Author: Jeorge Bird

Gedion Zelalem- From Olney Rangers to Rangers

It was whilst he was playing for a club with Rangers in their name that Gedion Zelalem first came to Arsenal’s attention and now, having joined Scottish side Rangers on loan initially until January, he will be looking to make the club’s coaching staff take notice of his performances once more.

It has been quite a journey for Zelalem, who has developed well since joining Arsenal from Olney Rangers in 2012. There have been numerous ups and downs in the ensuing period, with the major highlights undoubtedly being his two senior appearances for the Arsenal first-team so far.

Now, having amassed considerable experience of U21 football, he will be seeking to prove that he is able to compete on a bigger stage. The Scottish Championship might not be the most high-profile league, but Rangers, with their renowned supporters, remain one of the most recognisable clubs in Europe.

Rangers manager Mark Warburton has a good track record of working with young players from his time at Brentford, and his preferred style of play should suit Zelalem perfectly.

The United States youth international midifelder sampled the Ibrox atmosphere for the first time yesterday as he attended Rangers’ game with Hibernian and he also trained with his new team-mates this morning. If all goes well, Zelalem could play a part when Rangers take on Airdrieonians on Wednesday.

It was clear during the opening U21 game of the season against Fulham that Zelalem is one of Arsenal’s brightest talents at that level and, although he has some improvements to make physically, he should learn much from his stint with Rangers.

Having seen Dan Crowley and Ainsley Maitland-Niles get off to flying starts with their loan spells this season, Zelalem will be seeking to do likewise. He has come in for some criticism for failing to be heavily involved in matches, but the youngster, who is still only 18, is renowned for his penchant of unlocking defences with precise through-balls.

Of late Zelalem also seems to have started to pay greater attention to the defensive side of the game. He now closes players down much more readily than he did previously, whilst his tactical awareness has always been superior to most of his colleagues at youth level.

Zelalem reportedly turned down offers from several Championship clubs to join Rangers, and he will be seeking to prove that he made the right decision in linking up with Warburton’s team. His journey so far has been intriguing to watch as he has developed physically, whilst continuing to make good use of his undoubted technical gifts.

Now the hope is that he can impress sufficiently at Rangers to earn a chance of receiving even greater opportunities in the future.

Eyoma’s late goal rescues point for Arsenal U18s against Chelsea

Eyoma has enjoyed an excellent start to the season. (

Eyoma has enjoyed an excellent start to the season. (

U18 Premier League

Arsenal 1 (Eyoma) Chelsea 1

Arsenal U18s showed determination to come from behind and eventually draw 1-1 with their Chelsea at London Colney this morning.

The Gunners prevailed with a 5-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last campaign, but Chelsea were dominant early on today and eventually took the lead early in the second-half through Charlie Wakefield. Arsenal, however, rallied in the closing stages and scored a late equaliser courtesy of a diving header from Aaron Eyoma.

Chelsea started brightly, with Ike Ugbo coming close to scoring, but Arsenal responded with Chris Willock shooting just wide.

The visitors, though, soon started to click into gear, with Ruben Sammut twice being denied. Miro Muheim then had a shot saved as Chelsea upped the ante further.

Their dominance was rewarded four minutes into the second period, with Muheim crossing for Wakefield to finish.

Arsenal started to get back into the game in the second-half, but Chelsea were still creating plenty of chances, with Ali Suljic striking the crossbar with a header.

Arsenal looked more lively following the introduction of Edward Nketiah as a substitute, and the Hale End product, who scored last week against Norwich City, struck the post, before Chelsea came close to doubling their advantage through Mukhtar Ali.

To their credit, Frans de Kat’s side refused to give up and they eventually equalised late on through Eyoma. Chelsea had a claim for a penalty turned down just prior to the goal, but the young Gunners won’t be worrying about that as they remain unbeaten so far this season.

As far as Eyoma is concerned, the youngster has enjoyed an excellent start to the season and is the only player to feature in all of the U21s and U18s games so far this campaign.

Arsenal’s next game at this level is away to Reading on Saturday.


Osei Tutu-Da Graca-T. Bola-Robinson

Agyei Tabi-Da Silva

Eyoma-C. Willock-Nelson


Subs: Huddart, Mourgos, Tella, Nketiah, Chatzitheodoridis.

