by Andrew Crawshaw
This is the second part of my impressions of the 2015-16 season as regards the U21, U19 and U18 competitions. Part 1 Overview and Summary can be found here
With so many players having featured for the Youth Teams this season, it is almost impossible to list everyone, but I will try as far as possible to cover all who have made more than a fleeting impact.
No fewer than 8 goalkeepers featured for the junior teams in some capacity during the 2015/16 season. I am going to look at them in age order – oldest to youngest.
Matt Macey – Born 9/9/94 so just qualified as an U21 player last season (but won’t next year). Played 15 times and was an unused substitute once at the junior level. Was a regular member of the first team squad and warmed the bench whenever Cech or Ospina wasn’t available. He is a giant of a man (1.98m or 6ft 6in), noticeably taller than Cech in team photos. Had a solid season whilst not necessarily spectacular, three clean sheets and 16 goals conceded in his 15 games. His immediate future for next season will depend to a large degree on movements of players ahead of him in the queue for that elusive first team berth. He will probably be looking for a loan to get more experience.
Deyan Iliev – Macedonian, born 25 Feb 1995 so will still be qualified as an U21 player next season. Only featured once as an un-used substitute this year, I presume he has had some form of injury as I can’t find records of him having gone out on loan. He will need game time next season. Deyan is Macedonian.
Ryan Huddart – Macedonian, born 6 May 1997, so will still be eligible at U19 and U21 level next season. Made a total of 21 starts and 2 sub appearances and was unused on the bench a further 15 times. 12 starts were in U18 league games and 9 were in U21 league games. Conceded a total of 35 goals and managed only 3 clean sheets (mind you the U18 defence in particular was decidedly porous at times and he couldn’t do much about many of the goals). Will be looking to step up next season and make the U21 slot his own.
Hugo Keto – Finish, born 9 Feb 1998, so will still be eligible for U18 competitions next year (but will probably be looking at the U21 slot as well as Deyan and Ryan). Had similar game time to Ryan Huddart with 21 starts – 9 U18 League games, all 5 FA Youth Cup games and all 7 UEFA Youth League games. He kept a total of 4 clean sheets but conceded 34 goals. Again very similar numbers to Ryan.
Joao Virginia – Portugese, born 10/10/99 will be looking to make the U18 slot his own next year, was injured for much of the season but took over at U18 level at the end of the campaign starting 6 times and conceding 11 goals with no clean sheets.
Three schoolboys featured for the U18 team; Philips (2 starts and 9 Unused substitute), Perrin (2 Unused substitute) and Daniel Barden (9 Unused substitute). Other than to wish them well in their futures I have no further data on them.
Calum Chambers made 3 appearances for the U21s – as he is already an established member of the first team squad I am not going to talk about him further. Schoolboy Toby Omole played one game at U18 level and again I’m not going to say anything further.
Taking the other players in decreasing age order again :-
Stefan O’Connor – Born 23 Jan 1997 just qualified as an U18 player last season but will only qualify at U19 and U21 levels next year. He made three starts and two sub appearances and was on the bench a further 5 times. He had a brief loan spell at York City where he played 4 games predominantly at right back. I don’t know why he made so few starts last season, in the games I’ve seen he has always struck me as a decent player. Will need to get much more game time this next season.
Julio Pleguezuelo – Spanish, born 26 Jan 1997 so three days younger than Stefan. Will only qualify for U19 and U21 games next season. Julio is another of the youngsters who came to us from Barcelona. Last season he played 31 games, scored 2 goals and got one yellow card. He can also play at right back. He has captained whenever he has played and is a confident ball player. Not particularly tall for a centre back at 1.8m but reads the game well. He will be looking for first team experience next season as he has probably progressed as far as he can in U21 football. If he has a good pre-season could just make the squad for us but a season long loan at Championship level is more probable. Definitely one to look for for the 2017 season though.
Krystian Bielik – Polish, born 4 Jan 1998 so will still qualify as as U18 player next season. Came to us as a promising Defensive Midfielder but has played as a Centre Back in the vast majority of his 30 starts this season (he started in 4 Youth Cup, 5 UEFA Youth League and 21 U21 games). He is tall at 1.98m which probably explains us moving his position. He has retained his midfielder’s instincts and sometimes over-commits with driving runs forward. Krystian is probably the nearest of the three to the first team squad and with a good pre-season may well force himself into contention, the question is will it be at Centre Back or Holding Midfield?
