms of breaking through into the first-team is complicated by the presence of several established central-midfielders. However, the United States U20 international remains very talented and will be hoping to impress further in this tournament.

Sheaf, meanwhile, will hope to break into Arsenal’s U21 side on a regular basis this campaign.

On the contrary some of Arsenal’s defending was questionable today and is something which the young Gunners will inevitably want to improve upon as the tournament progresses.

Arsenal’s next assignment is against a KSN Academy XI on Friday, before they take on PSV Eindhoven on Sunday in what is sure to be an entertaining fixture.


Osei Tutu-O’Connor-Pleguezuelo-M. Bola


Eyoma-C. Willock-Robinson


Subs: Huddart, Pileas, Da Silva, T. Bola, Chatzitheodoridis, Mourgos, Donovan.

Arsenal tipped for Bennacer deal as Malen signing is confirmed

It has already been a very busy Summer for Arsenal at youth level in terms of acquisitions, and it appears that the recruitment drive might not be over yet, with the Gunners being heavily linked this morning with a move for attacking midfielder Ismael Bennacer.

The 17-year-old French youth international previously seemed set for a move to Manchester City, but L’Equipe claim that Arsenal are set to offer the player a five-year contract to move from Arles-Avingon.

Meanwhile, the signing of Dutch youngster Donyell Malen has been formalised after he was pictured putting pen to paper on his scholarship contract. The striker joins from Ajax’s esteemed academy.

Arsenal U19s face their Celtic counterparts in a tournament in South Africa later today.

Members’ Day 2015 report + photos- Reine-Adelaide and Iwobi train with first-team

Arsenal held their annual Members’ Day at Emirates Stadium today, with promising youngsters Jeff Reine- Adelaide and Alex Iwobi joining the first- team squad for training. 
Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpom were also present, as was Mathieu Flamini, but Tomas Rosicky was absent because of injury and Danny Welbeck, despite being in attendance at the stadium, also didn’t partake in the session. 

 Regarding youngsters, Isaac Hayden, Krystian Bielik, Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem weren’t called upon, although the latter trio may well represent the U19s at a tournament in South Africa this week. 

Wojciech Szczesny is currently in Italy as his loan move to Roma edges closer to completion, whilst David Ospina was back in training today but may be short of sharpness ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield fixture against Chelsea. 

Reine-Adelaide, who enjoyed an excellent Emirates Cup, was impressive in training again and there is a chance that he could make the bench on Sunday. 

Alexis Sanchez is due to return to training on Monday, whilst Joel Campbell has been given a period of extended leave following his exploits with Costa Rica this summer. 

The players initially did some light stretches, before splitting into two groups, with Iwobi and Akpom amongst those who participated in a small-sided keep-ball session. 

The goalkeepers trained separately, with summer signing Petr Cech receiving a good reception from the club’s supporters. 

Over the next few days the training sessions will increase in intensity in the build- up to the Chelsea fixture, with Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi and Akpom all striving to convince Arsene Wenger that they should be in the squad at Wembley. 

Players in training: Debuchy, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Koscielny, Arteta, Wilshere, Ozil, Giroud, Ospina, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Monreal, Cazorla, Flamini, Chambers, Bellerin, Martinez, Gnabry, Akpom, Cech, Coquelin, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide. 

West Ham complete deal for Arsenal youngster Dobson

West Ham United have today completed the signing of Arsenal youngster George Dobson on a permanent deal.

The 17-year-old, who progressed through the Gunners’ Hale End system, informed the Arsenal coaching staff at the end of last season that he was intent on leaving the club. He spent time training with the West Ham first-team earlier this summer and, following some protracted negotiations, the deal has now been concluded, much to the delight of Dobson, who is a lifelong West Ham supporter.

Capable of playing at centre-back or as a defensive-midfielder and possessing good leadership qualities, Dobson broke into Arsenal’s U18 team as a schoolboy and went on to make 45 appearances in total at that level. He also featured in the UEFA Youth League and last season made inroads into Arsenal’s U21 side, featuring on nine occasions for the second-string.

Dobson is the second Arsenal youngster to defect to West Ham in recent years, with striker Jordan Brown having done likewise in 2013. The Gunners did, however, sign midfielder Ben Sheaf from the East London club last year.

Dobson is a player with considerable potential, but his decision to leave appears to have centred on his future first-team prospects. With players such as Isaac Hayden and Krystian Bielik blocking his path at Arsenal, he has decided to move on to pastures new.

Emirates Cup omissions emphasise considerable task facing Crowley and Zelalem

It says something about Arsenal’s wealth of central-midfield options that, even in the absence of the injured Tomas Rosicky, two players as talented as Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem were unable to command a place in the squad for the Emirates Cup over the weekend.

Crowley and Zelalem, given their age, positions and playing style, have been bracketed together since they both signed scholarship terms with the club in 2013, but their involvement with the first-team this pre-season was restricted to a short run-out for both of them against a Singapore Select XI.

Their omission from the Emirates Cup team wasn’t too surprising, with manager Arsene Wenger able to call upon Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. Indeed, the latter two have often had to operate out wide in recent times just so they can fit into the team.

The Emirates Cup has a history of showcasing young talent, with Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere amongst the players to have announced themselves at the tournament, and the weekend was a particularly memorable one for prodigious wingers Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi, who claimed an assist and a goal respectively as Arsenal won the trophy for the first time since 2010.

For Crowley and Zelalem, though, the wait for them to impose themselves on the senior set-up goes on. Crowley is yet to represent the senior side competitively, whilst Zelalem, despite some stellar showings in past pre-season fixtures, has only made two substitute appearances.

Both players progressed well last season, making particularly good use of the UEFA Youth League, but their omissions from the squad this weekend will have served as a reminder as to just how difficult it will be for them to make a sustained breakthrough.

Crowley and Zelalem are undoubtedly two of the most talented youngsters currently in Arsenal’s youth system. The latter has attracted criticism at times for some anonymous performances, but he was more heavily involved last season and is also starting to become stronger physically and more tactically aware.

Crowley also has some aspects of his game to improve on, but appears to be the more rounded of the pair at present, which is perhaps why he is already being linked with a loan move for this campaign, with League One side Peterborough United mooted as a possible destination.

That should come as little surprise, with Crowley’s virtuoso performance against Peterborough in the FA Youth Cup in 2013/14 still instantly recallable. The midfielder, who was often used on the left wing last season, is a superb passer of the ball, and a loan spell, playing against experienced players on a regular basis, would help him to develop further and would perhaps precede a senior breakthrough during the 2016/17 campaign.

As for Zelalem, perhaps the United States youth international isn’t ready for a loan spell just yet, on account of his lack of strength. It would probably be better for him to remain with Arsenal’s U21 side for the first half of the season at least, which would enable him to train with the first-team and also possibly feature in the Capital One Cup. A loan spell could follow thereafter.

The long-term question as to how Crowley and Zelalem will fit into the Arsenal first-team picture is very complicated and is not easily answerable at present, with Ramsey and Wilshere also likely to be around for many years to come. This season should provide us with some clues as to how astute Crowley and Zelalem are at adapting to first-team football.