Arsenal youth awards – 2018/19

It was another impressive campaign for Arsenal at youth level, with the U18s winning the southern section title, while the U23s ended the season impressive under the guidance of Freddie Ljungberg.

Here’s an assessment of some of the best performers from this season.

BIGGEST FIRST-TEAM IMPACT – Emile Smith Rowe

Smith Rowe spent the second half of the season at RB Leipzig, where he was injured for the majority of the time, but prior to that the hugely talented youngster impressed for the Arsenal first-team.

The Hale End product scored twice in the Europa League and also found the net in the Carabao Cup, and will be aiming to make many more senior appearances in the near future.

BEST U23 PLAYER – Bukayo Saka

This was a very difficult category to decide, with Xavier Amaechi having been hugely impressive for the most part, while Joe Willock was also excellent.

Willock, however, only made 12 appearances for the U23s this campaign, while Saka was more frequently involved as he featured on 20 occasions.

Saka weighed in with five goals and eight assists but more importantly his overall performances were of a very high standard as he frequently tormented opponents.

BEST U18 PLAYER – Folarin Balogun

Although the whole U18 side was excellent, this was an easier category to decide, with Balogun having led the line excellently.

The prolific striker scored 25 goals in 19 league games as Ken Gillard’s side won the regional title.

BEST NEWCOMER – Sam Greenwood

Greenwood arrived at Arsenal from Sunderland with a reputation for being very talented, and he certainly backed that up with his performances in his first season with the Gunners.

The England youth international is capable of operating up front but he was mainly deployed on the right wing and produced some excellent displays.

BEST YOUTH LOANEE – Krystian Bielik

If this award had been decided midway through the season then Reiss Nelson would certainly have won it, but the winger was used less frequently by Hoffenheim in the second half of the season.

Bielik, meanwhile, featured regularly in midfield for Charlton Athletic, helping his temporary side to reach the League One play-off final.

BEST SCHOOLBOY – Miguel Azeez

Schoolboys haven’t been used as frequently at U18 level in recent seasons as they were previously, but some standout talents have still featured, such as Miguel Azeez.

The central-midfielder is extremely composed in possession and should receive plenty of further opportunities to impress as a scholar.

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Julio Pleguezuelo leaves Arsenal after six years to join FC Twente

Julio Pleguezuelo’s Arsenal career has come to an end, with the defender joining Dutch side FC Twente on a two-year deal.

The centre-back, who joined the Gunners in 2013, leaves having made one competitive appearance for the first-team, which came against Blackpool in the Carabao Cup last season.

The vast majority of Pleguezuelo’s action for Arsenal came for the U23s, having initially been promoted to what was then the U21 side in his first season as a scholar.

Pleguezuelo, who previously played for Barcelona’s youth sides, impressed with his passion and his composure on the ball, while he also gained experience on loan at Mallorca and Gimnastic de Tarragona.

During his time at Arsenal Pleguezuelo made over 50 appearances for the U23s, and helped the second string earn promotion to the top tier, although a breakthrough into the first-team proved to be difficult due to injuries and the signings of senior players.

The 22-year-old had reached the stage in his development where he needs to play regular first-team football, but it is still a shame to see a player who served the club so well at youth level depart.

Pleguezuelo’s departure means that Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the only player who remains at the club from the 2013 intake of players, a group that also included Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem.

What will Arsenal’s Europa League final squad look like?

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With just over a week to go until the Europa League final, anticipation is building as Arsenal prepare to take on rivals Chelsea in Azerbaijan.

Arsenal are continuing to train at London Colney this week and will face Austrian side LASK Linz in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Thursday prior to flying out to Baku on Saturday.

It will be intriguing to see the squad that Unai Emery names for the fixture, especially as clubs are now permitted to name 12 substitutes in the final.

Given that this is the first time that Arsenal will have been allowed to name 12 substitutes for a competitive fixture, it remains to be seen whether they will exercise this option, but if they do then several youngsters could make the bench.

Here’s a look at what Arsenal’s squad could be for the final.

First of all, regarding absentees, it has been confirmed that Henrikh Mkhitaryan won’t travel over safety fears.

In addition, Aaron Ramsey, Denis Suarez, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding are all set to miss the final due to injury. Konstantinos Mavropanos is not registered in Arsenal’s Europa League squad.

There are a host of players who seem certain to be included, with: Petr Cech, Bernd Leno, Sokratis, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac, Mesut Ozil, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi, Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all set to be included, fitness permitting.

That means 15 of the 23 places in the squad will have been used. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Carl Jenkinson and Mohamed Elneny could also be included, along with Danny Welbeck, who is back from injury and has impressed in training.

The final four spots could then go to some of the youngsters who have been training with the first-team squad – Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka and Xavier Amaechi.

Goalkeeper Deyan Iliev could also travel with the squad to Baku for training but may not be named on the bench.

The following youngsters are also eligible to represent Arsenal in the Europa League but have already finished for the season and are either on holiday or on international duty: Arthur Okonkwo, Daniel Ballard, Tolaji Bola, Zech Medley, Joseph Olowu, Tobi Omole, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Julio Pleguezuelo, Dominic Thompson, Robbie Burton, Charlie Gilmour, Ben Sheaf, Nathan Tormey, Harry Clarke, Trae Coyle and Tyreece John-Jules.

