Assessing those on the fringes


Many promising youngsters have been on the cusp of the Arsenal first-team squad in recent years without managing to make a sustained breakthrough- the likes of Nacer Barazite and Gilles Sunu spring to mind- and the final step can often prove to be the most difficult.

There are several players on Arsenal’s books who are still technically young professionals yet have already been involved in the senior set-up in some capacity. Here is a run-down of those who will be seeking to move ever closer to achieving their aims in 2013/14.

Ignasi Miquel

Something of a veteran at second-string level, with four years’ worth of Reserve and U21 experience  at the club, Miquel already has a considerable amount of experience for the first-team too, having featured five times in the Premier League as well as making a solitary outing in the Champions League. Somewhat surprisingly, he has yet to experience a loan spell, something which is likely to change next season.

Chuks Aneke

Just back from a hugely successful loan spell with Crewe Alexandra in League One, powerful midfielder Aneke has intentions of adding to his cameo appearance in the Carling Cup against Shrewsbury Town two years ago. Spells with Stevenage and Preston North End did not yield great results, but the youngster demonstrated his potential at Crewe and will hope to feature heavily during the club’s pre-season tour of Asia.

Zak Ansah

A striker whose fledgling career has been heavily affected by persistent injuries, Ansah made the

Zak Ansah

Zak Ansah

squad for the Champions League trip to Olympiacos last season, but has struggled to find the net regularly for the U21s and, when called upon at that level, has often been forced to play on the right wing to accomodate Chuba Akpom. A loan spell could be in the offing next campaign.

Hector Bellerin

Having enjoyed a hugely impressive 2012/13 campaign, which witnessed a welcome improvement in his defensive capabilities, big things will be expected of Bellerin next time around, especially given the possible departure of first-choice right-back Bacary Sagna. Bellerin made the bench in the Capital One Cup last season and should feature heavily in that competition during the next campaign.

Daniel Boateng

Another player who has had to endure his fair share of injury problems, Boateng made his Arsenal debut against Bolton Wanderers in the Carling Cup in 2011, but is unlikely to add to that outing during what is set to be his final season at the club. The centre-back has been unable to establish himself during loan spells with Swindon Town and Oxford United and could head out on temporary transfer again in the coming months, which may be the precursor to a permanent move.

Thomas Eisfeld

After a superb cameo appearance against Reading in the Capital One Cup, it was something of a surprise that we didn’t see more of the German youngster in the first-team last season. Possessing a fantastic goalscoring record since joining the club, some concerns have been raised about his overall contribution in matches, but he should feature in some capacity for the first-team next season.

Damian Martinez

The Argentinian goalkeeper was a composed figure on his debut against Coventry City in the Capital One Cup and also made the bench for numerous Premier League fixtures, but endured a torrid time in the aforementioned Reading fixture and didn’t feature thereafter. His end-of-season form for the second-string was impressive, however, and could see him involved again next campaign.

Serge Gnabry

The dynamic winger made his Premier League and Champions League debuts in quick succession during a difficult time for the club early last season, and is a prime candidate to earn more call-ups next campaign. Extremely direct as well as possessing impressive technique, Gnabry is widely regarded as one of Arsenal’s most promising talents.

Benik Afobe

You certainly wouldn’t have put money on Afobe going past his 20th birthday without making a competitive appearance for the first-team, but injuries and loan spells have made that predicament an unfortunate reality. Having initially shone at Millwall after a difficult stint with Bolton Wanderers, he is currently recovering from another long-term problem and, with the impending signing of Yaya Sanogo, doubts have been cast over his Arsenal future.

Kristoffer Olsson

The technically-talented Swedish midfielder featured for the first-team in the pre-season Markus Liebherr Cup last year, but was disappointed not to make the squad in the Capital One Cup. He should be involved in that competition this time around, having shone a capability to operate as a deep-lying midfielder during the latter half of the season.

Nico Yennaris

Having burst into the limelight when introduced at half-time against Manchester United in the Premier League in January 2012, Yennaris hasn’t featured as regularly as he would have liked for the first-team since then and will head out on loan during 2013/14 in order to gain regular playing time, with his previous spell with Notts County having been cut short by illness.

Chuba Akpom

The prodigious striker, like Ansah, made the bench against Olympiacos last season, but has usurped his strike colleague in terms of goals and overall performances. Next season should see the 17 year old make his first sustained outings for the first-team.

22 comments

  1. With Coquelin and Frimpong possibly leaving, plus the right back situation, surely it is a good time to be Nico Yennaris at Arsenal? That is where my vote went.
    I think next season will be too early for Gnabry, Bellerin and Akpom to break into the squad on a regular basis but would love to see them get some game time especially pre-season.
    Also think Isaac Hayden and Gedion Zelalem could get early exposure, especially if we send more out on loan next season.

    1. Nico is very impressive and like you said if left back is the least desirable position to be in for a first team wannabe (poor Meade) then DM is probably the best. But I think Nicos lack of height might prove to be a problem.

