It was always expected that one of the many players offered scholarships by Arsenal ahead of next season would look to continue their career elsewhere in search of greater playing time, and that scenario occurred yesterday, with long-serving striker Olufela Olomola announcing that he is leaving the club.
Olomola, who is of Nigerian descent, made seven appearances for the U18s in total, six of which came this season, but, given the form of fellow forwards Stephy Mavididi and Kaylen Hinds, he has often had to play out of position, and was deployed at right-back against Tottenham Hotspur last week.
Olomola’s destination is unknown, but he could soon be joined in leaving the club by midfielder James Blanchfield, who made his debut for the U18s against Tottenham.
For now, there remain 13 scholars set to commence their full-time careers at London Colney in the Summer, although any of them could theoretically move elsewhere before July 1st as they are yet to officially sign their new contracts.
The U18 side for next season, which will be jointly overseen by Frans de Kat and Kwame Ampadu, is slowly beginning to take shape, although the majority of the current first-year scholars (particularly the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor, Julio Pleguezuelo and Dan Crowley) are likely to be key components of the U21 team instead during 2014/15.
A new back-up goalkeeper will be a necessity, with Ryan Huddart currently the only shot-stopper who will still be available to play at U18 level next season. Otherwise, this appears to be quite a well balanced intake, with the likes of George Dobson, Marc Bola and Kristopher Da Graca offering defensive solidity, whilst Hinds, Mavididi and the hugely promising Chris Willock all carry a considerable threat going forwards.
Tyrell Robinson, who is usually deployed as a winger, has also impressed this season. Chiori Johnson, Ovie Ejaria and Aaron Eyoma will seek to become regulars at U18 level next campaign having already been given a handful of appearances by current coach Carl Laraman.
New signing Jonatas Centeno, who can play either as a full-back or a winger on the right flank, also seems promising, whilst two players who will still be schoolboys next season, Harry Donovan and Joshua Da Silva, have already made their U18 debuts.
Gedion Zelalem, despite already being part of the first-team squad, will still be eligible for the U18s next season, and he could still be involved in the FA Youth Cup next campaign.
Arsenal U18 squad for next season (provisional)
Tafari Moore, Stefan O’Connor, Julio Pleguezuelo, Elliot Wright, Chiori Johnson, Jonatas Centeno, Kristopher Da Graca, Marc Bola
Midfielders + wingers
Renny Smith, Dan Crowley, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, George Dobson, Chris Willock, Tyrell Robinson, Aaron Jordan, Aaron Eyoma, James Blanchfield, Ovie Ejaria, Harry Donovan
Kaylen Hinds, Stephy Mavididi, Joshua Da Silva
Possible Youth Cup team for next season:
subs: Centeno, Dobson, Robinson, Mavididi