by Andrew Crawshaw
A year of measurable progress from our U21 team as they gained promotion back to the top tier of football at this level after a couple of years in the second division.
It would be churlish to belittle this achievement as being due to the presence of some of the first team players in the two play-off games. All of the goals were scored by the ‘real’ U21 players and only one assist was down to Santi Cazorla.
For the most part the youngsters were at their most fluent when the seniors weren’t involved in passing moves, they have played together as a group all year and knew where each other would be. For all of the extra skills of the senior players the lack of instinctive knowledge of the abilities, preferences and movements of the rest of the team at times was telling.
The Villa goal in the play off final came from just such a misunderstanding – Chambers under pressure passed the ball back to Macey, but to his left hand side. Macey is strongly right footed and by the time he had moved the ball he was under severe pressure from the Villa attackers and only just cleared the ball before being caught in possession. The clearance went straight to a Villa player who was able to shoot past Macey. The normal U21 players when playing a back pass were very careful to do so on Macey’s right foot.
Who have been the Hits and Misses at this level this year and who might we see making an impact on the first team next year (or the year after)?
Part 1 – The Loanees
Gedion Zelalem Central Midfield (d.o.b. 26:01:1997 American but counts as home grown) has spent the season at Rangers and has assisted them in regaining promotion to the Scottish Premier League and to the final of the Scottish FA Cup.
Gedion is of Ethiopian descent and will never become a powerhouse midfielder. He will always be slightly built (70kg and 1.8m tall) and have to find an alternative way of dealing with bigger and stronger opponents. A year in the second tier of Scottish football would be a good test of his ability to withstand physical opponents.
This is a test that by and large he seems to have passed. He made 15 (+6) League appearances plus 5 (+1) Cup appearances, scored no goals in regular play (he scored a penalty in the Cup semi final against Celtic) and received no bookings.
The Cup final is on 21 May against Hibernium. Overall Gedion can be pleased with his season and will be looking forward to pre-season back with Arsenal to try and press his claims for a first team place. He has retained his eye for a delightful pass but will probably admit that he should have been more productive in terms of goalscoring. I have a feeling that a second year out on loan will probably be the order of the day, quite possibly back to Rangers. A definite ‘keeper’.
Jon Toral Central Midfield (d.o.b 5:2:1995, Spanish born but with an English mother counts as home grown)
Jon has spent the season at Birmingham City and has made a real impression there winning three awards at their end of season bash. He got goal of the year, player’s player of the year and supporters player of the year. He has made 28 appearances this year with 8 goals and 4 assists.
He is over six feet and well built, something that would be welcome in our midfield at times, an ex Barcelona academy player who joined at the same time as Bellerin. Technically very accomplished and a real goal threat from midfield but has suffered from knee problems.
He is another player who will be looking forward to the Arsenal pre-season and one who I would definitely expect to make the first team squad for next season although with our plethora of central midfielders he will have to really stand out in pre-season for that to happen. My money is on him succeeding. He looks to be a ready made replacement for Rosicky.
Isaac Hayden (English) (DM/CB) – spent the year on loan at Hull City in the Championship. He is 1.87m tall and weighs 79kg. He has made 17 appearances, scored 1 goal and been given 5 yellow cards. Steve Bruce has said he would like to keep him so he must have something about him. I would still like to see him in pre-season before we make up our minds on his future
Glen Kamara (d.o.b. 28:10:1995 Finland but counts as home grown) (DM) – spent the latter part of the year on loan at Southend United, played 6 games with one assist. Probably another loan spell.
Wellington (Brazil) Winger – Spent the year on loan at Bolton and had an unfortunate time with injuries and the physicality of Championship football. I can’t see him having a future at Arsenal. A probable departee.
Anthony Maitland-Niles (d.o.b.29/8/1997) Mid/Wing English on loan at Ipswich Town in the Championship. Anthony has made 23 appearances this year scoring two goals. Likely to be out on loan again next season.
Chuba Akpom (d.o.b. 9:10:95) Forward English He has made 34 appearances this year and has scored 3 goals and one assist, has been given 2 yellow cards. A rather disappointing season, he would have hoped to have done better. Will have to have a stellar pre-season to earn a place in the senior squad for next season, more likely another loan spell. Far too soon for us to give up on him.
Matthieu Debuchy – unlikely to return, we haven’t really missed him since he left for Bordeaux. A probable departee.
Emiliano Martinez GK – on loan at Wolves but not necessarily first choice – my guess is that we would consider selling him if the right offer came in – we have too many goalkeepers on our books
Wojciech Szczesny GK – on loan at Roma. He is almost certainly part of the Club’s longer term plans, seems to have had a good loan spell and would probably welcome a second year there. If Ospina leaves this summer will certainly be recalled as backup/pressure on Cech.
Yaya Sanogo – on loan at Charlton and hasn’t exactly set the world on fire there. Unlikely to have a future at Arsenal. A probable departee
Apologies if I’ve left out anyone and yes I’m well aware that some of these players are over 21, it just seemed logical to have included them all in the same place.
- Football as Opera, tears all round
- Afterthoughts on Chelsea – Tottenham. What would have happened to Arsenal, if they’d played like this?
- Special referee review: Chelsea – Tottenham
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