Arsenal are renowned for usually playing youngsters above their age group, but there has been a considerable change in that policy over the past couple of seasons, with the club’s U18 team now often comprised mainly of second-years.
This season U18s coach Kwame Ampadu has regularly been able to call upon the likes of Donyell Malen, Marcus McGuane, Josh DaSilva, Jordi Osei-Tutu and Tolaji Bola, while Reiss Nelson and Edward Nketiah have also featured prominently, meaning that many of the club’s talented first-year scholars haven’t received much of a look in so far.
That could well change in the second half of the campaign as some of the aforementioned players push into the U23s on a more regular basis.
Some of the first-years are already firmly established in the U18 side – goalkeeper Joao Virginia, for example, has produced some encouraging performances, while Joseph Olowu is a regular at the heart of the defence and Emile Smith-Rowe is a threat out wide.
There are plenty of other players, though, who are eager to make an impact, including winger Nathan Tormey (pictured above), who hasn’t featured this season because of injury. A fast player and an excellent crosser, Tormey is an exciting talent, while central midfielder Josh Benson is also nearing a return to action after a spell on the sidelines.
Furthermore, winger Jay Beckford has been used sparingly this season, and competition for places in his position is fierce, but the prospect will hope to get a run of games as the campaign wears on.
Midfielder Robbie Burton, a Welsh youth international, has featured occasionally for the U18s this campaign and is capable of making a contribution both defensively and going forwards.
There are several young defenders in this intake, too. Centre-back Zech Medley recently joined from Chelsea, while Daniel Ballard is capable of playing either at the heart of the defence or in midfield.
Tobi Omole, meanwhile, is now seemingly seen as a left-back, where he could compete for a place with Dominic Thompson, who is also able to play further forwards on the left flank.
The current batch of first-years will form the bulk of next season’s U18 side, so it is important that they gain experience at that level. Arsenal’s youngsters are back in action when they host Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.