Arsenal youth season review- Part 1- The Under 21s

GettyImagesEurope

GettyImagesEurope

Although some of Arsenal’s youngsters are still representing the club at youth tournaments abroad, the domestic season came to an end last week, providing us with an opportunity to reflect on another hugely eventful campaign at youth level.

This season review will be in three parts, with the first instalment focusing on Arsenal’s U21 side.

A disappointing set of results in the previous campaign saw Arsenal demoted to the newly constructed second division of U21 football.

PremierLeague.com

PremierLeague.com

Hopes were initially high that Steve Gatting’s side would be able to immediately gain promotion at the first attempt, but that ultimately didn’t transpire as the young Gunners struggled for consistency despite enjoying some impressive victories.

There were notable wins at home to West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers as well as some commendable victories away to Aston Villa, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bolton Wanderers. Arsenal missed out on promotion by four points, however, as they were made to pay for a fallow period between January and March.

There were still some positives to take from the campaign, though. 13 members of the first-team squad (an unusually high amount) represented the U21s at some point this season, including Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and club captain Mikel Arteta. Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin also featured for the second-string early in the campaign before ending the season as regular starters for the first-team.

In terms of the core U21 group, several players also earned first-team call-ups. Chuba Akpom featured in the Premier League before later going out on loan, whilst Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Gedion Zelalem, Stefan O’Connor, Alex Iwobi, Glen Kamara, Matt Macey and Semi Ajayi all found themselves in and around the senior squad at various points of the season.

O’Connor established himself as a mainstay in the U21s, featuring in all but one of their fixtures, whilst Dan Crowley was also heavily involved, with the England youth international turning in some excellent displays.

The second half of the season, as is usually the case, saw some younger players bedded into the U21 set-up, with George Dobson and Stephy Mavididi both making several starts, whilst Tyrell Robinson and Marc Bola also featured.

A total of 43 players were called up to the U21 squad for their 22 fixtures, perhaps going some way to explain why Arsenal found it difficult to string together a consistent set of results.

With regards to the standout performer, there are several candidates. Crowley, as alluded to, showed some tantalising glimpses of his ability, whilst Akpom hit nine goals, including an impressive hat-trick away to Brighton. In terms of progression, though, the accolade should be bestowed upon Iwobi, a player who started the season as a fringe member of the U21 squad but who ended it as the side’s top scorer with ten goals after adapting seamlessly to playing as a central striker.

Iwobi, whose personal highlight was a hat-trick at Emirates Stadium against Stoke, has improved significantly over the past nine months. He was already a promising player going into the campaign but, at the start of the season, he had yet to score for the U21s. For him to reach double figures is superb, especially given that his first goal didn’t come until late October.

Next season Iwobi, along with the likes of Kamara and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, is set to head out on loan as the development cycle continues. Players such as Dobson, Mavididi, Bola, Johnson, Kaylen Hinds and Chris Willock should establish themselves as important members of the U21 team next campaign.Poll Maker

Loan report- Jenkinson, Wellington, Campbell and Sanogo conclude loan spells

London24

London24

Carl Jenkinson played the whole game as West Ham United lost 2-0 to Newcastle United. The right-back made 36 appearances for The Hammers and his immediate future is currently unclear.

Wellington was introduced as a substitute in the 54th minute of Almeria’s 3-2 defeat to Valencia, with the Brazilian picking up a yellow card. He failed to score in 35 appearances for Almeria, but he did provide seven assists and delivered several impressive performances.

Joel Campbell started up front in a 4-4-2 formation as Villarreal were thrashed 4-0 away to Athletic Bilbao.

Yaya Sanogo again wasn’t part of the Crystal Palace squad as they ended their season with a 1-0 win over Swansea City.

Lukas Podolski missed out through injury as Inter Milan lost 3-2 to Genoa. It isn’t currently clear whether the German will be available for the final game of the season against Sassuolo next week.

House finds a new home as Arsenal’s next scholarship intake takes shape

It was a hugely disappointing season for Arsenal U18s in terms of results, but one of the positives to emerge from the campaign was that several schoolboys gained valuable experience of playing at that level, albeit in difficult circumstances.

The majority of those U16 players will form the bulk of Arsenal’s new scholarship intake for next season. One player who won’t be joining them is goalkeeper Brad House, who has joined West Bromwich Albion having been told earlier in the season that he would be let go.

