Report – Coventry want to buy Sheaf; Swindon target Matt Smith on loan

Two of Arsenal’s young midfielders could be on the move in the near future.

According to journalist Alan Nixon, Championship side Coventry City want to sign Ben Sheaf on a permanent basis.

Sheaf gained experience during loan spells at Doncaster Rovers and Stevenage but it appears unlikely that he will add to his two first-team appearances for Arsenal.

Meanwhile, newly-promoted League One side Swindon Town want to bring in Matt Smith on loan.

Smith, who has impressed at U23 level, has yet to make his first-team debut for Arsenal but has been on the bench on six occasions, including for yesterday’s FA Cup final.

Arsenal win the FA Cup – the academy products that contributed along the way

Arsenal won the FA Cup for a record 14th time as they beat Chelsea at Wembley today and a host of academy products contributed both in the earlier rounds of the competition and in the final itself.

Here’s a look at the academy products that were involved in each round.

3rd round

Arsenal 1 Leeds United 0

Arsenal’s run in the competition started with a home win against Leeds, with Reiss Nelson scoring the only goal of the game.

Emiliano Martinez also started, while Gabriel MartinelliJoe Willock and Bukayo Saka all featured as substitutes.

Tyreece John-Jules was also called up but didn’t enter the fray.

 

4th round

Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 2

On a night in which youngsters featured prominently, Saka and Nketiah were both on the scoresheet in the victory against Bournemouth.

Saka’s goal was set up by Martinelli before Saka turned provider for Nketiah.

Martinez, Hector Bellerin and Joe Willock also started, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles coming on in stoppage time.

 

5th round

Portsmouth 0 Arsenal 2

On another memorable night for some of the club’s youngsters, Nelson set up Sokratis and then found the net himself.

Martinez, Willock, Saka, Nketiah and Martinelli started with Maitland-Niles again involved in the dying moments.

 

Quarter-final

Sheffield United 1 Arsenal 2

No youngsters scored on this occasion but there were still a host of academy products in a larger matchday squad.

Martinez, Maitland-Niles, Willock and Saka were involved from the outset, with Nketiah being brought on. Matt Macey, Bellerin, Nelson and Matt Smith were all unused substitutes.

 

Semi-final

Arsenal 2 Manchester City 0

Martinez, Bellerin and Maitland-Niles were all called upon, with Willock being brought on in the 72nd minute.

Macey, Nelson, Saka and Smith were on the bench and Karl Hein wasn’t in the matchday squad but trained with the goalkeepers on the pitch before the game.

 

Final

Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1

facup

Again, Martinez, Bellerin and Maitland-Niles started and this time Nketiah came on. Macey, Nelson, Saka, Smith and Willock were all unused substitutes, with all nine players getting winner’s medals. Hein again warmed up before the game.

Overall, Arsenal’s academy products made a major contribution to their latest FA Cup triumph and they were especially effective in the earlier rounds. Some of them had already experienced Wembley glory in the Community Shield in 2017, but they deserve praise for the impact that they have made.

For Martinez especially it was an emotional moment as he was finally rewarded for ten years of service at the club, while Nketiah has won both the Championship and the FA Cup in the same season having started the campaign on loan at Leeds.

Matt Smith, meanwhile, may not have played but it was still a fantastic experience for him to be included in the squad in the latter rounds; something which probably wouldn’t have happened if the season had finished as normal.

 

Osei-Tutu and Saliba train with Arsenal squad before FA Cup final – Smith could make the bench

Arsenal held their final first-team training session today ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.

William Saliba, back from his loan spell at Saint-Etienne, isn’t eligible to play tomorrow but is training with the squad in preparation for next season.

The centre-back was joined by Jordi Osei-Tutu, who enjoyed a hugely productive conclusion to his loan spell at VfL Bochum.

Osei-Tutu’s Arsenal future remains unresolved amid rumours that Bochum want to sign him permanently but the fact that he was selected to train with the squad indicates that Mikel Arteta is at least interested in assessing the 21-year-old.

The usual contingent of youngsters – Matt Smith, Harry Clarke, Zak Swanson, Zech Medley, Daniel Ballard, Karl Hein and Trae Coyle – all trained with the squad today.

There is a possibility that Smith, who has already been on the bench for the first-team on five occasions, could be named amongst the substitutes at Wembley.

Cedirc Soares is cup-tied, while Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari, Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel Martinelli remain sidelined.

Hector Bellerin, who has recovered from injury, should be fit enough to feature, while Bernd Leno is back in training but Emiliano Martinez is still set to start in goal.