      AW prefers a tall presence in the center of the park (I remember he used Diaby to compete with Crouch in aerial battles thus making the CB’s free to fight for the second ball). So Nico might not make it as a DM in our already light weight midfield. A a RB I think Bellerin is in a much better position than him. I would love to be proved wrong though.

  2. It’s very difficult to predict much at all at the moment, only after the club has bought and sold personnel can we get a hint of which youngsters might get a permanent squad place. And any one-off opportunities during the season are usually determined by injuries, so that’s very unpredictable.

    For what it’s worth, the player I would most like to see play a few games is Aneke. For his excellent technical qualities, for the fact he’s been at the club since he was 7, and because he seems a nice, humble guy. I’m not very confident it will happen, but that’s who I would like to see make it.

  3. My vote went to bellerin but could equally have voted for Gnabry. I dont think we will sign a new right back and whether sagna stays or goes i think bellerin is closer to the 1st team than most. The reason why I say Gnabry could equally have got my vote is because if Gervinho does go, we will not buy a replacement and would probably blood either Gnabry or Miyaichi into the team. All trivial I know but we love talking about our club lool!! COYG!!

  4. Looking at last loan, there was a recurring reproach made to Arsenal loanees: they were not physically ready to play week in week out. Some were even described as not match fit.
    Strangely that’s not new. I clearly remember past youngsters such as Ryan Smith, Gilles Sunu, JET being criticised about their lack of fitness. Gilles Sunu was so knackered after his first game at Derby County, he fell asleep in the team bus!
    I wonder if in fact the academy takes so well care of them technically that it neglects the physical aspect.
    I know that not everybody develop at the same age and in the same manner, but I look at Eisfeld, Olson and I see technically gifted players who are not ready to play in the EPL. Yennaris needs to put a stone of muscle before being considered. Meade was the same. I believe that if he is snapped by a premiership club, we may see a different Meade physically.
    Players come into different size and shape, but even Barcelona players looks like athletes, ours don’t. Some of our youngsters looks like fledging birds fallen off their bird nest.
    You watch Aliadiere now at Lorient, and you can see an athlete. At Arsenal you always had the fear that he was going to break under the first 50-50 challenge.
    I am not advocating to transform Arsenal academy into the Stokes or Wolves academies full of body builders with two left feet. Surely, there must be a middle ground to be found.

    1. If Yennaris needs to add a stone of muscle I dread to think how many pounds Cazorla and Rosicky would need! Or Hazard, Mata, David Silva, etc., etc.. You do not need to be stronger than, or even as strong as, an opponent to best him. If you have the intelligence and the technique, strength becomes completely irrelevant. You avoid physical duels completely by being an excellent footballer, and excellent footballers are what we want to produce at Arsenal.

      ‘Fitness’ is different, but something the club does not have great control over. The players will have their fitness work as part of training but it’s ultimately down to each individual to put in extra work at the gym to really improve their athletic performance over time. It’s also down to the individual, when he’s away from the club, to eat well, drink properly, sleep adequately, and avoid alcohol, smoking and any other bad habits that might impact fitness. Did Ryan Smith, Gilles Sunu and Jay Thomas stick to healthy habits?

      PS. Most footballers fall asleep after games on the coach/airplane, it’s not the least bit indicative of fitness levels. Especially for a youngster making his debut!

      1. Sorry I wrote Yenaris when thinking Eisfeld. Eisfeld and Olson must fill up. I shudder at the idea of Eisfeld or Olson against Fellaini, Tiote or Papa Diop. They may be technically better that all of those players, but in a direct confrontation I can’t see them winning a lot of 50-50 ball.
        BTW, the linked posted below by a99 just illustrate my point. If the same recurring problem appears, then maybe a solution should be found. Instead of asking players to make the adjustment themselves the club should organise things differently. Maybe extra fitness session, extra dietician/nutritionist training session. We can blame the players, but there must be something fundamentally wrong in the club organisation when one of the fittest youth team player did not realise that in reality he was not league 2 match fit.
        He could not correct the problem as he was not even aware that there was a problem in the first place.

        Players don’t tend to fall asleep after their first professional game. They are buzzing, texting, calling. Sunu did not play the full game, but still. The coach was surprised how fast and deep he fell asleep. I am assuming that he must have seen more than his fair share of players.

      2. “Eisfeld and Olson must fill up. I shudder at the idea of Eisfeld or Olson against Fellaini, Tiote or Papa Diop.”

        But players like Cazorla, Rosicky, Silva, Hazard, Mata, Benayoun, Lennon, SWP, etc. all manage it. They go up against stronger players than them every single game. Football isn’t a strength sport. Koscielny wins a higher percentage of duels than anyone else in the Arsenal squad because of his pace and reading of the game, not through brute strength. Ramsey won 91% of his tackles this season, he’s not a powerhouse either.

        I’ve already seen that article before, the comments below panning that nonsense tell its own story. Jeffrey finding out he’s not as strong as bigger, older, hardened League One players should hardly come as a shock. And nowhere does he say he wasn’t match fit. You keep mixing strength with match fitness.