As well as being named on the bench four times for the U18s this season and a further four times for the U19s, House also played in the league defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur as well as the UEFA Youth League loss away to Anderlecht.

However, with Hugo Keto progressing well and George Phillips and Jordan Perrin set to provide cover next season, Arsenal are well stocked in the goalkeeping department at youth level.

House joins Owen Moore, Rugare Musendo, Tyler Hayles, Mich’el Parker, Kwai Marsh-Brown and Brooklyn Beckham in leaving the club. Moore and Musendo have already secured deals with Brighton & Hove Albion and Southampton respectively, whilst Parker has joined Liverpool.

Where does that leave Arsenal’s scholarship intake? At present there will be seven Hale End products who will become full-time from July 1st, although it is worth bearing in mind that any of them could still leave before that date.

Arsenal’s new scholars:

Front row- (l-r) – Marcus Tabi, Nathan Tella, Charlie Gilmour

Back row- (l-r)- Tolaji Bola, Joe Willock, Edward Nketiah, Josh Da Silva

This is an intriguing group, but it must be said that, whilst it contains an abundance of attacking talents, Bola is the only defensive player included.

All seven players have been involved with the U18s this season and you can read more about each player below:

TOLAJI BOLA- Defender- Born: 4.1.99

A youngster who plays at centre-back or left-back, Bola, who is of no relation to fellow Arsenal defender Marc, already possesses experience of U18 football.

Good on the ball although occasionally a little rash in his decision making, Bola has been capped by England at U16 level.

JOSH DA SILVA – Striker- Born: 23.10.98

Capable of playing as a central striker or as an attacking midfielder, Da Silva has been a mainstay for the U18s this season and also made his UEFA Youth League debut as a substitute against Galatasaray.

A frequent goalscorer for the club at U16 level, he has found goals harder to come by for the U18s but he did find the net against Norwich City and will be hoping to score with more regularity next campaign. He is strong physically and possesses good link-up play.

CHARLIE GILMOUR- Midfielder- Born: 11.2.99

Once described by Liam Brady as one of the club’s most promising schoolboys, Gilmour has represented both Scotland at England at youth level.

A central-midfielder who is tidy in possession, he still has much to learn tactically, but he has been slowly bedded in to the U18 team this season and will hope to become a regular during 2015/16.

EDWARD NKETIAH- Striker- Born: 30.5.99

A diminutive but hard-working striker who has impressed for the U16s this season, Nketiah broke into the Arsenal U18 team midway through the season and has often been used on the left wing by coach Frans De Kat.

Very good technically, Nketiah scored whilst representing the club at the AlKass International Cup.

MARCUS TABI- Midfielder- Born: 2.2.99

Arguably the best performing Arsenal schoolboy this season, Tabi, who can play in central-midfield or out wide, has recently returned for the UEFA U17 European Championships, where he started all of the Republic of Ireland’s group stage matches.

He has also impressed for Arsenal U18s, notably scoring a good goal against Blackburn Rovers. Next season he is set to receive further game time at that level and may even push into the U21s as the campaign progresses.

NATHAN TELLA- Winger- Born: 5.7.99

A right-winger who fended off competition from Brooklyn Beckham to earn a scholarship deal, Tella turned in some commendable displays for the U18s in the second half of the season.

Quick and an intelligent decision maker, Tella was hugely impressive at the AlKass International Cup in Qatar.

JOE WILLOCK- Winger/central-midfielder- Born: 20.8.99

The younger brother of young professional Chris, Joe Willock will be hoping to show that he is an excellent talent in his own right.

A winger or central-midfielder, he scored for England U16s earlier in the campaign but has had to be patient for opportunities to represent Arsenal at U18 level. That should change next season, however, and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to playing at a higher level.

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These seven players will be a major part of next season’s U18 squad. They will be joined in that regard by some of the current first-years- Keto, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Kristopher Da Graca, Ben Sheaf, Harry Donovan, Savvas Mourgos and Aaron Eyoma.

The likes of Stephy Mavididi, George Dobson, Chiori Johnson, Kaylen Hinds, Marc Bola, Tyrell Robinson and Chris Willock will still be eligible for the U18s but should be more heavily involved with the U21s. Ryan Huddart will still be eligible to feature for the U18s in league matches as an overage goalkeeper.

