Daniel Ballard showing encouraging signs for Arsenal U18s following midfield switch


Arsenal initially decided to release Daniel Ballard last summer before a late change of heart saw them offer the youngster a scholarship deal.

Having been given a surprise reprieve, Ballard went on to feature frequently for Arsenal U18s last season, receiving much game time at centre-back.

His performances were decidedly mixed, with some impressive interventions counteracted by costly lapses in concentration.

This season, however, has seen a rather significant change for the 17-year-old. With Joseph Olowu and captain Zech Medley firmly established as the first-choice central-defensive partnership for the U18s, Ballard has been moved into midfield so that he can continue to play regularly for Kwame Ampadu’s team.

As has to be expected, there were some initial teething problems, with Ballard amongst the many Arsenal players who struggled during the disappointing 4-1 defeat away to Fulham on the opening day of the season.

Last weekend against Aston Villa, however, Ballard produced an excellent display as the young Gunners prevailed with a 1-0 victory, suggesting that he could have a future as a midfielder.

Ballard snapped into challenges with regularity, breaking up play effectively, while he demonstrated his composure on the ball and ability to play incisive passes.

On one occasion Ballard pushed forwards into the opposing penalty area and came close to scoring.

Ballard can be guilty of making some over-zealous challenges at times – he has been booked in each of his last three U18 games – but he is adapting well to his new position.

If Olowu and Medley step up to the U23s at some stage this season then Ballard may well be required to revert to playing in defence, but his versatility is certainly doing him no harm in his quest to earn a professional contract at Arsenal.


Bramall makes Birmingham debut; Mourgos signs for Norwich in permanent move

Arsenal loanee Cohen Bramall made his Birmingham City debut tonight, playing 78 minutes in the 2-1 Carabao Cup loss to Bournemouth. Carl Jenkinson wasn’t involved.

Meanwhile, Marc Bola made his first competitive appearance for Bristol Rovers as he played the entirety of the 1-0 victory against Fulham.

Bristol Rovers v Arsenal U21s 180715

In other news, Arsenal midfielder Savvas Mourgos has joined Championship side Norwich City in a permanent move.

Mourgos, a Greek youth international, joined Arsenal in 2014 and, after initially struggling to settle, proceeded to produce some encouraging performances at U18 level, showcasing his excellent technique.

However, despite featuring in the UEFA Youth League, he found regular game time hard to come by for Arsenal U23s, playing just seven times at that level.

Nelson and Nketiah hit braces + Wilshere sent off as Arsenal U23s beat Man. City

Premier League 2

Arsenal 4 (Nelson 11, 57, Nketiah 15, 37) Manchester City 3 (Smith 31, Diaz 68, Nmecha 74)

By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium


If the first two games of the season are anything to go by this will be an enthralling campaign for Arsenal U23s.

After coming from behind to beat Derby County 3-2 last week, Steve Gatting’s side were involved in another thrilling encounter tonight as they prevailed past Manchester City with a 4-3 win at Emirates Stadium.

Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah enhanced their burgeoning reputations further still as they scored a brace each, although the majority of the headlines will focus on Jack Wilshere, who was sent off in the second half.

Wilshere, continuing to build up his fitness following his latest injury setback, had hitherto produced an excellent display as he played pinpoint passes with regularity and set up one of Nketiah’s goals.

In the 63rd minute, however, Wilshere was dismissed after he reacted angrily to a late challenge from Tyreke Wilson, with the City player also sent off.

The altercation continued into the tunnel and there can be no denying that Wilshere’s fighting spirit remains intact but, despite being on the receiving end of several late tackles from City players, he perhaps took matters a little too far on this occasion.

Arsenal were 4-1 up at the time of Wilshere’s dismissal and seemingly cruising to victory.

Despite both teams being down to ten men, City responded to the situation with greater alacrity and proceeded to reduce the deficit to 4-3, with Brahim Diaz scoring before Lukas Nmecha also got on the scoresheet with a penalty.

Arsenal, however, managed to hold on and preserve their winning start to the season.

There were several alterations to the side that faced Derby, with Matt Macey, Rob Holding, Julio Pleguezuelo, Josh Dasilva and Donyell Malen replacing Ryan Huddart, Cohen Bramall, Francis Coquelin, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Kieran Gibbs.

On the bench Charlie Gilmour and Jordi Osei-Tutu received their first competitive call-ups at this level.



Maitland Niles-Wilshere-Willock-Dasilva



Subs: McGuane (for Malen, 81), Dragomir (for Willock, 81). Not used: Keto, Osei-Tutu, Gilmour.

Arsenal started very brightly, with Donyell Malen heavily involved early on.

The Dutchman shot wide after combining with Nketiah with Arsenal providing City with a warning in the way that they easily cut through their opponent’s defence.

Shortly afterwards Arsenal were in front and it came as no surprise that Nelson was heavily involved.

The prospect made a clever burst down the left flank and exchanged passes with Dasilva, who was galloping forwards from his unfamiliar wing-back position.

After receiving the ball back from his team-mate Nelson drove towards the City goal and found the net with a precise strike.

Arsenal continued to push forwards thereafter, with Malen shooting over, but Holding had to be alert to make an important clearance at the other end.

