Hayden continues fine progression, whilst Shea heads to America on trial

Arsenal’s youngsters will have little time to reflect on last night’s commendable victory over CSKA Moscow at Emirates Stadium, but, before thoughts turn to Chelsea and Lake Como on Friday, time should be taken to reflect on the progression of a player who has developed rather under the radar since signing his scholarship deal at the start of last season.

Isaac Hayden does not always attract the same level of attention as the likes of Serge Gnabry, Chuba Akpom and Hector Bellerin, but, should he continue his current rate of progression, the 18 year old stands a very good chance of at least being provided with an opportunity to prove his worth in the first-team. His versatility is a certainly one of his key assets, with the England youth international featuring at centre-back last night, forging a resolute partnership with Sead Hajrovic, but also having featured as a defensive-midfielder, a right-back and, somewhat unusually, as a makeshift playmaker, over the past couple of seasons.

A decision will eventually have to be made regarding which of those positions suits Hayden best, but it seems at present that centre-back is perhaps the best option, given his composure on the ball, his intelligent reading of the game and his ability to lead the side from the back. The vast majority of Hayden’s performances this season, particularly in the NextGen Series, have been highly impressive, and a far cry from the tame individual who first came to the attention of the wider public by turning in a disappointing display on his debut for England U16s two seasons ago.

Whether it was just nerves that got to him on that occasion is difficult to prove, but it is hardly relevant now, such has been the progression of the former Southend United youngster since then. He was rewarded for his good form in the U18s last season with his first professional contract shortly after turning 17 and, this campaign, has slotted in seamlessly at U21 level whilst also training with the first-team on occasion as Arsene Wenger has become alerted to his development.

Success in the NextGen Series would be the perfect way to cap off the campaign for Hayden, but, whatever happens in the promised land of Lake Como, he will be able to look back on a hugely successful season and one that he will seek to build upon even further next campaign.

* Arsenal U21 goalkeeper James Shea is currently training with American side Colorado Rapids with a view to earning a permanent move at the end of the campaign. Shea, who has made the bench for the Arsenal first-team in all four senior competitions during his time at the club, is out of contract in the summer and is expected to be released alongside the likes of Conor Henderson, Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond. Having signed a scholarship deal in 2007, Shea attracted criticism early in his Arsenal career for his poor organisational skills, but developed into an impressive shot-stopper, making a memorable save against Manchester United Reserves at Old Trafford in 2011. He spent time on loan at Southampton and Dagenham & Redbridge, but made just four appearances, all with the latter club, during a short stay last season, and will seek to continue his career at Arsenal’s former link-club in America.




  1. Really liked the look of Hayden and it sounds like he is improving rapidly. The NextGen side look incredibly talented and a number impressed me last night. Surprised how much everyone talks about Eisfeld. Gnabry, Akpom, Hayden, Bellerin, Angha all look much more likely to make it given their ages and general performances. Ollson alsolooks better on the ball and could be great if he improves physically although he is similar to Henderson. Was a pleasure to watch them last night.

    1. Yes and so are many others including hajrovic, boateng, rees, meade, wynter, bhimoutine, neita, jeffrey, fagan, charles-cook, as well as frimpong, fabianski, arshavin, squillaci. its going to be really interesting this summer, as to who gets a contract and who dont although many have a 1 year option similar to djourou and rosicky had.

      1. Frimpong’s contract isn’t up, he said so on twitter when those rumours of him leaving started. And I’m not sure on Fabianski but I doubt that if he was off Wenger would have just made him his no.1.

      2. may be? its not like the old days anymore when contracts were more transparant. it cud be that mannone is out of contract but im sure i read somewhere it was fabianski. either way the keeper situation is going to be very interesting just like the other comings and goings at every level. i particularly like the new batch of scholars and also the way hajrovic hayden and one or two others have stepped up recently.

      3. Arsenal’s policy of not revealing the length of contracts doesn’t make it any easier, they only tell us they are ‘long term’. As I said, Fabianski is only an educated guess. I don’t know for sure if he’s got more time to run. I wouldn’t be the least bit against him staying if he can keep playing like he has been the last two games, if he’s turned it around mentally then he’s an excellent player in my opinion. His ability was obvious when he was younger, the mistakes only started when he started playing more high pressure games.

  2. Henderson will be 22 in September, and he’s been picking up a lot of injuries. It’s a real shame, he seems a humble and intelligent guy. I would like to have seen him play for us a bit more than he did, he was impressive in that game against Leyton Orient a couple of years ago.

    The great thing is that a lot of those who have played in the NextGen this season can play in the tournament again next season. Iliev, Hayden, Bellerin, Olsson, Toral, Gnabry, Akpom, plus Jebb, Lipman, O-Ottewill are all 1995s. Add three from Monteiro, Fagan, Angha, Ebicilio, Jeffrey (if he stays), Ansah as overage players and that’s a strong squad to challenge in the competition again next year.

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