Loan report – Balogun scores in last Reims appearance; Ejeheri keeps clean sheet

Folarin Balogun concluded his hugely successful spell at Reims with his 21st league goal of the season in their 3-1 defeat to Montpellier.

Ovie Ejeheri kept a clean sheet as SJK drew 0-0 with HJK.

Pablo Mari played the whole game as Monza lost 5-2 to Atalanta.

Nuno Tavares was brought on in the 64th minute as Marseille lost 1-0 to Ajaccio.

Arthur Okonkwo was an unused substitute as Sturm Graz beat LASK 2-0.

Alex Runarsson wasn’t involved as Alanyaspor lost 5-1 to Trabzonspor.

Nicolas Pepe didn’t play due to injury as Nice beat Lyon 3-1.


U20 World Cup – Norton-Cuffy features in England defeat; Marquinhos involved in Brazil win

Brooke Norton-Cuffy played 62 minutes as England U20s were knocked out of the World Cup at the last-16 stage with a 2-1 defeat to Italy.

Norton-Cuffy made his only appearance at the tournament after linking up with the squad following his involvement in the Championship play-off final with Coventry City.

Marquinhos played 85 minutes and was deployed in midfield as Brazil won 4-1 against Tunisia. Brazil will take on Israel in the last eight.

Alexei Rojas was an unused substitute as Colombia beat Slovakia 5-1. Colombia will face Italy in the quarter-finals.

Report: Zach Awe to leave Arsenal this summer in search of first-team football

Image: Arsenal FC

Defender Zach Awe will reportedly be allowed to leave Arsenal when his contract expires this summer.

According to Mike McGrath, the centre-back is eager to play senior football and has attracted interest from Championship clubs.

Awe featured prominently for Arsenal U21s this season and has made 37 appearances at that level in total, having previously played 27 times for the U18s.

The 19-year-old is a good reader of the game and is impressive technically but remains somewhat error prone.

Awe was an unused substitute for the first-team away to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League in February 2022.

However, he hasn’t had any competitive callups since then and has fallen behind the likes of Reuell Walters in the pecking order.

Awe also wasn’t involved in the senior squad’s mid-season trip to Dubai.

Myles Lewis-Skelly gets assist as England U17s beat Switzerland to qualify for World Cup

Arsenal midfielder Myles Lewis-Skelly provided an assist as England U17s won 4-2 against their Switzerland counterparts today.

Although England had already been knocked out of the European Championship, this victory secured their place at the U17 World Cup, which will take place between November and December this year.

Lewis-Skelly entered the fray in the 61st minute and proceeded to set up a goal for Zak Lovelace.

Ethan Nwaneri played the first hour of the game.

Loan report – Ejeheri saves penalty; Norton-Cuffy features in play-off final

Ovie Ejeheri saved a penalty from Joona Veteli as SJK beat KUPS 1-0.

Brooke Norton-Cuffy played 90 minutes before being substituted ahead of extra-time in the Championship play-off final, with Coventry City losing 6-5 on penalties to Luton Town after the game finished 1-1.

Arthur Okonkwo was in goal as Sturm Graz lost 3-2 to Rapid Vienna.

Folarin Balogun played the whole game as Reims lost 3-0 to Lyon.

Nuno Tavares played the second half as Marseille lost 2-1 to Brest.

Pablo Mari played the full game as Monza were beaten 1-0 by Lecce.

Cedric was an unused substitute as Fulham lost 2-1 to Manchester United.

Alex Kirk was an unused substitute as Ayr United lost 5-0 to Partick Thistle and were beaten 8-0 on aggregate in their play-off semi-final.

Albert Sambi Lokonga was an unused substitute as Crystal Palace drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles wasn’t involved as Southampton drew 4-4 with Liverpool.

Ryan Alebiosu wasn’t involved as Kilmarnock beat Ross County 3-1.

Mika Biereth wasn’t involved as RKC Waalwijk lost 4-0 to Cambuur.

Marcelo Flores wasn’t involved as Real Oviedo lost 2-1 to Levante.

Nicolas Pepe didn’t play due to injury as Nice beat Montpellier 3-2.

Mikel Arteta’s use of academy players – an assessment and will things change?

As Arsenal concluded their season with a 5-0 win at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers in a game that had no bearing on their final position in the table, there were two academy players on the bench in Reuell Walters and Mauro Bandeira.

Neither player entered the pitch for what would have been their competitive debut, but that wasn’t a major surprise as unfortunately it has become a common theme under Mikel Arteta for academy players to be named amongst the substitutes but not feature.

Indeed, this season the only youngster from outside the first-team squad to make a senior appearance for the club was Ethan Nwaneri, who hit the headlines with his late appearance against Brentford in September. Nwaneri, who was 15 at the time, broke the records for Arsenal’s and the Premier League’s youngest ever player, which seemed to be a step in the right direction as far as using youngsters is concerned.

However, since then many youth players have been on the bench for the first-team but haven’t managed to get on the pitch and the situation has happened so often that it is now difficult to muster much excitement when a prospect has been called up.