Info via @ChelseaFC and @AFCFixtureNews

Loan report- Jenkinson sent off; Szczesny, Gnabry and Wellington make debuts

Carl Jenkinson endured a difficult day as West Ham United were beaten 4-3 by Bournemouth, with the right-back struggling throughout against the dangerous Max Gradel before receiving a red card for committing a foul against the winger in the penalty area.

Wellington, at long last, made his first competitive appearance in English football, with the winger impressing as Bolton Wanderers drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest. Deployed on the left wing, Wellington was particularly effective in the early stages before being replaced by Emile Heskey in the 84th minute.

Serge Gnabry was introduced for his West Bromwich Albion debut in the 78th minute as they lost 3-2 to Chelsea.

Wojciech Szczesny made his competitive debut for Roma as his temporary side drew 1-1 away to Hellas Verona.

Chuba Akpom played 64 minutes before being substituted as Hull City lost 2-1 against Charlton Athletic. Akpom had a shot saved, whilst Hull’s other Arsenal loanee, Isaac Hayden, was introduced in the 58th minute and came close to scoring as his effort hit a post late on.

Jon Toral retained his place in the starting line-up and played 67 minutes as Birmingham City drew 1-1 with Derby County. The Spaniard, who has already found the net twice for his loan club, missed an inviting opportunity to score early in the second-half.

Last week Toral reflected on his impressive start to the campaign. He said: “I have to thank the team and the gaffer for giving me the confidence. It’s been a great start for me and I need to keep it going.”

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was brought on as a substitute in the 62nd minute as Ipswich Town beat Preston North End 2-1. The youngster, who claimed an assist in the midweek game against Burnley, was the subject of a rash challenge from Bailey Wright.

Dan Crowley played the whole game and was booked as Barnsley drew 0-0 with Bradford City.

Emiliano Martinez was an un-used substitute as Wolverhampton Wanderers were beaten 2-0 by Cardiff City.

Yaya Sanogo wasn’t part of the Ajax squad for their game against NEC.


O’Connor, Reine-Adelaide, Macey and Pleguezuelo train with Arsenal first-team ahead of Liverpool game

The Arsenal first-team participated in their final training session this morning ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League game against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.

Young defender Stefan O’Connor, who made his first-team debut in the Champions League last season, trained with the squad today, with winger Jeff Reine-Adelaide also called upon along with centre-back Julio Pleguezuelo and goalkeeper Matt Macey.

Joel Campbell continued to train with the group, with manager Arsene Wenger having recently remarked that he would like to retain the services of the Costa Rican winger. However, Jack Wilshere (ankle) missed the session as did Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky, who are both still struggling with knee problems.

Wenger is unlikely to make too many alterations to his starting line-up for tomorrow’s game, with Olivier Giroud hopeful of keeping his place in the team after scoring against Crystal Palace. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, meanwhile, may count himself a little unlucky not to have started against Palace, but it seems unlikely that Wenger will leave Aaron Ramsey out of the side.

Calum Chambers and Mathieu Flamini are likely to be left out of the squad again, along with Campbell.






Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Gibbs, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott. 

Captain fantastic- Arsenal’s Julio Pleguezuelo asserts his credentials

Some youngsters take a considerable amount of time to adapt to English football, but, from the very moment that he arrived in London after joining Arsenal from Barcelona in the summer of 2013, Julio Pleguezuelo has looked very much at home.

The Spaniard quickly established himself as a regular at centre-back for Arsenal’s U21s during his first year at the club and, although his 2014/15 campaign was heavily disrupted by injury, he is now back to being a regular for Steve Gatting’s side.

In addition, Pleguezuelo has captained Arsenal’s youngsters as they have made an impressive start to the new season with victories over Fulham and Derby County. The 18-year-old was outstanding in both fixtures, but probably more so against Derby last night as he organised the defence and made several crucial interceptions.

It was clear in the few matches that he played there last season that Pleguezuelo is nowhere near as comfortable at right-back as he is at the heart of the defence. Quick and possessing good ball control, as you would expect from a La Masia graduate, the Spanish youth international has done very little wrong in an Arsenal shirt when deployed at centre-back.

The next logical step, inevitably, is for him to become increasingly involved in the first-team squad, but such a task would appear rather difficult at present when comparatively experienced players in his position, such as Gabriel and Calum Chambers, are yet to feature for the senior side this season.

Pleguezuelo, if he continues his stellar start to the season, may well find himself called upon in the Capital One Cup, but barring a considerable injury crisis, it is difficult to envisage him receiving many first-team minutes this season.

