Arsenal’s youngsters will get a new era underway on Friday when they take on Reading in the first fixture of the re-branded U23 division.
Steve Gatting’s side are set to be short of defensive options at the commencement of the campaign, with Julio Pleguezuelo and Stefan O’Connor out on loan, Tafari Moore set to head on temporary transfer and Krystian Bielik potentially needed for cover in the first-team squad.
Here, then, is an assessment of the young defenders that could feature prominently for Arsenal at U23 level this season.
Tafari Moore is on trial at Utrecht ahead of a possible loan move and even if that deal doesn’t come to fruition the England youth international is likely to spend the season elsewhere.
That should open the door for Chiori Johnson to establish himself as the first-choice right-back for Gatting’s team. Johnson has endured much misfortune with injuries but returned to excellent effect in the second half of last season as he delivered some impressive displays.
Aaron Eyoma, meanwhile, can also fill in at right-back if required, although the Hale End product is much more suited to playing as a winger.
Jordi Osei-Tutu is still eligible for the U18s this season, but the former Reading youngster, who can also play at centre-back, should step up to the U23s at some point this season.
In addition, midfielder Ben Sheaf is able to play at right-back in an emergency.
Arsenal U23s are particularly light in this area, with the unconvincing Kristopher Da Graca their most established centre-back.
Marc Bola, who has mainly played at left-back, could revert to playing at the heart of the defence, with Tolaji Bola another option.
Kostas Pileas can also play at centre-back, with youngsters Toby Omole and Joseph Olowu next in line.
Marc Bola should continue as first-choice, with Tyrell Robinson and Pileas also able to feature in this position.
Beyond that, Dominic Thompson, a first-year scholar, could receive a call-up in the event of an injury crisis.