Author: Jeorge Bird

Keto and Mavididi sign professional terms

Arsenal have today announced that second-year scholars Hugo Keto and Stephy Mavididi have signed their first professional contracts with the club. 

Keto, a goalkeeper signed from HJK Helsinki last summer, made a significant impression for the U18s during what was a challenging campaign for the club at that age group. 

The 17-year-old, who has been capped by Finland at youth level, saved two penalties in one game for Arsenal’s U18s against Fulham in May and also featured in the UEFA Youth League. 

Hale End product Mavididi, meanwhile, has made the expected progression to professional terms after he enjoyed an excellent season in 2014-15. 

Mavididi scored 18 goals for Arsenal across the three youth levels last season and broke into the U21 side. The striker concluded the campaign by representing England at the UEFA U-17 European Championships. 

This news means that the remaining second years- Marc Bola, Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Harry Donovan, Aaron Eyoma and Savvas Mourgos- face a crucial season in their development as they seek to earn a professional deal at the end of the campaign. 

Arsenal have also confirmed the signing of French youngster Jeff Reine-Adelaide from Lens, as well as the identities of the club’s new batch of first-year scholars- Marcus Agyei-Tabi, Tolaji Bola, Joshua DaSilva, Vlad Dragomir, Yassin Fortune, Charlie Gilmour, Edward Nketiah, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Kostas Pileas, Nathan Tella and Joseph Willock. Reiss Nelson isn’t eligible to sign scholarship terms until next summer. 

Revitalised Pleguezuelo hoping for pre-season chance at Arsenal

Barcelona v Arsenal

Picture: Zimbio.com 

Pre-season always provides a select group of youngsters with an opportunity to impose themselves on the first-team set-up. With the initial batch of senior squad players returning to London Colney today, there will be some members of the U21 team who will have realistic aims of impressing Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff over the next few weeks.

One player who falls into that category is Julio Pleguezuelo, with the Spanish centre-back having now been an Arsenal player for two years since his switch from Barcelona’s renowned La Masia set-up.

Pleguezuelo made serene progress during his first season in North London as he quickly established himself as a regular in Arsenal’s U21 team, demonstrating his calm nature on the ball, which, allied to his speed across the ground, has led to many earmarking him for future success.

Through no fault of his own, though, Pleguezuelo was unable to develop much further during the 2014/15 campaign, with injury wreaking havoc with his season. The youngster returned for the final few months of the season and, after a couple of uncomfortable performances at right-back, he looked far more at home in his preferred position at the heart of the defence.

The 18-year-old already has some fleeting first-team experience under his belt after he featured in a pre-season friendly against Boreham Wood last summer. However, having long since returned to full fitness following his injury troubles, Pleguezuelo will be hoping for some more substantial involvement this time around.

He may have to be patient for opportunities, however. Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel are all expected to play a full part in Wenger’s pre-season plans, whilst Krystian Bielik and Isaac Hayden, despite primarily being defensive-midfielders, can also operate at centre-back if required. The situation is complicated further by Wenger wanting to give Calum Chambers some minutes at centre-back, although the former Southampton player isn’t due back until a little later than most of the other players following his involvement with England’s U21 squad.

There is the possibility that Pleguezuelo could be drafted into Arsenal’s squad for the Premier League Asia Trophy as a right-back, but, as alluded to earlier, that clearly isn’t his best position and his compatriot Hector Bellerin will be heavily involved in proceedings along with the experienced Mathieu Debuchy.

Perhaps Pleguezuelo, if he fortunate enough, will receive at least some run-outs for the first-team during their condensed pre-season programme. He certainly deserves the opportunity, both for battling through his problems with injury and for his excellent development so far.

The Spaniard still has plenty of time on his side and, even if he isn’t involved this pre-season, he shouldn’t be disheartened as his time will surely come eventually. It would be interesting, though, to assess his capabilities in a first-team environment and to move a little closer to gauging whether he will be able to go a step further than Ignasi Miquel, another centre-back plucked from Barcelona, and establish a career for himself at Arsenal.

Nketiah hits four as Arsenal U18s reach double figures in Holland

Arsenal U18s stepped up their preparations for the new campaign by thrashing local Dutch side RKDEO 10-1 this morning.