A loan spell, therefore, could be an option in the second half of the season and Pleguezuelo appears to be the sort of strong-minded character who wouldn’t be fazed by the physical nature of a division such as the Championship or League One, despite him being rather short in stature.

Pleguezuelo will also be aware that even if he did manage to rack up some first-team minutes in the near future, it wouldn’t be a guarantor of success in terms of carving out a long-term career at the club. His compatriot Ignasi Miquel, for example, made five Premier League appearances for Arsenal but now finds himself at Ponferradina, having failed to establish himself at Norwich City.

Pleguezuelo, though, appears a far more composed figure than the occasionally erratic Miquel. Breaking into the Arsenal first-team squad will be a very difficult challenge, with Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Chambers all ahead of him, but the youngster is certainly giving himself the very best chance of reaching the top with his recent performances.

Report- Pleguezuelo, Hinds and Huddart excel as Arsenal U21s beat Derby

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park, Borehamwood

Arsenal 3 (Hinds 6, 90, Mavididi 89) Derby County 2 (Guy (pen) 30, McDonald 90)

If all of Arsenal’s U21 games finish in the same manner as the first two then we are going to be in for quite a season.

After securing a late, but fully deserved victory over Fulham at Emirates Stadium last week, the young Gunners found matters considerably tougher against a spirited Derby County side tonight, but, despite a frantic finale in which three goals were scored, Steve Gatting’s side prevailed with a 3-2 victory.

The win was secured without the services of Gedion Zelalem, who is in Scotland to finalise a potential loan move to Rangers.

Arsenal started the game in emphatic style and took a deserved early lead through Kaylen Hinds, who returned to the side after injury. Derby levelled from the penalty spot before the interval, however, and a draw appeared to be on the cards until Stephy Mavididi headed in from substitute Aaron Eyoma’s cross with just seconds of normal time remaining.

The drama didn’t end there, though, as Hinds struck again in stoppage time only Derby to pull a goal back almost immediately.

It was breathless stuff at times, but, ultimately, Arsenal managed to prevail and they did so courtesy of some stellar performances, not least from goalkeeper Ryan Huddart and captain Julio Pleguezuelo. Hinds also deserves much credit for his hard work and intelligent finishes.

Huddart was drafted in to start the game, with neither Matt Macey or Deyan Iliev making the squad. Macey and Iliev were at the ground, but their absence from the team-sheet suggests that one or both of them could train with the first-team squad tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Ben Sheaf moved centrally in the absence of Zelalem, with Jeff Reine-Adelaide switching to the right flank and Hinds operating behind Mavididi. Chris Willock and Tyrell Robinson were back on the bench, with Savvas Mourgos and Yassin Fortune dropping out of the squad.


Moore-Pleguezuelo-Bielik-M. Bola


Reine Adelaide-Hinds-Iwobi


Subs: C. Willock (for Reine-Adelaide, 66), O’Connor (for Sheaf, 73), Eyoma (for Moore, 86). Not used: Robinson, Keto.

Mason Bennett, who featured in a memorable victory for Derby over Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup in 2011, had the first opportunity of the game as he outmuscled Sheaf in midfield before seeing his long-range effort gathered by Huddart.

Arsenal found themselves under pressure in the early stages, and they were indebted to Pleguezuelo for making a superbly-timed challenge to cut out the danger on one occasion. The Spaniard was calm and authoritative throughout and, from his point of view, it is a shame that Arsenal have four available options at centre-back as otherwise he would be a lot closer to the senior squad.

Arsenal soon started to click into their usual rhythm and they scored with their first chance of note as Reine-Adelaide, having drifted out to the left flank, sent in a dangerous cross which eventually found its way to Hinds, who finished adroitly.

The Gunners could have doubled their advantage shortly afterwards, but Mavididi could only head wide from Hinds’ cross.

Arsenal were left to rue that miss as Derby then equalised from the penalty spot after Huddart fouled former Arsenal team-mate Alban Bunjaku in the area. The goalkeeper went the right way as he attempted to keep out Callum Guy’s spot-kick, but he was unable to prevent the opposition from equalising.

Huddart then made a good save to keep out a header from Bennett but it mattered little as the offside flag had already been raised.

