Author: Jeorge Bird

Deyan Iliev returns to Arsenal after Shrewsbury Town loan

Goalkeeper Deyan Iliev has returned to Arsenal after his loan spell at Shrewsbury Town came to an end.

The 25-year-old played three times for Shrewsbury, with an injury affecting his progress.

Iliev, who has been called up by North Macedonia at senior level, previously had loan spells with Sered and Jagiellonia Bialystok.

Still technically part of Arsenal’s U23 squad, Iliev has yet to feature for the first-team, although he has been on the bench on several occasions, including for the Europa League final against Chelsea in 2019.

It is possible that Iliev, whose contract expires in June 2022, could be loaned out again before Monday’s deadline.

If he remains at Arsenal Iliev could be included in Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads owing to his homegrown status.

Matt Smith could return to Arsenal if Swindon Town sign new midfielder

Loanee Matt Smith could return to Arsenal if Swindon Town sign a new midfielder before Monday’s transfer deadline.

Smith featured prominently for the League One club earlier in the campaign but has now lost his place in the starting lineup.

As reported by The Swindon Advertiser, Swindon manager John Sheridan said: “I’m not a lover of having to leave two loans out on a match day. For me, that doesn’t sit comfortably, so that’s an area I want to try and address in the best way I can.

“So if it’s a striker or a midfielder, I’ll speak to Tyler Smith, I’ll speak to Jonny Smith or Matty Smith – it’s just a decision I’ve got to try and make.”

‘I just think we need another body to fill in and make us better.

“I’m not being disrespectful, but if I do have to send a loan player back, I’ll do that. It’s just purely to be beneficial to all parties.

“There were three Smiths who were here already when I came in.

“I’ve just got to make a decision, and I’ll try to make the best decision to help us get out of the situation we’re in. That’s a decision I’m going to have to make, and I’ll stick with that decision.’’

In total Smith, who is in his first loan spell away from Arsenal, has made 26 appearances for Swindon, scoring two goals and providing four assists.

However, the 20-year-old’s form has dipped slightly of late.

A Hale End graduate, Smith was part of the Arsenal U18 side that won the southern section title two seasons ago and he went on to feature prominently for the U23s.

Towards the end of last season he was regularly named on the bench for the first-team, including for the FA Cup final victory against Chelsea.

Report: Nathan Butler-Oyedeji to sign first professional contract with Arsenal this summer

Talented winger Nathan Butler-Oyedeji will reportedly sign his first professional contract with Arsenal this summer.

According to GrimandiTweets on Twitter, the 18-year-old has been informed that he will be rewarded for his hard work and progress.

A product of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, Butler-Oyedeji has had several injury setbacks since signing scholarship terms but has often produced some impressive performances when fit.

Usually deployed on the right wing, Butler-Oyedeji can also operate on the opposite flank and has recently been used up front in some games.

The prospect has featured in the EFL Trophy and the FA Youth Cup, while he will be looking to make his debut for the U23s before the end of the season.

James Sweet starting to make an impact for Arsenal U18s

Given that Arsenal gave scholarship deals to a significant number of players last summer, it was inevitable that some of the prospects in question would have to be patient for opportunities.

James Sweet initially found himself in that situation, with the midfielder being left out of the matchday squad for the U18s’ first three league matches this season.

However, over the past few months Sweet has broken into the side and he is becoming increasingly confident at U18 level.

The youngster, who has been capped by both England and Wales at youth level, is capable of operating effectively as an attacking midfielder or in a slightly deeper position.

Possessing an impressive range of short and long passes, Sweet is also an effective dribbler.

Sweet managed to score his first goal for the U18s in the victory against Leicester City last month and also featured against Rotherham United in the FA Youth Cup.

With the likes of Miguel Azeez and Catalin Cirjan having stepped up to the U23s on a permanent basis, Sweet has an opportunity to establish himself as a regular fixture in Ken Gillard’s team.

The 17-year-old knows that he still has much work to do in order to earn a professional contract, but he is certainly heading in the right direction.

Cirjan, Azeez and Cottrell train with Arsenal first-team ahead of Southampton trip

Midfield trio Catalin Cirjan, Ben Cottrell and Miguel Azeez all trained with the first-team squad today.

Mikel Arteta’s squad were undergoing their final preparations ahead of tomorrow night’s trip to face Southampton in the Premier League as they look to bounce back from the FA Cup defeat to the same opponents.