The young Gunners are currently involved in a pre-season training camp in the Netherlands as they prepare to start their new league season next month.

Kaylen Hinds, who missed part of last season through injury, hit an impressive hat-trick, whilst first-year Eddie Nketiah scored four goals.

New signing Yassin Fortune was also on the scoresheet along with Kristopher Da Graca and schoolboy Reiss Nelson.

Recent recruits Jordi Osei-Tutu and Kostas Pileas both started, whilst Vlad Dragomir was on the bench.

Chris Willock, Ben Sheaf, Aaron Eyoma and Marc Bola have remained in England to train with Arsenal’s U21 team.

Keto

Osei-Tutu-Da Graca-Pileas-Chatzitheodoridis

Tabi-Donovan

Tella-Mourgos-Nelson

Hinds

Subs: Perrin, Gilmour, Nketiah, Dragomir, Fortune, Da Silva, T. Bola.

Thanks to Andy’s Arsenal U16s

Ipswich loan highlights Maitland-Niles’ talent

Ipswich Town FC

Ipswich Town FC

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is used to progressing very quickly indeed. He first played for Arsenal’s U18s in a friendly when he was just 14 before breaking into the team at that level during the 2012/13 season. The following campaign saw the youngster establish himself in the U21 set-up whilst last season he made an unexpectedly early foray into the first-team picture by featuring in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

The England youth international has taken the next step in his career today by joining Ipswich Town on loan for the entire 2015/16 season. Given that he doesn’t turn 18 until next month, it is quite a feat for Maitland-Niles to have been recruited, albeit on a temporary basis, by a Championship side, but he is certainly talented and, as we saw last season in the wake of some unsavoury incidents involving his mother, he is a very determined and focused individual and certainly isn’t the type of player to let off-the-field matters distract him from progressing.

Last season Maitland-Niles was deployed primarily as a central-midfielder, often in a deep-lying position, but towards the end of the campaign the Hale End product stated that that he prefers to play in his previous position of a right-winger. He is capable of operating in either area, though, and his versatility may well help him to feature regularly for Mick McCarthy’s team.

It remains to be seen whether Maitland-Niles will go on to establish himself in the starting line-up at Portman Road but, given how determined McCarthy was to sign him (this deal had been rumoured for several weeks), it seems unlikely that he will be on the fringes of things.

It may seem a little early for Maitland-Niles to be experiencing Championship football but, in addition to his obvious technical qualities, he should be able to cope with the physical demands of playing in that division. A good crosser of the ball who is also capable of shooting accurately from distance, he will hope to gain some valuable experience at Ipswich before returning to Arsenal next summer.

Maitland-Niles becomes the first member of Arsenal’s 2013 intake of scholars to head out on loan. Some of the slightly older U21 players, such as Alex Iwobi and Glen Kamara, may well join him in securing temporary deals elsewhere before the new campaign gets underway.

Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson set to reap the benefits of London Colney step-up

Reiss Nelson’s breakthrough into Arsenal’s U18 squad towards the end of last season was one of the very few salvageable moments of solace to take from what was a wretched campaign for the club at that level.

The youngster, who doesn’t turn 16 until December, made three starts for Frans De Kat’s side in addition to featuring on a further three occasions as a substitute. Skilful, creative and quick, he has long been earmarked as a potential talent of the future, a point that has been further evidenced by the club’s decision to allow him to train full time at London Colney this season, despite the fact that he is still a schoolboy.

In doing so Nelson will be following in the footsteps of Jack Wilshere and Chuba Akpom, who both spent their final year as an U16 player training with players who were older than them. Whether Nelson will follow Wilshere and Akpom in one day making the first-team set-up remains to be seen, but the decision to allow him to train with the U18 squad, for whom he will surely make a substantial amount of appearances this season, appears to be a very wise one.

Capable of playing out wide or, alternatively, as an attacking-midfielder, Nelson has represented England at U15 and U16 levels, but it is when playing for Arsenal that he has had the most significant impact, with the Hale End product featuring frequently for the U16 team last season when he was still an U15 player.

Today Nelson travelled with the rest of the U18 squad for a five-day training camp in the Netherlands as the preparations for the new season intensified a little. Should he impress sufficiently, Nelson may well find himself in contention to feature in the Arsenal XI friendly against Bournemouth at the training ground on July 11th.

