Wenger faces difficult decision over which youngsters to take on tour

We may only be two days into pre-season, but already we have been afforded some clues regarding which youngsters are closest to breaking into the first-team squad.

Nine members of the U21 setup trained with the senior side on Thursday and Friday, with Damian Martinez, Ignasi Miquel, Gedion Zelalem, Chuba Akpom, Thomas Eisfeld, Kristoffer Olsson, Chuks Aneke, Serge Gnabry and Nico Yennaris all hopeful of earning a place on the plane for the club’s pre-season tour of Asia.

However, with another batch of first-team players due to return to training on Monday, it is unlikely that all of those listed above will make the trip, with Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff instead being faced with the difficult task of deciding which of the promising starlets should be left at home and which should be granted further time in the first-team environment.

Hector Bellerin would have been a near-certainty for the trip were it not for international commitments, but Damian Martinez and Ignasi Miquel look set to be included. Who else makes the trip is, at present, anybody’s guess, but Zelalem’s continued selection to train with the first-team despite only just becoming a first-year scholar speaks volumes about how highly the 16 year old is regarded at the club.

Olsson was frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities last season and perhaps deserves a chance to prove himself this time around off the back of an impressive campaign, whilst Akpom’s superb season, added to the fact that Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh and Ju-Young Park will most probably not travel, could enhance his chances of making the cut.

For those left at home, attention will immediately turn to the first U21 friendly of the summer, away to Sutton United on Friday. The Blue Square South side will welcome an Arsenal team that could include Wellington, who has been training with the second-string this week. The 20 year old Brazilian winger has yet to receive a work permit enabling him to play competitively in England, but is still allowed to play domestic friendlies. Samuel Galindo is also back at the club and could be involved in some capacity, but Benik Afobe and Jon Toral are still recovering from injuries sustained last season.

Given the relatively small size of the U21 squad following the release of several youngsters over the summer, some members of the U18 set-up are likely to be called upon to face Sutton. Alfred Mugabo, who recently became a full international with Rwanda, could start at right-back in the absence of Bellerin. Isaac Hayden, who surprisingly hasn’t been called to train with the first-team this week, could also be involved at the Borough Sports Ground.


Goalkeepers: Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski

Right-back: Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson

Centre-back: Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen

Left-back: Kieran Gibbs

Defensive-midfield: Mikel Arteta

Centre-midfield: Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky

Right-wing: Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Left-wing: Gervinho, Ryo

Striker: Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski

Plus 4/5 of: Damian Martinez, Ignasi Miquel, Gedion Zelalem, Kristoffer Olsson, Thomas Eisfeld, Chuba Akpom, Serge Gnabry, Chuks Aneke, Nico Yennaris.


International/rest: Yaya Sanogo, Santi Cazorla, Nacho Monreal

Undecided future: Nicklas Bendtner, Ju-Young Park, Joel Campbell, Marouane Chamakh

Injured: Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Frimpong

Loan: Andre Santos, Johan Djourou, Francis Coquelin



  1. Gnabry will be there for sure. Can’t wait to see that. Will be interesting to see if Olsson or Zelalem is included though. For sure. Too bad we won’t get to see Bellerin in pre-season though. Was looking forward to that as well.

  2. What about Brandon Ormande Otteweil. (Didn’t spell it right, sorry) the young left back. I see Nacho isn’t going and Meade has left maybe he could be a surprise inclusion.

    I would like to see Olsson go had a very good season.

  3. To be honest, none of these youngsters deserve to go to Asia. They have all been below par.

    Akpom is not better than Sanogo etc

  4. Yennaris for versatility should go (can do a job at LB, RB and CM) plus his form last season deserves it.
    Eisfeld will go. Wenger has to make a decision on him, as surely there is no point in another season in reserves. Aneke, for the same reasons, should go if Wenger hasn’t already decided on another loan.
    Ignasi Miquel has to go to bolster the defence, with LB and CB obviously short for the tour.

    Would have thought it was Ryo v Serge in the wide positions, and for obvious commercial reasons Ryo wins.

    For me it makes more sense for Martinez to get games with the U-21s and give Szczesny and Fabs 2 games each on tour.

    Would like to see Akpom go, although Zelalem will probably be best held back imo. Don’t see Olsson going due to the number of similar midfielders ahead of him.

  5. Would take yennaris, miquel, gnabry, martinez and aneke. I get zelalem is highly rated but at present Olsson is ahead of him IMO. Having said that neither are ready physically and whilst I partly refer to strength both of them tend to lack stamina and athleticism. Apparently we’ve hired a former rugby coach who will hopefully rectify this deficiency. Aneke has worked hard recently and purely based on endeavour and seniority he deserves a chance though if you speak to crewe fans they all seem to feel he’s best as an attacking mid which is a pretty congested area. Gnabry bcse he’s one of the few able to play rw. For some reason I keep changing opinion on yennaris but he’s the one I would like to see make it the most.

  6. Most of the votes seem to have gone to young attacking players (Gnabry, Eisfeld, Akpom) when it’s in defence and midfield where we have gaps in the squad. Plus Higuain could be just around the corner and take a place…

    With only three CBs and one LB, Miquel must be a shoe-in. Without Diaby, Frimpong, Coquelin or Cazorla available there are only four players for the midfield three, so AW needs to take at least two from Yennaris, Aneke, Zelalem and Olsson. The English pair went to Asia last year and will most probably go again this year.

    That takes the squad to 21 and we took 24 last summer. I would guess Martinez and Eisfeld would be near the front of the queue if any more young’uns get the nod. For Olsson, Zelalem, Gnabry, Akpom time is still on their side.

  7. It is difficult to pick four from the array of stars. I will favour Sergie Gnabry, Thomas Eisfield, Chub Akpom and Damien Martinez. We may add Chuks Aneke

  8. Gnabry for sure. Yennaris, Aneke and Eisfield is my choice. They are the most versatile players. And they are at that age where you really need to show something or go elsewhere. Maybe not Gnabry but the others.

    LW, RW CM: Gnabry, Yennaris and Eisfield
    CM: Aneke, Yennaris, Gnabry, Eisfield
    LB, RB: Yennaris
    FW: Eisfield, Aneke, Gnabry

    Ryo will for sure go too I think.

  9. WS, Fabianski, Martinez
    Gibbs, Sagna, Jenkinson, Verm, Kos, Per, Miquel, Yennaris
    Wilshere, Ramsey, Arteta, Rosicky, Aneke, Eisfeld
    Theo, Chamberlain, Gervinho, Ryo, Gnabry
    Giroud, Podolski, Akpom

    That would be my choice, a big squad to take. Even if players like Akpom, Gnabry etc don’t feature much, it’s a great experience.

  10. If Aneke and/or Eisfeld are omitted from the squad to tour, then you have to wonder what kind of future, if any, that they actually have at Arsenal?
    Olsson will get his chance in the League Cup, if he works hard. But I’m not sure that he’s ready for the 1st team yet?!
    Gnabry seems a shoe-in to me, for the tour, as does Miquel…

  11. Martinez (if we don’t sign Ceaser), Miquel, Eisfeld, Aneke and Gnabry would be on the plane to Asia. Others would get a chance during the capital one and FA cups

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