Cirjan, Cottrell and Azeez all featured for the U23s in their victory against Brighton & Hove Albion. Azeez, who found the net, produced an excellent display.

Kido Taylor-Hart, Nikolaj Moller and Tim Akinola were also involved in first-team training.

Loan report – McGuinness scores own goal; Saliba and Guendouzi in action

William Saliba played the full game as Nice beat Lens 1-0.

Matteo Guendouzi played the whole game as Hertha Berlin lost 4-1 to Werder Bremen.

Mark McGuinness scored an own goal and played the entirety of Ipswich Town’s 1-0 loss to Peterborough United.

Harry Clarke played the full game and was booked as Oldham Athletic beat Newport County 3-2.

Konstantinos Mavropanos was brought on at the start of the second half as Stuttgart lost 2-1 to Freiburg.

Matt Smith was brought on in the 64th minute as Swindon Town drew 2-2 with Charlton Athletic.

Lucas Torreira came on in the 85th minute as Atletico Madrid beat Valencia 2-1.

Daniel Ballard wasn’t involved as Blackpool lost 2-1 to Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup. It was reported before the game that five Blackpool players and staff had tested positive for coronavirus.

Tyreece John-Jules wasn’t involved in Doncaster Rovers’ 4-0 loss to West Ham United in the FA Cup. The striker has returned to Arsenal for treatment on a hamstring injury that is set to keep him out for two to three months, but his loan at Doncaster will still be active.

Injury meant that James Olayinka didn’t feature as Southend United lost 1-0 to Mansfield. The midfielder has suffered ankle ligament damage.

Jordi Osei-Tutu was another injury absentee this weekend, with the defender absent for Cardiff City’s 1-0 defeat to QPR.

Sead Kolasinac missed out through injury as Schalke lost 4-0 to Bayern Munich.

Deyan Iliev wasn’t in action, with Shrewsbury Town’s game against Burton Albion being postponed.

Ben Sheaf‘s Coventry City weren’t in action this weekend.

Report – Taylor-Hart scores as Arsenal U18s hit four against Tottenham Hotspur

U18 Premier League

Arsenal 4 (Monlouis 17, Hutchinson 45, Taylor-Hart 49, Ogungbo 90) Tottenham Hotspur 1 (Mathurin 40)

Arsenal U18s returned to action in impressive style today as they beat rivals Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 at London Colney, with Kido Taylor-Hart amongst the scorers.

The young Gunners were without some key players, including Marcelo Flores and Khayon Edwards, but still managed to prevail with an impressive display.

This was an encouraging win against a very talented Tottenham team that included Dane Scarlett.

Taylor-Hart, Alex Kirk and Mazeed Ogungbo, who were all on the bench for the U23s last night, started the game, while Joel Ideho was named amongst the substitutes. James Sweet was deployed in the number ten position and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, who is usually a winger, started up front.

Arsenal took the lead with 17 minutes gone as defender Zane Monlouis found the net, but Tottenham responded through Roshaun Mathurin.

However, Mauro Bandeira proceeded to set up Omari Hutchinson, who restored Arsenal’s lead before the break.

Arsenal suffered a blow at half time, with goalkeeper Ovie Ejeheri going off injured and Hubert Graczyk replacing him.

That didn’t have impact on Arsenal’s momentum, though, with Taylor-Hart scoring just after the interval before Mazeed Ogungbo added another late on.

For the players who were involved in the U17s’ 4-1 defeat to Tottenham this week, this was a measure of revenge as on this occasion Arsenal won by the same scoreline.

Arsenal: Ejeheri (Graczyk, 46); Norton-Cuffy, Kirk, Monlouis, Ogungbo; Patino, Bandeira; Hutchinson, Sweet (Henry-Francis, 70), Taylor-Hart (Plange, 74); Butler-Oyedeji.

Subs not used: Sraha, Ideho.

Report – Balogun scores hat-trick as Arsenal U23s thrash Brighton

Premier League 2

Arsenal 5 (Azeez 6, Balogun 10, 45, 90, Moller 86) Brighton & Hove Albion 0

Folarin Balogun provided another emphatic reminder of his quality by scoring a hat-trick as Arsenal U23s continued their recent resurgence with a 5-0 victory at home to Brighton & Hove Albion tonight.

Miguel Azeez put Arsenal ahead early on, with Nikolaj Moller also getting on the scoresheet, but it was Balogun who, not for the first time, took centre stage as he produced a performance which will spark even more discussion regarding his future at the club, which remains unresolved.