For the most part, though, Arsenal were in control and they soon made it 2-0, with Nketiah applying the finishing touch on this occasion after he was found by Maitland-Niles; another example of the young Gunners using their wing-backs to excellent effect.

Just when it seemed as if Arsenal were going to establish their dominance even further, City managed to claw their way back into the game, with Matthew Smith’s effort getting the better of Macey after some static defending.

City’s momentum wasn’t helped by the fact that they had to take off two players – Taylor Richards and Javairo Dilrosun – in the first-half due to injury.

Arsenal took full advantage of the uncertainty in the City side with Wilshere playing an inch-perfect through pass into the path of Nketiah, who scored his third goal of the season.

Nketiah could have scored again just before the interval after he turned expertly but the striker was thwarted by City goalkeeper Daniel Grimshaw.

Wilshere started to excel early in the second period as he played some superb passes.

On one occasion the midfielder’s cross found captain Julio Pleguezuelo, whose parried header fell to Nketiah, with the latter almost finding the net once more.

Arsenal did eventually make it 4-1, with Wilshere finding Dasilva, whose cross brought Nelson into play. Steadying himself Nelson found the net with ease and, with that, the outcome of the game was surely beyond doubt.

Except it wasn’t.

Then came the flashpoint involving Wilshere and Wilson, with the pair clashing following a late challenge from the City player.



Wilshere appeared to confront Wilson as the pair entered the tunnel after being dismissed and, even though both teams had lost a player, City seemed galvanised by the fact that they no longer had to deal with the considerable threat of Wilshere.

Soon enough Diaz pulled a goal back after being found by Smith and then City were awarded a controversial penalty, with Nmecha taking full advantage and slotting the ball past Macey.

Arsenal looked to get the safety net of a fifth goal but Nketiah and Joe Willock were unsuccessful in their attempts to score.

Marcus McGuane and Vlad Dragomir then entered the fray in place of Malen and Willock, with Arsenal continuing to pour forwards as Nelson came close to clinching his hat-trick.

City shot over in the dying moments but Arsenal managed to hold on for victory.

Arsenal’s next two games at this level are against Liverpool and Manchester United – the high-octane entertainment is unlikely to stop anytime soon.


Arsenal midfielder Ismael Bennacer joins Empoli in permanent move


Arsenal have sold midfielder Ismael Bennacer to Serie B side Empoli.

The Algeria international, who impressed while on loan at Tours last season, had spoken of his desire to play first-team football and has now ended his association with the Gunners.

An arrival from Arles-Avignon two years ago, Bennacer adapted quickly at Arsenal and made his senior debut in the League Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.

Despite producing some impressive performances at youth level the prospect found further first-team game time hard to come by and he has now left the club.

Impressive technically and also possessing excellent work rate, Bennacer is a very talented player but given that Arsenal have many central-midfielders on their books, breaking into the first-team was always going to be a difficult task.

The 19-year-old didn’t appear ready to wait for his chance at Emirates Stadium and instead has elected to move elsewhere in an attempt to make the breakthrough; a decision for which he can’t be begrudged.


Cohen Bramall joins Birmingham for decisive loan spell



Arsenal defender Cohen Bramall has joined Championship side Birmingham City on a season-long loan deal.

The 21-year-old signed for Arsenal from non-league side Hednesford Town in January and went on to produce some encouraging performances for the Gunners at U23 level, earning him a place in the first-team squad for the pre-season tour of Australia and China.

With Bramall’s Arsenal contract set to expire next summer, this loan will provide the club with a useful gauge as to what level he’s at and will inform their decision regarding whether to offer him a new deal.

Right-back Carl Jenkinson will also be spending the season on loan at Birmingham.


Loan report – Asano features; Martinez benched



Takuma Asano started on the right wing and played the whole game as Stuttgart lost 2-0 to Hertha Berlin.

Stephy Mavididi came on in the 88th minute as Preston North End beat Reading 1-0.

Emiliano Martinez was an unused substitute as Getafe drew 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao.

Marc Bola is still waiting to make his competitive debut for Bristol Rovers. The left-back was an un-used substitute in 3-2 victory over Bury.


Olayinka scores and Okoflex debuts as Arsenal U18s beat Aston Villa

U18 Premier League

Arsenal 1 (Olayinka 34) Aston Villa 0


Kwame Ampadu

A first-half strike from James Olayinka saw Arsenal U18s prevail past their Aston Villa counterparts at London Colney today.

Having been thrashed 4-1 by Fulham on the opening day, Kwame Ampadu was looking for a response from his team against Villa and he got it, with Olayinka scoring his first goal at this level.

With Harry Clarke away with England U17s, Vontae Daley-Campbell came into the side at right-back, while Olayinka started in place of Dominic Thompson.

As several players were unavailable, schoolboys Armstrong Okoflex and David Agbontohoma were named on the bench for the first time, with the former coming on for his U18s debut.


Daley Campbell-Olowu-Medley-Omole


Olayinka-Burton-Smith Rowe


Subs: Okoflex (for Olayinka, 75), Thompson (for Daley-Campbell, 83). Not used: Okonkwo, Smith, Agbontohoma.