  5. Boateng wil spend nxt yr onloan he shud leave nw same goes 2 afobe ansah & roberts wit da comin of sanogo joel n da rapid dev’t of akpom i can’t c an xtended tym 4 dem

  6. Ryan Smith pretty much had his career destroyed by an outrageous tackle in a reserves game – so not a great example. I always hoped that Yenaris would break through – much more disciplined defensive midfielder than Coquelin but not as gifted so I’m not sure either will make it. Aneke has what it takes but his work rate (IMHO) isn’t high enough and he needs to address this otherwise he may go the way of JET. Miquel has the best chance of making it now that AFC has defenders that he can learn from.

    1. Ryan Smith got injured after he came back from loan. His first loan was not successful because the club that took him expected him to be immediately ready to play. He was not match fit. Clearly there was some miscommunication and misunderstanding of the situation. Arsenal was considering the loan as experience and the loaner club thought they were borrowing a cheap ready made player. Lending a youth player to a struggling championship club was always going to be a bad move for all parties.
      If memory serves me right, the same issue was raised during his second loan.

      I have mentioned it in previous post. Aneke has the talent to succeed, however despite his huge frame (maybe because of) he lacks stamina. The problem with stamina is that it’s not something you can get in a couple of weeks during pre season. It takes time to increase it. Maybe it is just his age and he is still growing. Personally I think that he needs to go for extra running or swimming sessions. He does not need to go to the gym and put on more muscle, just more endurance. according some reports, JET who had the world at his feet has just been released by Ipswich. How the mighty fall.

    1. I posted my comment before the post was published, but that just confirms what I suspected. Those guys should be much fitter that they are. For some that may be reason why they do not make it at Arsenal.
      If they go on loan and fail because they are not match fit, Arsene Wenger is unlikely to be impressed and give them a chance in the first team. Even with that chance they may not make it at Arsenal. However for sure without that opportunity, they will not make it at Arsenal.

  7. Can people insight me into what the likely starting 11’s are for the 18’s and 21’s. I live in America so it’s impossible to follow the academy. What are the weak links in these teams, what signings do you think will be made?

    I appreciate all the info and responses I could get

    1. U18’s & U21’s are for deveiopment, no starting XI’s. The players are still learning their trade and there’s mutch to learn for many of course but no weak links at this level in club like Arsenal FC. You can never say who will progress further in physical features or who’s progress will stop at some point. Their all promising youngsters, but just few of them will make it at top level which is regarded at Arsenal FC. Just follow this site and you could watch some games, like next gen games or some u21 games to make your own conclusions about who’s going to make it or not.

  8. if the rumours about the re-structuring of the first team and academy squads are true this is how I expect it to look as it stands (In age order) obviously we can expect new signings, loan outs and departures, but basically everyone born 1993 or before in the first team squad everyone born 1994 or after in the academy squad
    first team (homegrown and non-homegrown)
    Tomas Rosicky
    Mikel Arteta
    Bacary Sagna
    Andre Santos
    Marouane Chamakh
    Per Mertesacker
    Santiago Cazorla
    Lukasz Fabianski
    Lukas Podolski
    Chu-Young Park
    Laurent Koscielny
    Thomas Vermaelen
    Nacho Monreal
    Abou Diaby
    Olivier Giroud
    Johan Djourou
    Gervinho
    Nicklas Bendtner
    Denilson
    Vito Mannone
    Theo Walcott
    Kieran Gibbs
    Wojciech Szczesny
    Aaron Ramsey
    Francis Coquelin
    first team (under 21s)
    Jack Wilshere
    Emmanuel Frimpong
    Carl Jenkinson
    Samuel Galindo
    Joel Campbell
    Damian Martinez
    Daniel Boateng
    Ignasi Miquel
    Ryo Miyaichi
    Wellington Silva
    Thomas Eisfeld
    Benik Afobe
    Nicholas Yennaris
    Chukwuemeka Aneke
    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

    Academy squad
    Phillip Roberts
    Zak Ansah
    Anthony Jeffrey
    Jon Toral Harper
    Dejan Iliev
    Hector Bellerin
    Isaac Hayden
    Kristoffer Olsson
    Serge Gnabry
    Jack Jebb
    Austin Lipman
    Chuba Akpom
    Leander Siemann
    Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill
    Tarum Dawkins
    Alfred Mugabo
    Glen Kamara
    Josh Vickers
    Arinse Uade
    Tom Dallison
    Alex Iwobi
    Ryan Huddart
    Gedian Zelalem
    Ainsley Maitland-Niles
    Tafari Moore
    Renny Smith
    Stefan O’Connor
    Elliot Wright

    This list makes you appreciate just how young oxlade-chamberlain is 39 players currently older than him!!

  9. I still don’t know why people are so higly quoting Yennaris ??….He is average as DM , average technical abilities , average pass range , average vision , he can only make it at Arsenal as a RB , in my opinion is far better than Jenkinson in that position , but not in the midfield , Coquelin and Aneke are more “Arsenal quality” than him..

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