Okonkwo, Balogun and Sheaf involved as Arsenal U23s return to training

Arsenal U23s have returned to training at London Colney, with Arthur Okonkwo amongst those involved.

The talented goalkeeper hasn’t played for a year for personal reasons but is now closing in on a return to action.

Striker Folarin Balogun, whose future at the club remains unresolved, was also present along with Ben Sheaf, who is back from a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers.

Tyreece John-Jules also trained having returned from a loan spell at Lincoln, during which he suffered an injury.

Another returning loanee, Jordi Osei-Tutu, took part along with Sam Greenwood and Mark McGuinness, with the latter fit again after injury.

Tolaji Bola, Joel Lopez, Jordan McEneff, Ben Cottrell and goalkeeper Tom Smith were all involved.

Highly-rated midfielders Miguel Azeez and Catalin Cirjan were amongst some of the younger players who took part. Alex Kirk, Daniel Oyegoke and Mazeed Ogungbo also fell into that category. 

Ryan Alebiosu, who was offered a professional contract by Arsenal, trained with the squad along with Alfie Matthews, whose future at the club remains uncertain. 

Matt Smith, Zech Medley, Trae Coyle, Daniel Ballard, Harry Clarke, Zak Swanson and Karl Hein are continuing to train with the first-team squad, while James Hillson is currently in France.

James Olayinka and Deyan Iliev, who recently finished loan spells, weren’t pictured in training. Joseph Olowu remains on loan at Cork City until October. 

It appears that number 48 is being kept free for George Lewis, with the winger’s move to the club not yet officially announced. 

A decade in the making – Emiliano Martinez

In 2011 Emiliano Martinez (then known as Damian) spoke of his desire to one day become Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Although he acknowledged it would be a difficult task, especially as at that point Wojciech Szczesny was seen as the club’s potential number one for the foreseeable future, Martinez was determined to eventually achieve his aim.

Now aged 27, he still hasn’t quite completed that objective but he will start on Saturday as Arsenal take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

As he walks out of the tunnel at Wembley, Martinez may well take a moment to reflect on the tumultuous journey he has undertaken at Arsenal to get to this stage.

Martinez is used to going under the radar. His arrival at the club in 2010 (which was agreed the previous year) wasn’t officially announced, while even earlier this season his name wasn’t listed in the club shop when shirts were being sold.

The earliest signs of Martinez’s potential were evident on his debut for the club, which came for the U18s against Norwich in 2010, with the goalkeeper saving a penalty.

Later that season he caught the eye with some fine stops in the FA Youth Cup defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was clear very early on that he was excellent at kicking the ball and his overall command of the penalty area was of a high standard.

Having got his first callup to the senior squad, as a substitute for a League Cup win against Shrewsbury Town in 2011, Martinez edged ahead of James Shea in the pecking order and then had a one-game loan spell at Oxford United in which he conceded three goals.

The following season saw further involvement with the Arsenal first-team as he made the bench in the Premier League and was called into action in the League Cup, including in the famous 7-5 win against Reading where he didn’t exactly give the best account of himself.

As the years went on Martinez racked up the loan spells, spending time with Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Getafe.

There were occasions when he was pressed into action for Arsenal, such as a brief spell in the 2014/15 campaign, where he fared rather well overall.

However, there remained a nagging concern that he may never get a sustained opportunity to impress. After impressing for Reading last season Martinez declared that he wouldn’t go on loan again.

Even this season he faced challenges – he struggled in some games, conceding five goals against Liverpool in the League Cup, and wasn’t selected against Olympiacos in the Europa League.

However, of late Martinez has come into his own and has the opportunity to cap off a superb end to the season by winning the FA Cup.

It will certainly be intriguing to see what happens next season when Bernd Leno is fit, but after so long in the background, Martinez certainly deserves his time in the spotlight now.

Remarkably, Martinez has still made more appearances for Arsenal U23s (or equivalent) than he has for the first-team. It seems somewhat fitting that when he features on Saturday, that will no longer be the case. He has had to wait an eternity for this moment, but now Martinez has a chance to finally achieve his longstanding aim of succeeding at Arsenal.

What will Arsenal’s U18 squad look like next season?

With Arsenal’s scholarship intake for next season confirmed, we now have a better idea of what the club’s U18 squad will look like.

Ken Gillard’s side didn’t have the best of times in 2019/20 as they were ninth in the southern section when the league was halted; a far cry from when they won the division title in the previous campaign. They were also eliminated in the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup as they lost to Blackburn Rovers.

There will be many changes to the squad ahead of next season. Firstly, the following players are no longer eligible to play for the U18s: Ben Cottrell, Sam Greenwood, Joel Lopez and Ryan Alebiosu.

