The season may be over for Arsenal at Academy level, but for four of the club’s most promising talents there are still several important fixtures to fulfil, with Hector Bellerin, Serge Gnabry, Kristoffer Olsson and Chuba Akpom all hoping to help their countries to qualification for the UEFA U-19 European Championships, which will take place in Lithuania from July 20th to August 1st.
Akpom’s England began their Elite Round qualifiers yesterday with a 1-1 draw against Georgia, with Crewe Alexandra’s Max Clayton scoring for an England side that played the majority of the game with ten men after the dismissal of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with just seven minutes on the clock.
Akpom, who enjoyed a superb season for Arsenal, played the full 90 minutes and will expect to be involved again when England face Belgium, who are hosting their qualification group, tomorrow. Scotland are the other side in what is likely to be a fiercely-contested Group 6.
Bellerin, meanwhile, has been spending time back in Barcelona visiting family and friends before linking up with his Spain team-mates for their assault on Group 4 early next month, a section which also contains Croatia, Greece and Poland. Having previously featured for the U17s, this is Bellerin’s first call-up for the elder age-group and the youngster will hope to enjoy a successful summer ahead of a season in which he is likely to make his debut for the Arsenal first-team. He would most probably have been joined by fellow young Gunner Jon Toral in the squad were the latter not still recovering from injury.
Gnabry, who has been capped by Germany from U16 level upwards, will be a key part of the side that takes on Cyprus, Norway and the Netherlands in Group 5, whilst Olsson, who has already played five times for Sweden’s U19s, should be heavily involved as his country face Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and France.
Should any of the quartet progress to the Finals, they are likely to miss a large portion of the club’s pre-season programme, including the development friendlies against Boreham Wood, Leyton Orient and Luton Town.
ENGLAND FIXTURES: Sunday: Belgium, Wednesday: Scotland.
GERMANY FIXTURES: June 5th: Cyprus, June 7th: Norway, June 10th: Netherlands.
SPAIN FIXTURES: June 5th: Poland, June 7th: Greece, June 10th: Croatia.
SWEDEN FIXTURES: June 5th: France, June 7th: Austria, June 10th: Bosnia-Herzegovina