Arsenal squandered opportunities through Mavididi and Reine-Adelaide, but, despite Gatting’s team being in control for the vast majority of the opening period, it was Derby who ended the half the strongest, with the visitors having a goal ruled out for offside before Huddart had to make another good save to deny Bennett.

The second-half was a less fluent affair, but there was plenty of drama right from the offset. Alex Iwobi, who worked hard all evening without having much going his way, had a shot saved, but, although Hinds finished well with the follow-up, the flag was raised.

Huddart then excelled himself further with another great save, providing additional evidence to suggest that he should be the club’s regular first choice at this level, despite him being younger than Macey and Iliev.

Derby were causing all manner of problems for Arsenal by this point as they struck the post with one effort before having a shot deflected wide.

Gatting attempted to change matters by introducing Willock in place of Reine-Adelaide, who had impressed in patches but did lose possession rather easily on some occasions.

Huddart was called upon yet again to keep the scoreline level as he continued to prevail in his personal duel with Bennett. Pleguezuelo had a header saved at the other end, but it was Gatting’s remaining substitutions that would help swing the game in Arsenal’s favour.

Firstly, Stefan O’Connor was introduced for his maiden appearance of the season in place of Glen Kamara. The change saw Bielik, who had struggled at centre-back, move into his preferred position of defensive-midfield and Arsenal looked more assured as a result.

Aaron Eyoma then replaced Tafari Moore and it was from Eyoma’s cross that Arsenal would score their second goal, with Mavididi rising high to head home emphatically.

That looked to have won the game and Hinds’ neat finish in stoppage time added further gloss to the scoreline. Derby weren’t finished yet, however, as they immediately raced down the other end and reduced the deficit through substitute Shaquille O’Donald, despite Huddart’s best efforts.

That late goal mattered little in the end, though, as Arsenal secured their second win in succession. This was a less aesthetically pleasing performance than last week, but the young Gunners did show terrific resilience during a challenging second-half.

Their next assignment is against West Ham at Emirates Stadium next week, when they could be up against Reece Oxford, who was watching the game this evening.

Arsenal U21s must show they can cope without Zelalem

Arsenal U21s made an impressive start to the season as they dispatched of Fulham with a 1-0 victory last week despite being shorn of several key players because of loan spells.

Matters could be about to get rather tougher for Steve Gatting’s side, however, with Gedion Zelalem, who scored the only goal of the game last week, reportedly set to leave the club on loan.

Coincidentally, at present it appears that a loan move to Fulham is the most likely option for Zelalem, with possible switches to Rangers, Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic having been cast into doubt.

Zelalem has the highest amount of U21 appearances out of the current squad and his departure would be keenly felt but, as is always the case, it would inevitably provide an opportunity for another youngster to make the breakthrough into the second-string.

It isn’t currently clear whether Zelalem will feature when the U21s take on Derby County at Meadow Park this evening, but if the United States youth international is ruled out, then Ben Sheaf, who was stationed on the right wing last week, could be deployed centrally alongside Glen Kamara.

Against Fulham Arsenal were without the creative trio of Kaylen Hinds, Chris Willock and Tyrell Robinson because of injury, and those players, when fit, will provide additional depth to the U21 squad, along with midfielder Ismael Bennacer, who isn’t currently eligible to represent the club competitively as he waits for his transfer to be formally approved by FIFA.

If Hinds, Willock and Robinson are still unavailable for tonight’s game, then Hale End product Aaron Eyoma, who isn’t yet guaranteed a professional contract with the club, may well be afforded a start on the right wing. Eyoma, along with Savvas Mourgos and Yassin Fortune, was named amongst the substitutes for the U21s against Fulham before featuring for the U18s against Norwich City the following morning, highlighting the current lack of depth in Arsenal’s second-string squad.

Gatting would surely be pleased to have some extra options to call upon at present, and he may well be rewarded in that regard soon, with David Ospina and Joel Campbell two senior players who are in need of game time. Calum Chambers and Mathieu Flamini also haven’t featured for the first-team this season.

The club’s decision to send so many players out on loan at this stage of the season- Zelalem’s departure would make it 12- will have a knock-on effect in terms of reducing the amount of experienced players available to the club at U21 level. That is the nature of youth football, though, with the cycle of change never ceasing.

Possible Arsenal U21 team v Derby:


Moore-Pleguezuelo-Bielik-M. Bola


Eyoma-Reine Adelaide-Iwobi


Subs: Iliev, O’Connor, Mourgos, Fortune, Donovan.