Here’s a breakdown of who could feature for the U18s in each position.

GOALKEEPER

Rules state that clubs are permitted to field an U19 goalkeeper in league games at this level, meaning Karl HeinArthur Okonkwo and Tom Smith could still feature. Hein is highly unlikely to play given that he is the first-choice custodian for the U23s, but Okonkwo could get some much-needed game time as he hasn’t played for over a year due to personal issues. Smith, meanwhile, could possibly be sent out on loan to gain further experience.

Hubert Graczyk is likely to remain as the main shot-stopper for the U18s – he made 12 league appearances this season and will be hoping to earn a professional contract.

Remy Mitchell, who first featured for the U18s as an U15 player, is now a full-time scholar and will hope to get his fair share of action. The Hale End product is a player with much potential.

Ovie Ejeheri, meanwhile, didn’t play at all during his first season as a scholar, with injuries not helping his cause. He will be aiming to get some game time this time around.

In the event that the U18s are short of options in the goalkeeping department, they could turn to either Alex Kovacevic or Jamie Telfer, both of whom have already been called up at this level.

DEFENCE

Right-back

Daniel Oyegoke enjoyed a productive first season as a scholar and is likely to start the new campaign as the first-choice in this position for the U18s.

Oyegoke could progress into the U23 setup (having already featured for them), which would open up a space in the side for highly-rated first-year scholar Brooke Norton-CuffyLevi Laing can also be used in this position (as well as at centre-back or in midfield).

Centre-backs

Mazeed Ogungbo has been on the fringes of the U23 side and has captained the U18s on occasion. He could partner Alex Kirk, who gave a good account of himself this season and was also called up to the U23s.

Zane Monlouis is now a full-time scholar having gained plenty of experience for Gillard’s team last season and will also be under consideration to start most games.

Other options include Jason Sraha, who was unfortunate with injury in his first season at the club, and new scholars Zach Awe and Taylor Foran, both of whom have caught the eye at schoolboy level.

Left-back

Ogungbo is capable of playing at left-back, but the more natural option in that position is first-year scholar Henry Jeffcott.

MIDFIELD

Central-midfield

Miguel Azeez is still eligible to feature at this level and could still be involved in the FA Youth Cup, but he has, in the main, stepped up to the U23s.

Charlie Patino, who has already trained with the first-team and is an excellent prospect, should be a regular at the base of the midfield. He could play alongside Mauro Bandeira, who broke into the U18 side towards the end of last season.

Arsenal can also call upon the likes of James Lannin-Sweet and Jack Henry-Francis as creative options, while Luigi Gaspar is capable of providing tenaciousness.

Highly-rated schoolboys Sydie Peck,  and Bradley Ibrahim could step up towards the end of the season.

Attacking midfield

Catalin Cirjan has been promoted to the U23s, leaving a vacancy in the number ten position. That could be filled by Marcelo Flores, who has developed very well since he joined Arsenal from Ipswich Town.

ATTACK

Right wing

Nathan Butler-Oyedeji gave a good account of himself in his first year as a scholar and will be eager to push on further.

Left wing

Kido Taylor-Hart will hope to put his injury problems behind him and play regularly, while Omari Giraud-Hutchinson (who can also play as a number ten) and Charles Sagoe Jr are alternatives.

Striker

Luke Plange is likely to lead the line, initially at least, as he aims to earn an extended stay at the club. Khayon Edwards and Billy Vigar should also receive opportunities. Schoolboy Kieran Petrie, who can also play out wide, is another option.

Possible strongest U18 team (FA Youth Cup)

Graczyk

Oyegoke-Kirk-Monlouis-Ogungbo

Patino-Azeez

Butler Oyedeji-Cirjan-Flores

Plange

Subs: Mitchell, Sraha, Jeffcott, Bandeira, Taylor-Hart, Giraud-Hutchinson, Edwards

 

Possible league team

Graczyk

Norton Cuffy-Kirk-Monlouis-Jeffcott

Patino-Bandeira

Butler Oyedeji-Flores-Taylor Hart

Plange

Subs: Mitchell, Sraha, Gaspar, Giraud-Hutchinson, Edwards.

Arsenal confirm new scholars – Gaspar, Henry-Francis, Lannin-Sweet and Sagoe Junior included

Arsenal have confirmed their new intake of scholars for the 2020/21 season in the official matchday programme.

The full list is as follows:

Zach Awe – defender

The talented centre-back is an England youth international and has already featured for Arsenal U18s.