The rule changes to allow nine substitutes in the Premier League and twelve in UEFA European competitions have helped more academy players to earn call-ups, but actually getting senior minutes is a different issue altogether.

This season Bandeira, Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, Catalin Cirjan, Khayon Edwards, James Hillson, Charles Sagoe Jr, Matt Smith, Amario Cozier-Duberry, Bradley Ibrahim, Lino Sousa and Walters were all called up but didn’t play.

Last season that was the case for Karl Hein, Ryan Alebiosu, Alex Kirk, Mazeed Ogungbo, Zach Awe, Salah-Eddine Zak Swanson, Miguel Azeez, Omari Hutchinson, Marcelo Flores and Mika Biereth.

Of the players that were called up but were unused last season, only Hein has since been promoted to the first-team squad – although he has played just one competitive game. Swanson and Hutchinson have left permanently, Awe and Salah-Eddine are still in the U21s and the rest were sent out on loan.

Last season Charlie Patino made two first-team appearances as an academy player, memorably scoring on his debut as a substitute against Sunderland in the Carabao Cup before enduring a difficult day against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.

In 2020/21, Arteta’s first full season in charge, it actually appeared as though he was willing to give youngsters opportunities. Folarin Balogun played six times overall and scored two goals, while Azeez and Ben Cottrell were given debuts in the Europa League.

Over the past two campaigns, however, Arteta has been reluctant to use academy players no matter the size of his squad or the circumstances of the game.

It is possible that Nwaneri, Patino and Balogun could all depart this summer, while Azeez and Cottrell face a difficult task in attempting to make the grade at Arsenal.

The situation of calling players up and not using them reached extreme lengths in some cases – Matt Smith has been an unused sub 15 times and seems likely to leave, while Swanson was on the bench for the last 15 league games of last season but didn’t play a single minute and then ended up signing for Portsmouth.

Not every academy player is going to make it and in some cases you have to fill the bench with youngsters in order to make up the numbers.

However, at some point players have to be given opportunities otherwise it will be difficult for anybody to make the breakthrough.

Arteta has shown that he is willing to give youngsters numerous chances to impress in training sessions and in many friendly matches.

There are also some mitigating circumstances in that Arsenal have a very young squad, while the Carabao Cup campaign this season only consisted of one game – a defeat at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.

The days of Arsene Wenger giving debuts to many young players appear to be long gone, and each manager is entitled to their own approach with regards to how they use the academy.

At some stage, though, something will have to change. Cozier-Duberry has consistently impressed in the U21s, while full-backs Walters and Lino Sousa are good prospects and Bandeira is also held in high regard at the club. Beyond that there are high hopes for others including Michal Rosiak and Myles Lewis-Skelly, plus Nwaneri if he stays.

It is hoped that next season there will at least be a slight change in approach. Involvement in the Champions League may make matters difficult initially in terms of integrating youngsters but if there is a dead rubber on the final matchday then perhaps some players could feature in that competition. In addition, hopefully some players will be able to make their debuts in cup games.

There will have to be an alteration at some stage as the current approach cannot continue if Arsenal are to integrate more youngsters into the first-team squad. It can’t be a case of sending players out on endless loan spells in the hope that they could perhaps catch the eye. At some point you need to actually give players minutes in competitive first-team matches.

Marquinhos scores and assists for Brazil U20s; Nwaneri and Lewis-Skelly feature as England U17s lose

Arsenal midfielders Ethan Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly both featured as England were knocked out of the U17 European Championship with a 1-0 defeat to France.

There was late agony for England in the quarter-finals, with Mathis Lambourde scoring a penalty for France in the 89th minute.

Nwaneri played the whole game, while Lewis-Skelly played the first half.

Meanwhile, Marquinhos scored and got an assist as Brazil beat Nigeria 2-0 at the U20 World Cup.

Alexei Rojas was an unused substitute as Colombia drew 1-1 with Senegal.

Brazil and Colombia have both progressed to the round of 16 stage.

Cozier-Duberry, Walters and Bandeira train with Arsenal first-team ahead of Wolves game

Amario Cozier-Duberry, Reuell Walters and Mauro Bandeira are all continuing to train with the Arsenal first-team squad at London Colney.

The trio were all unused substitutes against Nottingham Forest last weekend and it seems likely that they could be on the bench against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday for the final game of the season.

Cozier-Duberry, Walters and Bandeira are all hoping to make their competitive senior debuts but it remains to be seen if they will be given that opportunity.

Lewis-Skelly scores for England U17s; Marquinhos assists for Brazil at U20 World Cup

Arsenal midfielder Myles Lewis-Skelly scored an excellent goal as England U17s won 4-1 against their Netherlands counterparts at the U17 Euros.

The 16-year-old embarked upon a superb run before opening the scoring in the seventh minute.

Lewis-Skelly and fellow Gunner Ethan Nwaneri both played 72 minutes, with England securing their place in the knockout stages.

Meanwhile, in the U20 World Cup Marquinhos provided an assist in Brazil’s 3-2 defeat to Italy. The winger, who recently completed a loan spell at Norwich City, came on at the start of the second half.

Goalkeeper Alexei Rojas was an unused substitute as Colombia beat Israel 2-1.