Arsenal U23, meanwhile, have now won five league games in a row, with this victory seeing them surge up the table from 11th to 5th. Considering how disappointingly Steve Bould’s side started the season, this is a significant turnaround.

This was Arsenal’s first game at this level in over a month following the Winter break, but there weren’t any signs of rustiness for Steve Bould’s side.

Recent arrival Omar Rekik was made to wait for his debut as he wasn’t included in the squad, while Zech Medley, Trae Coyle and Tolaji Bola, who have all returned from loan spells, also weren’t involved.

Arthur Okonkwo started in goal, with the back four comprised of Ryan Alebiosu, Jonathan Dinzeyi, Joseph Olowu and Joel Lopez. Azeez, Tim Akinola and Ben Cottrell were in midfield behind a dangerous attacking triumvirate of Catalin Cirjan, Moller and Balogun.

Arsenal started brightly with Balogun having an opportunity to open the scoring after just three minutes, but Brighton goalkeeper Thomas McGill was on hand to deny him.

McGill couldn’t do anything about Arsenal’s next effort, however, with Azeez opening the scoring in the sixth minute with his first goal at U23 level. The midfielder managed to find the top corner from the edge of the penalty area and then performed a socially distanced celebration.

It was soon 2-0 to Arsenal, with Balogun opening his account for the evening. The striker weaved his way through the Brighton defence prior to finishing well.

Brighton started to assert themselves on proceedings thereafter, with Teddy Jenks seeing a shot saved by Okonkwo, whilst Peter Gwargis also provided a threat.

However, Arsenal’s victory was effectively secured before half time, with Balogun getting his second.

Brighton posed more of a threat after the break and felt that they should have scored early in the second half, but Okonkwo managed to prevent Lars Dendoncker’s effort from going over the line. Brighton claimed that it had gone over, but the referee waved play on.

Azeez saw a shot saved for Arsenal but much of the action was occurring at the other end, with Okonkwo having to make several stops.

Arsenal managed to weather the storm and then sent on Kido Taylor-Hart, who has yet to sign a professional contract, in place of Cirjan.

Cashman shot wide for Brighton but Arsenal managed to rediscover their scoring touch in the closing stages as Moller and Balogun scored in quick succession to inflict further misery on the visitors. Midfielder Tim Akinola did well in the build-up to Moller’s goal as he dribbled into the penalty area prior to cutting the ball back for the Swedish striker.

Balogun demonstrated once again that he is a fine prospect, but we have known that for some time. The hope is that his future at Arsenal can somehow still be resolved.

If Balogun was to leave, however, Arsenal certainly aren’t short of talent elsewhere, especially in a creative and attacking sense.

Arsenal: Okonkwo, Alebiosu, Dinzeyi, Olowu, Lopez, Akinola, Cirjan (Taylor-Hart, 72), Azeez (Lewis, 87), Cottrell, Moller, Balogun.

Subs not used: Hillson, Kirk, Ogungbo.

Goalkeeper Tom Smith returns to Arsenal following loan at Dover Athletic

Young goalkeeper Tom Smith has returned to Arsenal following his loan spell at Dover Athletic.

Smith made four appearances for Dover in total but then fell down the pecking order at the club, while several games were postponed due to coronavirus concerns.

The 18-year-old previously gained experience at another non-league club, Salisbury, last season, where he impressed before suffering an injury.

Smith played a key part in Arsenal winning the U18 southern section title in 2019 but finds himself behind the likes of Karl Hein, Arthur Okonkwo and James Hillson for the U23s.

Arsenal’s Harry Clarke extends loan at Oldham Athletic until end of the season

Arsenal youngster Harry Clarke has extended his loan spell at Oldham Athletic until the end of the season.

The centre-back has featured prominently for the League Two side, making 18 appearances across all competitions.

Speaking to the club’s official website, Oldham manager Harry Kewell said: “Harry has been an instant success since coming in at the start of the season.

“For a young man he’s a very taletned individual and I’m sure the supporters have enjoyed seeing the impact he has made in the heart of defence already.

“It was an incredibly easy decision to extend his loan and I’m thankful Arsenal saw that this move has already shown it’s benefits to one of their exceptionally gifted players.”

This is Clarke’s first loan spell away from Arsenal, with the 19-year-old having previously featured prominently for the Gunners at U23 level, often captaining the side.

James Olayinka (Southend United), Deyan Iliev (Shrewsbury Town) and Tom Smith (Dover Athletic) also see their loan spells expire this month.