Author: Jeorge Bird

Toral, Zelalem and Crowley seeking to play major part in Arsenal’s pre-season plans


Arsenal have an abundance of central-midfielders on their books, but, with Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere all set to represent their respective countries at Euro 2016 this summer, there could be opportunities for some of the club’s youngsters to impress in pre-season.

Jon Toral, Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley all experienced loan spells this season with varying degrees of success.

Toral enjoyed a superb spell with Birmingham City as he delivered some excellent performances for the Championship side and built upon the experience that he gained with Brentford the previous season.

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Zelalem, meanwhile, spent the entire campaign with Rangers and impressed in patches as the Scottish side won two trophies. He will return to Arsenal eager to break into the first-team set-up, but Dan Crowley, who had a short stay at Barnsley, has already admitted that he will need to go out on loan again at some point next season.

All three players could have a prominent part to play in Arsenal’s pre-season plans. Toral, at the age of 21, will be especially keen to make an impact as he seeks to prove to Arsene Wenger that he can succeed at the club.

The Spaniard’s cause is helped by the fact that he is capable of operating effectively either as a central midfielder or out wide, and, having spent half a decade developing him following the switch from La Masia, it would be rather disappointing if Arsenal didn’t give Toral a chance to establish himself in the side.

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Zelalem and Crowley may not have developed quite as quickly as anticipated, but both players are still encouraging prospects. The latter revealed that Wenger has informed him that he is not yet ready for the physical side of Premier League football, and the same probably applies to Zelalem.

Even so, being involved in the first-team’s preparation fixtures would be of great benefit to the two youngsters and would allow Wenger to assess just how close they are to making the breakthrough.

At present it is difficult to envisage how Wenger is going to keep all of Arsenal’s first-team midfielders happy next season, particularly if Granit Xhaka, as expected, joins the club. Toral, Zelalem and Crowley, though, will be aiming to make the situation even more complicated.

What next for Maitland-Niles after Arsenal youngster’s Ipswich loan spell?


At just 18, Ainsley Maitland-Niles already has a considerable amount of experience under his belt.

The prospect featured fleetingly for the Arsenal first-team last season and has spent this campaign on loan at Ipswich Town, making 32 appearances across all competitions.

It hasn’t all gone to plan, with the youngster struggling to command a place in the side in the closing stages of the season, but Maitland-Niles remains a very exciting prospect and it will intriguing to see what is in store for him next season.

The youngster started the campaign extremely well with Ipswich as he delivered some hugely encouraging displays and showcased his ability to beat players with ease.

The likelihood is that he will be dispatched on loan again next season, but it is tempting to consider keeping him at Arsenal, allowing him to train with the first-team squad and perhaps feature in the Capital One Cup.

It remains to be seen which position Maitland-Niles will end up in long-term- he is capable of playing as a right-winger or a central midfielder- but for now his qualities seem best suited to playing out wide as he can deliver dangerous crosses and use his speed to good effect.

Maitland-Niles is very highly regarded by the Arsenal coaching staff, with the prospect having often starred for the club at youth level. Now he has taken some significant strides towards establishing himself in first-team football and will hope to push on further in his development next season.

Arsenal U19s beat Liverpool but suffer Final disappointment in Spax Cup


Arsenal U19s suffered a disappointing conclusion to the Spax Cup as they were thrashed 3-0 in the Final by Schalke.

There was one positive for Arsenal to take as Ryan Huddart, who didn’t feature in the final, was named goalkeeper of the tournament.

Earlier in the day the young Gunners had defeated Liverpool 1-0 in the Semi-Finals courtesy of a strike from Edward Nketiah.

Arsenal team v Liverpool: Huddart; Osei-Tutu, Da Graca, O’Connor, Robinson; Mourgos, Crowley; Tella, Hinds, Crowley; Nketiah. Subs: Groeneveld, Shelis, Eyoma.

Arsenal team v Schalke: Keto; Osei-Tutu, Da Graca, Groeneveld, Robinson; Hinds, Mourgos; Eyoma, Crowley, C. Willock; Mavididi. Subs: Nketiah, J. Willock, Shelis, O’Connor.

Trialists Groeneveld and Shelis feature as Arsenal progress in Spax Cup


Christos Shelis


Keith Groeneveld

Arsenal beat Fluminense 1-0 in their first game of the day, with Aaron Eyoma scoring the only goal of the game.

Trialist defenders Keith Groenveld and Christos Shelis featured as substitutes. Groeneveld, who plays for Mechelen, was previously on trial at Manchester United, whilst Shelis is part of Arsenal’s Greek academy.


Osei Tutu-Da Graca-O’Connor-Robinson


Eyoma-Hinds-C. Willock


Subs: Tella, Shelis, Groeneveld, J. Willock

The Gunners drew 1-1 with Ennepetal in their final group game. The prolific Edward Nketiah scored Arsenal’s goal to set up a meeting with Liverpool in the semi-finals.


Osei Tutu-Da Graca-Groeneveld-Robinson


Eyoma-J. Willock-Tella


Subs: O’Connor, Da Silva, Crowley. 

Loan report: Szczesny plays last official game of Roma spell; Akpom features in play-off win


The majority of Arsenal’s loanees have now concluded their temporary spells elsewhere, with Emiliano Martinez, Yaya Sanogo, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Glen Kamara, Jon Toral and Wellington all set to return to the club.

However there are still a few of the club’s players that have commitments elsewhere. Wojciech Szczesny, for example, played his last official game for Roma yesterday as his team beat AC Milan 3-1. The Italian side have a friendly against Al Ahly next week.

Chuba Akpom was brought on as a substitute in the 83rd minute as Hull City beat Derby County 3-0 in the first leg of their play-off semi-final. Isaac Hayden didn’t feature.

Mathieu Debuchy missed out through injury as Bordeaux concluded their campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Caen.

Gedion Zelalem‘s Rangers weren’t in action this weekend but they take on Hibernian in the Scottish Cup Final next weekend.