Then there is a group of players- Reiss Nelson, Robbie Burton, Tobi Omole, Josh Benson, Perrin, George Phillips, Rob Howard and Emile Smith-Rowe- who will still be schoolboys next season but will hope to play at least some games for the U18s (Nelson should be heavily involved).

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That could still leave Arsenal’s U18 squad looking a little light in some areas, though, which is where the potential new signings come in. Kostas Pileas, a Cypriot youth international centre-back who has impressed on trial at the club, is likely to join, whilst this week there were (as yet unconfirmed) reports that French attackers Yassin Fortune and Jeff Reine-Adelaide will also sign.

There still hasn’t been any word whether Martin Graiciar, a highly regarded striker from the Czech Republic, will indeed be joining the club, despite a deal appearing close to conclusion earlier this year. Arsenal have also included two further trialists from their Elite academy in Greece in their squad for the Geneva Cup, an U16 tournament which gets underway today.

Konstantinos Balagiannis and Marko Divkovic have linked up with the team for the tournament.

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With the above information in mind, Arsenal’s U18 squad for next season could look something like this:

KETO

Phillips

Perrin

   Huddart*

JOHNSON – DOBSON – DA GRACA- M. BOLA

     Eyoma – Omole-T. Bola-Chatzitheodoridis

                                                                     Howard

      DONOVAN – SHEAF

Gilmour

Benson

 HINDS- C. WILLOCK- ROBINSON

 Tabi-Mourgos- Nketiah

 Tella-Nelson- J. Willock

                 Burton- Smith-Rowe

      MAVIDIDI

     Da Silva

*Overage player

This is the strongest possible squad and will inevitably be much weaker for many U18 league fixtures.

Loan spell next on the agenda for Gnabry

Screen shot 2015-05-19 at 21.54.44

When he was enjoying his impressive breakthrough campaign in 2013/14, Serge Gnabry probably wouldn’t have envisioned that he would end the following season back in the Arsenal U21 team.

A troublesome injury, however, has meant that the German has endured a stop-start season, with fitness problems depriving him of the opportunity to represent the first-team this campaign.

A player who doesn’t turn 20 until July, Gnabry still has time on his side, though, and, as he demonstrated with a virtuoso performance for the second-string against Wolverhampton Wanderers last night, he is edging closer to full sharpness following his lengthy injury lay-off.

Arsene Wenger is a believer in Gnabry’s talent, but the competition for places in the Arsenal squad may mean that the former Stuttgart player will have to head out on loan at some point next season to further his development.

Given his physique and the experience he already possesses of top-flight football, a temporary stint at a Premier League club shouldn’t be beyond Gnabry, although it is hugely important that he goes to a club where he is likely to play regularly, as opposed to many of Arsenal’s recent loanees who have spent far too much time on the bench.

Given his ability to operate across the forward line and slightly deeper (he has shown some especially encouraging signs as a playmaker in the number ten position), Gnabry would be a useful asset for several clubs, with his pace and trickery his key attributes. His finishing is improving, too, although there are some aspects of his game that the young German needs to rectify, most notably his particularly heavy first touch.

There is still much to be optimistic about as far as Gnabry is concerned, despite injuries wreaking havoc with his progress this season. He seems perfectly suited to Arsenal’s style of play and doesn’t seem fazed when placed in a first-team environment. A hard worker and willing learner, Gnabry’s determination has also seen him rewarded on the international stage as he was called up to the Germany U21 squad this season for the first time.

He will inevitably have designs on representing the World Cup holders at senior level in the future, but, for now, his primary focus should be on his club career. A loan spell will hopefully help to smooth out some of the rough edges in his game and see him return to Arsenal ready to compete for a regular place in the side.

Report- Gnabry stars as Arsenal U21s end season with demolition of Wolves

U21 Premier League

Arsenal 4 (Iwobi, Gnabry, Pleguezuelo, Upton (o.g.) Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Although they may not have managed to gain promotion back to the top tier, Arsenal U21s have ended the campaign in impressive form, with tonight’s comprehensive 4-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers representing the third win in succession for Steve Gatting’s team.

It was an evening of positives for the young Gunners, especially with regards to the performance of Serge Gnabry. The dynamic German youth international hasn’t represented the first-team for over a year, but he provided a reminder of his talent here as he scored one goal and set up two others.