Kristopher Da Graca – Swedish, born 16 Jan 1998 so will still qualify as an U18 player next season. 23 starts this year, mostly for the U18s but 6 for the U21s. No goals and one yellow card. Will look to move up to the U21s and will also probably feature in the Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League.
Kostas Pileas – Greek, born 11 December 1998 so another player who will qualify at U18 level next year. 19 starts this year – all but one for the U18s, one goal and no cards. Kostas either plays at CB or LB. Has struggled at times and may well commence next season still in the U18s but will not want to stay at that level for long.
Tolaji Bola– born 4 Jan 1999. Tolaji is not related to Marc Bola but plays in the same position so it is just possible that I may have confused some of the numbers for the two players – if that is the case them my sincere apologies to both. (As I said before Arsenal.com only give the minimum of data on junior players and that is usually only the Surname so it is a little confusing if Bola appears as both starter and substitute). Tolaji will still be U18 next season and is another player whom I would expect to start the season at that level. Like Kostas though he will certainly be looking to step up to the U21s sooner rather than later.
Other than Julio, there were two specialist Right Backs used at U21 and one at U18 level. In the balance of games the position was probably filled in by players listed as midfielders or wingers.
Tafari Moore – born 5 July 1997 made 18 starts – 3 in the UEFA Youth League and 15 for the U21s. No goals and one yellow card. Will still qualify at U18 level next year but has already outgrown that level of football. Will certainly be looking for first team football next year but I suspect that will probably be via a loan spell.
Chiori Johnson is slightly younger than Tafari – born 5 October 1997, again will qualify at U18 level next year but is far more likely to play at a higher level. Choiri had an injury hit season (knee) which prevented him playing for most of the season. He made only 7 starts, starting in the U18 game against Aston Villa at the end of January. Not surprisingly he was rusty at first but by the end of the season was back to his level of the previous year. In my opinion and assuming no further injury problems, he will become as good as Bellerin – different but definitely one to watch for the future.
One of Tafari or Chiori will be the starting player in this position next year at U21 level and have regular sessions as part of the first team squad, the other will almost certainly go out on a season long loan at Championship level. Who knows if Debuchy moves on and Jenkinson isn’t fully fit at the start of the season they might even appear on our first team bench. Very difficult to say which of the two will get which option.
Jordi Osei-Tutu – born 2 October 1998. Jordi joined Arsenal at the start of the season from Reading’s academy. He made 22 starts, 21 for the U18s and one in the UEFA Youth League. He will certainly be looking to move up to U21 level at some time during the season but will probably start off in the U18s.
There are only two specialist Left Backs listed in either Arsenal.com or Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Youth web site and both have featured predominantly at U18 level this year. Looking back at the starters for the U21 games the CB pairing has usually been Krystain Bielik and Julio Pleguezuelo so it seems logical that Marc Bola will have had most of his starts in the LB role, He is listed as either CB or LB.
Marc Bola – born 9 December 1997 so will still qualify as an U18 player next season, Marc plays either as Centre or Left Back (so the numbers are a tad confusing to unravel and Arsenal.com give out no positional data with their match reports). 26 starts this season, mostly at UI21 level, scored one goal and got one yellow card. Will quite possibly be looking for a loan spell next season to further his experience, too soon for him to be a contender for our first team at the moment.
Ilias Chatzitheodoridis – Greek, born 5/11/97 so will still qualify as an U18 player next season. He made 20 starts all in U18 League games. Has struggled at times but at other times seems to be getting the hang of things. A long way from contention for the first team but will certainly be looking to progress towards the U21 team next season. Has a lot of work to do.
Tyrell Robinson – born 16 Sept 1997, again will still qualify as an U18 player for next season. Tyrell can play either at left back or left wing. He made 15 starts, 12 at U18 and 3 at U18 level so would seem to be ahead of Ilias at the moment. Will be looking for far more involvement at U21 level and will probably feature in the FIFA Youth League as well.
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