It emerged today that Romanian U16 captain Vlad Dragomir will become the latest addition to Arsenal’s U18 squad for the new campaign and the promising youngster has already outlined his desire to break into the senior squad at a later date.
Dragomir, who is scheduled to arrive in London on Sunday, said: “In a year or two, I want to play for the Arsenal first-team.” That will certainly be a difficult aim to achieve, given that players as talented as Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley still find themselves on the fringes of the senior set-up two years after joining the club.
However, Dragomir’s ambition is commendable and the central-midfielder will be looking to impress in what is set to be a new-look Arsenal youth side next season.
Dragomir isn’t expected to start training until Monday, but many of the club’s new scholars will begin training full time at London Colney from tomorrow. Hale End products Marcus Tabi, Joshua Da Silva, Nathan Tella, Charlie Gilmour, Eddie Nketiah, Tolaji Bola and Joe Willock will be joined by highly-rated schoolboy Reiss Nelson, who will be training with Frans De Kat’s side on a regular basis despite technically being an U16 player.
New acquisitions Kostas Pileas, Yassin Fortune and Jeff Reine-Adelaide are also expected to link up with the squad in the next few days, with Arsenal poised to officially confirm the new intake of scholars next week.
The second-years are also due back at training shortly. This group includes players who have already signed professional contracts (Kristopher Da Graca, Kaylen Hinds, Chiori Johnson, Tyrell Robinson, Ben Sheaf and Chris Willock) as well as those who are still on scholarship deals (Marc Bola, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Harry Donovan, Aaron Eyoma, Hugo Keto, Stephy Mavididi and Savvas Mourgos).
In all, 25 players are expected to train with the U18 squad for the first few days of pre-season, with George Dobson currently on trial at London rivals West Ham United.
On Monday it is expected that the majority of the remaining young professionals will return to training, along with the members of the first-team squad who didn’t have international commitments this summer.
Based on this logic, it is believed that the following players will return to training next week as preparations begin for the club’s involvement in the Premier League Asia Trophy:
Mathieu Debuchy, Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini, Danny Welbeck, Emiliano Martinez, Francis Coquelin, Hector Bellerin, Yaya Sanogo, Krystian Bielik, Ryan Huddart, Deyan Iliev, Alex Iwobi, Matt Macey, Tafari Moore, Julio Pleguezuelo, Jon Toral, Wellington, Dan Crowley, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Stefan O’Connor.
Isaac Hayden, Chuba Akpom and Glen Kamara will join up slightly later after participating in youth internationals, whilst the majority of the rest of the squad will most probably return in mid-July (Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Tomas Rosicky, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Wojciech Szczesny, Gedion Zelalem, Joel Campbell).
Meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina, Calum Chambers, Carl Jenkinson and Serge Gnabry aren’t due back until much later due to their ongoing involvement in summer tournaments, with the club usually giving players around a month off from the date they exited the competition. That means that the above players (at least those that are still at the club) are unlikely to be involved in the Emirates Cup at the end of July and will also be short of fitness going into the new Premier League season.