Nelson, as can be gleaned from his rapid development over the last few years, is used to developing quickly. It may not be too much longer before he starts to garner even more attention.

Crowley amongst the Arsenal youngsters hoping for first-team involvement this pre-season

Most of Arsenal’s youngsters have already been in pre-season training for a couple of days but tomorrow the preparations for the new season will intensify when they are joined by a selection of players from the first-team squad.

Thirteen members of Arsene Wenger’s squad, those who didn’t have any international commitments over the summer, are due back at London Colney tomorrow, with Mathieu Debuchy, Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini, Danny Welbeck, Emiliano Martinez, Yaya Sanogo, Francis Coquelin, Krystian Bielik and Hector Bellerin all falling into that category.

With the first batch of international players not set to return until the following week, there should be plenty of opportunities over the next few days for some members of the U21 squad to train with the first-team players. One player who will almost certainly be involved is Wellington, with the winger eager to kick-start his Arsenal career after five loan spells in Spain. The Brazilian faces an important summer as far as his development is concerned with Wenger having to decide whether to retain the youngster and name him in the 25-man Premier League squad for the new season.

Others have more time on their side. Dan Crowley, for instance, is yet to earn a first-team call-up, but the young midfielder will be seeking to impress sufficiently to earn himself a place on the plane to Asia for the next stage of pre-season. The former Aston Villa player doesn’t turn 18 until August but he was outstanding on some occasions for the U21s last season and will be hoping to make inroads into the first-team set-up this year.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been strongly linked with a loan move to Ipswich Town in recent weeks, but such a move is yet to materialise and he is set to start the week training with Arsenal. Another player who shone at U21 level in 2014/15, the Hale End product should be involved in the early sessions, where he could be joined by Julio Pleguezuelo, Alex Iwobi and Stefan O’Connor. Goalkeepers Matt Macey and Deyan Iliev could also train with the seniors.

It is an important pre-season for some of the more established youngsters, too, with Gedion Zelalem seeking to assert himself, whilst Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden will be looking to do likewise, although they may be given a little longer off after they represented England U20s. Jon Toral will be seeking to prove his worth after featuring on loan for Brentford last season.

One of the most intriguing aspects of pre-season is that there are usually one or two younger players who are unexpectedly involved in first-team proceedings. Last year, for instance, Chris Willock featured in the opening friendly against Boreham Wood, and he will be hoping to be called upon again. Tyrell Robinson, Kaylen Hinds, Chiori Johnson and Tafari Moore have a chance of at least being involved in some of the senior training sessions.

New acquisition Vlad Dragomir will start training tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how French youngsters Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Yassin Fortune adapt to English football. Those players, though, are expected to train with the youth team initially and could make their debuts in the friendly against Bournemouth on July 11th.

Chances to impress for youngsters during this pre-season may well be scarce, with the bulk of the squad set to return in time for the club’s participation in the Asia Trophy. The uncertainty over the futures of some players (such as Lukas Podolski and Sanogo) may provide some chances for youth players to impress, but, barring a multitude of injuries, Wenger should have most of his squad available for the majority of pre-season, with the notable exceptions of Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina and Calum Chambers.

Arsenal usually operate with a training group of 23 players. With 13 members of the first-team squad due to be in attendance tomorrow, that means that there are likely to be ten spaces for youngsters, including two goalkeepers. Who will fill those positions? An educated guess would suggest that the players most likely to be involved are Macey, Iliev, O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, Robinson, Maitland-Niles, Toral, Crowley, Wellington and Iwobi, although, as alluded to, several others are also in contention.

Some difficult decisions will have to be made the following week when 12 further members of the squad report back for training, with only the youngsters who have impressed the most standing any chance of travelling with the squad to Asia.

Arsenal sign Jordi Emmanuel Osei-Tutu from Reading 


Arsenal have made another acquisition for their new scholarship intake after completing the signing of Reading youngster Jordi Emmanuel Osei-Tutu.

The prospect has been with Reading for eight years but is excited to be joining up with Arsenal’s new batch of scholars. The 16-year-old is capable of playing as a right-back or a winger.

Arsenal have already signed Romanian midfielder Vlad Dragomir, Cypriot defender Kostas Pileas and French youngsters Yassin Fortune and Jeff Reine-Adelaide.