With the U21s not back in action for almost a month and the U18s also taking a break over the weekend, now seems like the perfect opportunity to assess the early stages of the campaign.
The fortunes of the two main age groups have differed wildly, with the U21s unbeaten after their first five games, whilst the U18s haven’t registered a win since the opening day of the season.
After two strikes from Thomas Eisfeld helped to salvage a point from the opening day fixture against Stoke City, Arsenal have proceeded to beat Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers, whilst also drawing away to Fulham on a night when many of their key players were absent.
This season has seen several new faces bedded into the U21 set-up, chief among them centre-back Semi Ajayi, who was previously with Charlton Athletic. An excellent reader of the game with impressive leadership qualities, Ajayi has established a strong central-defensive partnership with first-year scholar Stefan O’Connor.
Glen Kamara, meanwhile, has established himself as a regular in the defensive-midfield position, whilst Alex Iwobi and Austin Lipman have also provided glimpses of their undoubted potential. It also has to be taken into consideration that the likes of Benik Afobe, Zak Ansah and Jon Toral are yet to feature this season due to injury, whilst coach Steve Gatting hasn’t been able to call upon too many first-team players so far.
There is still a very long way to go for the U21s this season, but November’s matches at Borehamwood, against Aston Villa and Manchester United, will be particularly interesting in terms of gauging the level that this current crop is at, whilst fixtures against Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City await in the New Year.
UEFA Youth League
A strong Arsenal side have excelled in their opening two UEFA Youth League fixtures- trouncing both Marseille and Napoli by 4-1 scorelines. The likes of Serge Gnabry, Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and Austin Lipman have made significant contributions, but, like the first-team, the youngsters will be well aware that their impending double-header with Borussia Dortmund could go a long way towards deciding their fate in this group.
Carl Laraman’s young side have produced a decidedly mixed set of results so far, but the coach has not been helped by the fact that many of his key players have been promoted to the U21 side much quicker than was initially anticipated. Instead, he has had to field several schoolboys each week, and some of them, such as Kaylen Hinds and George Dobson, have made stellar impressions.
They are decidedly short on numbers, however, with Alfred Mugabo still sidelined and Dan Crowley still recovering from an injury sustained early last month. In the next couple of months the club will make a decision on which schoolboys will be offered scholarships for next season, with the likes of Hinds, Chris Willock and Dobson seemingly being certainties in terms of being granted an extended stay.
The latter, though, could be out for some time with injury, whilst second-year scholar Tom Dallison has been allowed to join Brighton & Hove Albion on trial, which suggests that the 17 year old is unlikely to be offered a professional contract at the club.
Ryan Huddart The goalkeeper has established himself as the first-choice shot-stopper for the U18s.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles Already a key figure for the U21s, the winger has also trained with the first-team.
Tafari Moore Started the campaign in the U21s but has been out with injury for several weeks.
Stefan O’Connor Has impressed following his surprisingly early promotion to the U21s.
Elliot Wright Has started most games at U18 level and also featured in the UEFA Youth League.
Renny Smith After impressing for the U18s, he made his U21 debut against Fulham recently.
Jamaal Raage Yet to feature for the U21s, but the Swedish winger has scored twice for the U18s.
Dan Crowley Has only featured three times for the U18s because of injury.
Julio Pleguezuelo Hasn’t played yet for the U18s as his transfer hasn’t been formally approved by FIFA, though he has featured for the U16s.
The club must also decide which of the remaining second-year scholars should be granted professional contracts.
Alex Iwobi Made the bench for the first-team and has shone for the U21s.
Glen Kamara Has established himself in the U21 side with some consistent performances.
Arinse Uade Yet to feature for the U21s, he has been used at centre-back recently for the U18s.
Tarum Dawkins Close to regaining full match sharpness after missing pre-season through injury.
Alfred Mugabo The Rwanda international hasn’t been involved because of injury but is back in training.
Josh Vickers Has impressed whilst on loan at Canvey Island, but his Arsenal future remains unclear.
Tom Dallison Has been allowed to join Brighton & Hove Albion on trial, so seems unlikely to be offered a professional contract at Emirates Stadium.
Youth stats so far this season
U21= U21 Premier League, U18= U18 Premier League, U21 Cup= U21 Premier League Cup, UYL= UEFA Youth League, FAYC= FA Youth Cup. + = sub appearances, goals scored in brackets.