Alex Iwobi capped off a fine season on a personal level by scoring his tenth strike for the U21s this campaign, whilst Julio Pleguezuelo scored his first competitive goal at this level. The rout was completed when Wolves’ Regan Upton scored an own goal.

The major team news saw Isaac Hayden make his first appearance since December after recovering from injury. Hayden partnered Krystian Bielik in the defensive-midfield pivot, with first-year scholars Chiori Johnson and Marc Bola occupying the full-back berths.

Arsenal were without Dan Crowley because of injury and Gedion Zelalem, who is set to represent the United States at the U20 World Cup, so Tyrell Robinson was afforded a start on the left wing, with Iwobi continuing up front.

Macey

Johnson-Pleguezuelo-O’Connor-M. Bola

Bielik-Hayden

Maitland Niles-Gnabry-Robinson

Iwobi

subs: Kamara (for Hayden, 46), Dobson (for Johnson, 67), Eyoma. Not used: Huddart, Sheaf.

Arsenal had overcome Bolton Wanderers in their previous fixture and they started very brightly on this occasion. Gnabry was on set-piece duty and his free-kick found Pleguezuelo, who could only head straight at Harry Burgoyne.

Wolves responded with Jordan Graham forcing Matt Macey to make a good save, before the bright Bright Enobakhare shot wide.

Arsenal would find the net with their next attempt, however, and, given the form he has been in recently, it was of little surprise that Iwobi was the scorer, with the Hale End product finishing well after Hayden’s initial effort was parried.

Iwobi attempted to get the better of Burgoyne again shortly afterwards, but this time the goalkeeper was equal to his effort.

Wolves briefly threatened to equalise through Conor Hunte, but Arsenal soon doubled their advantage, with Gnabry getting on the scoresheet following good work from Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Wolves, to their credit, continued to battle on despite the scoreline, but Burgoyne was then called into action again, with the goalkeeper doing well to deny Hayden.

The first meaningful opportunity of the second period fell to Enobakhare, who brought another impressive stop out of Macey, but by the hour mark the game was well and truly over, thanks to two moments in which Gnabry was heavily involved.

Firstly Gnabry’s free-kick was flicked onto the crossbar and the eager Pleguezuelo managed to head home the re-bound to make it 3-0. The fourth came from another Gnabry free-kick, with the ball striking the leg of Upton and going into the net.

Robinson and Maitland-Niles missed chances to add further gloss to the scoreline, but the damage had long since been done, with Gnabry at the very heart of matters.

Arsenal end an inconsistent campaign by finishing fourth in U21 Premier League Division Two, missing out on promotion by four points. Middlesbrough and Reading have been promoted to the top tier, with Fulham and West Ham United joining the young Gunners in the second division.

Reports- Arsenal set to sign Yassin Fortune

Arsenal have reportedly agreed a deal to sign French youngster Yassin Fortune from Lens.

The 16-year-old has previously been linked with other prominent clubs, including Manchester United, but the French U16 international, who usually plays as a striker, has chosen to join Arsenal, according to France Football.

If he does sign, Fortune would form part of Arsenal’s scholarship intake for next season, which could also include Cypriot defender Kostas Pileas.

Loan report- Ryo and Toral conclude temporary spells

Picture: EMPICS

Picture: EMPICS

Carl Jenkinson played the entirety of West Ham United’s 2-1 defeat to Everton. The right-back created a chance that was squandered by Alex Song.

Wellington started on the right wing and was replaced after 74 minutes as Almeria lost 2-1 to Sevilla.

Jon Toral played the final half an hour as a substitute as Brentford’s play-off dream came to an end with a 3-0 defeat to Middlesbrough. Toral, who recently signed a new one-year deal with Arsenal, made 36 appearances for the Championship side, scoring six goals.

Joel Campbell started but was substituted at half-time as Villarreal beat Malaga 2-1.

Lukas Podolski was introduced as a substitute for the final eight minutes as Inter Milan lost 2-1 to Juventus.

Ryo was an un-used substitute as Twente concluded their campaign with a 3-0 victory over Heerenveen. The Japanese winger made just 10 appearances for Twente’s senior team but featured on 14 occasions for their reserve side.

Yaya Sanogo wasn’t involved as Crystal Palace beat Liverpool 3-1.

Jack Jebb wasn’t part of the Stevenage squad for their 3-1 play-off defeat against Southend United.