Mauro Bandeira – midfielder

An all-action midfielder who represents Portugal at youth level, Bandeira broke into the Arsenal U18 team last season.

Khayon Edwards – forward

A hard-working forward, Edwards featured for Arsenal U18s last campaign.

Taylor Foran – defender

A tall centre-back with impressive leadership qualities, he featured against Cheltenham in the FA Youth Cup.

Luigi Gaspar – midfielder

The son of Edu, Gaspar is a tough tackling midfielder and he will hope to feature prominently for the U18s next season.

Omari Giraud-Hutchinson – winger

A very skilful player, Hutchinson is expected to make a major impact for the U18s.

Jack Henry-Francis – midfielder

A fine passer, Henry-Francis impressed for Arsenal U16s last season.

Henry Jeffcott – deender

The dependable defender has already been involved with the U18s and can play at centre-back or left-back.

James Lannin-Sweet – midfielder

An attacking midfielder who can also play out wide, Lannin-Sweet has been capped by England at U17 level.

Remy Mitchell – goalkeeper

Mitchell featured for the U18s as an U15 player and the shot-stopper has also been on the bench for the U23s.

Zane Monlouis – defender

One of the most experienced players in this group, Monlouis was heavily involved for the U18s last season.

Brooke Norton-Cuffy – defender

A right-back who has been capped by England at youth level, Norton-Cuffy is also a threat with his crosses.

Charlie Patino – midfielder

Already a regular for the U18s, Patino has trained with the first-team and is potentially the standout player in this group. He could even push into the U23s as the campaign progresses.

Charles Sagoe Junior – winger

A skilful winger, Sagoe Junior is usually deployed on the left wing and will hope to impress for the U18s.

William Vigar – forward

Vigar is a hard-working striker who has performed well at schoolboy level.

Mexican midfielder Marcelo Flores wasn’t listed in Arsenal’s article, but this is likely to be an oversight as he has previously stated that he will be part of the U18 squad next season. We will await confirmation of Flores’ situation over the next few days.

The article also states there are likely to be a couple of further additions to the U18 squad ahead of the new campaign.

Given the wide range of prospects that it contains, this intake could potentially be one of Arsenal’s best ever and certainly seems to be the strongest overall for several years.

It is important to be patient with each of these players, but they will all hope that they can enjoy a successful first campaign as a scholar, with some of them potentially even pushing into the U23s.

 

Arsenal promote Catalin Cirjan to U23 squad for next season

Arsenal have promoted midfielder Catalin Cirjan to their U23 squad ahead of next season.

Cirjan joined the Gunners last summer from Viitorul Domnesti having previously impressed on trial and enjoyed a productive first season at the club.

The 17-year-old signed his professional contract earlier this season and he also trained with the first-team.

Cirjan made 15 league appearances for the U18s, during which he scored three goals and provided three assists, while he featured in the FA Youth Cup.

Undoubtedly one of the standout prospects in the Arsenal academy at present, Cirjan is capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or slightly deeper in midfield.

The Romania youth international is an excellent passer of the ball and possesses superb technical ability, although he isn’t the strongest physically.

Cirjan has yet to feature for Arsenal at U23 level but that is set to change next season, even though there is much competition for places in midfield, with the likes of Matt Smith, Jordan McEneff, Miguel Azeez and Ben Cottrell at the club.

It is possible that Cirjan will still play some games for the U18s, but he will be under consideration for most U23 matches and will hope to make a major impact at that level.

Matt Smith included in Arsenal squad to face Manchester City

Matt Smith has been named in Arsenal’s squad to face Manchester City at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals tonight and will be on the bench.

The midfielder has been on the bench for the first-team on two occasions – against Southampton in the Premier League and Sheffield United in the FA Cup. He has been training regularly with the first-team over the past couple of months.

Smith, a product of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, produced some encouraging performances for the U23s this season.

The youngster was included as there was a space in the squad due to Cedric Soares being cup tied.

Smith was selected ahead of Mesut Ozil, who recently returned to training.

Loan report – Smith Rowe strikes as Huddersfield beat West Brom

Emile Smith Rowe emerged off the bench to score the winner as Huddersfield Town beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 today.

Former Arsenal player Chris Willock had given Huddersfield the lead before Dara O’Shea levelled for West Brom.

Smith Rowe was introduced to the fray in the 71st minute and scored in the 86th minute as he made an impressive run prior to finishing adroitly.

The goal is the second that Smith Rowe has scored in his 18 appearances for Huddersfield and makes it likely that his temporary side will retain their Championship status.

Smith Rowe has one more game remaining of his loan spell – away to Millwall on Wednesday.