Cohen Bramall isn’t included in Arsenal’s Europa League squad, with fellow young professionals Jordan McEneff, Matt Smith, Folarin Balogun, James Olayinka, Mark McGuinness, Zak Swanson and Karl Hein also not registered.

If Arsenal win the final then they will receive 40 medals for players and staff, meaning that some of the more prominent youngsters could get medals.

With all of the above taken into consideration, Arsenal’s Europa League final squad could look something like this:

Cech

Sokratis-Koscielny-Monreal

Maitland Niles-Torreira-Xhaka-Kolasinac

Ozil

Aubameyang-Lacazette

Subs: Leno, Mustafi, Iwobi, Guendouzi, Welbeck, Lichtsteiner, Jenkinson, Elneny, Nketiah, Willock, Saka, Amaechi. 

Loan report – Bielik scores for Charlton; Nelson ends loan spell

Krystian Bielik scored, was booked and played 110 minutes as Charlton Athletic progressed to the League One playoff final by prevailing past Doncaster Rovers.

Doncaster won the second leg 3-2, with the game ending 4-4 on aggregate before Charlton won 4-3 on penalties.

Reiss Nelson was brought on in the 85th minute as Hoffenheim lost 4-2 to Mainz.

Emile Smith Rowe came on in the 64th minute as RB Leipzig lost 2-1 to Werder Bremen.

Takuma Asano wasn’t involved as Hannover lost 2-1 to Fortuna Dusseldorf.

David Ospina wasn’t involved as Napoli won 4-1 against Inter Milan.

Kelechi Nwakali wasn’t involved as Porto B drew 2-2 with Vitoria Guimaraes II.

Chambers v Bielik – who would be the better squad option for Arsenal?

There may be several differences between Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik, but there are also some striking similarities.

For instance, they both performed impressively while on loan at Fulham and Charlton Athletic respectively this season, they are capable of performing effectively whether deployed at centre-back or at the base of the midfield, and they return to Arsenal this summer with their long-term future at the club uncertain.

It isn’t necessarily the case that it will be a straight choice between Chambers and Bielik as an option to be part of Arsenal’s squad for next season, but over the next few months a decision will surely have to be made on both of them.

Here’s an assessment of both players and a look at who should be retained.

In terms of experience, Chambers certainly has the edge. He is 24 years old, while Bielik is 21, and Chambers has amassed 125 Premier League appearances across four different clubs (Arsenal, Fulham, Southampton and Middlesbrough), in addition to being capped by England at senior level.

Furthermore, while Chambers may have only worked briefly under Unai Emery so far, he is hugely familiar with the majority of the Arsenal first-team squad having played and trained with them on many occasions.

Bielik has gained experience with Birmingham City and Charlton, while he also featured for Legia Warsaw’s first-team prior to joining Arsenal. However, since making the move to the Gunners in January 2015 he has made only two competitive senior appearances, neither of which came in the Premier League.

Despite the talent that Bielik has demonstrated at various levels, he is still something of an unknown quantity with regards to top flight football.

Both players are also capable of filling in at right-back if needed, although Chambers has more experience of operating in this position from his time at Southampton.

In some aspects, though, Bielik is superior. The youngster is more aggressive when tackling than Chambers and can win the ball back with greater regularity.

In addition, Bielik is extremely composed in possession and, albeit at League One level, also poses a goal threat, having found the net on five occasions this season.

Chambers’ contract runs until the summer of 2022, while Bielik’s deal lasts until 2020, meaning that if Arsenal don’t offer the latter a place in the first-team this season then they will probably end up losing him.

Bielik may not be ready to challenge for a regular place in the starting lineup but he could represent a very useful squad player for Emery next season.

Chambers is also a good option, but Bielik possesses more potential and may well be more effective in terms of following Emery’s demands of winning the ball back quickly.

The futures of these two players are part of many decisions facing the club this summer, and the outcome will be intriguing.

Loan report – Bielik helps Charlton win in play-offs; Nelson and Smith Rowe feature

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Krystian Bielik played the whole game as Charlton Athletic beat Doncaster Rovers 2-1 in the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final.

Calum Chambers played the whole game as his loan spell at Fulham concluded with a 4-0 loss to Newcastle United.

Reiss Nelson came on in the 74th minute as Hoffenheim lost 1-0 to Werder Bremen.

Emile Smith Rowe was brought on in the 90th minute as RB Leipzig drew 0-0 with Bayern Munich.

David Ospina wasn’t involved as Napoli beat SPAL 2-1.

Takuma Asano wasn’t involved as Hannover beat Freiburg 3-0.

Kelechi Nwakali wasn’t involved as Porto B lost 1-0 to Braga B.

 

 

Nketiah scores first Premier League goal and Willock features as Arsenal beat Burnley

Eddie Nketiah scored his first Premier League goal as Arsenal beat Burnley 3-1.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a brace before Ashley Barnes got a goal back for Burnley.

Nketiah, who had entered the fray as a substitute, scored in the closing stages.

The striker had replaced fellow youngster Joe Willock, who made his only league start of the campaign.