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From humiliation at Sheff Wed to the Magnificent 7 youngsters in the space of 2 years.

by Tony Attwood

October 2015.  Expected to do their usual demolition job on a lower league team Arsenal lost to Sheffield Wednesday in the league cup 3-0.  True the Ox and Theo were injured early on, but even so it was a shock.  As were Mr Wenger’s statements afterwards, in which he said none of the youngsters he had played in that team were ready to progress.

It was an extremely rare moment of negativity by the boss, and made quite a few of us ponder in surprise.  “They are not ready to play at this level. None of them,” were his exact words.  It sounded ominous.  Among the players on show that night were Kamara, Bielik,  Bennacer and Iwobi.

Kamara went on loan to Southend and Colchester and was sold to Dundee for whom he has played four times this season.  Bielik went on loan to Birmingham (see below).  Bennacer was sold to Empoli, but Iwobi did come good as we know.

But it was such a downbeat moment it took a lot of us by surprise – or perhaps I should say it took me by surprise.  And now looking back I am wondering how in the space of just two years we have gone from that to a situation of failure to one in which we seem to be awash with kiddies.

We have had many youngsters who simply don’t make it, of course, but against this we have Coquelin, Bellerin, Ramsey, Wilshere, and indeed Iwobi all of whom have come up through the ranks to play in the present team, (and that is leaving out Theo who was already getting known by the time he came along).

And now we seem to have seven prospects at once just two years after a disaster night.  Of course it is more than likely that several will fall by the wayside or, like Chris Willock, demand some action now, but even so…, we are already seeing the breakthroughs, and we’re expecting exactly the opposite of Mr Wenger’s doomsday statement after the Sheffield defeat.  Which given the fact that there is no limit on the number of under 21s we can utilise, could be quite a bonus.

So, here’s the list of all seven…

Marcus McGuane  (Previously known as Marcus Agyei-Tabi)

Can play out wide, can play in defence, can play in the heart of midfield, can protect the back three or four, can go from box to box, has started to score as well.  Sickening isn’t it!

Played for the Republic of Ireland at under-17 level, and then after that went on to play for the England under-18s team.  Plays for Arsenal’s under 23s.   Came on as a substitute in the Europa League tie at Bate Borisov.

Joe Willock

Brother of Chris who left to go to the sunshine; Mr Wenger called him a “stylish midfielder with good passing range”.  His reward for getting into the team against BATE was an elbow in the face from Nemanja Milunovic, at the end of the first half.

But he can put himself about enough in the middle of the field to survive – as indeed he did playing next to Mohamed Elneny.

Reiss Nelson

Everyone knows about him by now and the great thing is he seems to be able to take the praise and get on with the playing.  The phrases being used are that he can “make something happen out of seemingly nothing” and “tracks back diligently” although when asked to play at the back, he seemed to lose track of what his role was.  He can play off either wing or in a central role behind the striker, and would probably  put in a shift in goal if needed.  He has played for the under-23s as well as in the Europa and for the England Under-18s.

Made his first team debut as a substitute against Cologne in the Europa League in the middle of the night (his parents might well have been worried about his bed time) and made his first start against Doncaster.  Then also started against BATE in the Europa League.

Vlad Dragomir

Vlad chose Arsenal instead of Internazionale when offered by Poli Timisoara in June 2015 and started playing for the under 18s the following season.

Like seemingly most of these guys he’s got a multiplicity of places he can play including the whole of midfield through to being a number 10 playmaker.  He signed a full pro contract after his first year at Arsenal and has moved up to the under 23s.

If anything, his development seems to have been on a pause this past year, but there is still every chance he can burst forwards again.

Jeff Reine Adelaide

Le Jeff signed from Lens and started to appear as a regular on the bench for the first team and got a starting place in the 3-0 win over Northampton in the league cup in September 2016. Mr Wenger described him as  “something special” but having made half a dozen first-team appearances in the cups he got hauled back by a serious injury which he seems only now to be slowly emerging from.

Ainsley Maitland Niles

He signed his first professional contract in October 2014. and on 9 December 2014 made his professional debut at the age of 17 years and 102 days in a Champs League game against Galatasaray, coming on for Ramsey at half time.  Arsenal won 3-0.  He was only second to Jack Wilshere in terms of being the youngest Arsenal player in the Champs League.   Four days after that he came on during the 4-1 win over Newcastle.

Among other games he’s turned in was the wonderful 0-5 away slaughter of Southampton, and played in the 5th round of the cup against Sutton.  He has played for England at under 17, under 18, under 19 (scoring against Germany), and in the England under 20 world cup squad.

Krystian Bielik

Bielik came to Arsenal for around £2.4m from Legia Warsaw in 2015, and played his first game for the club in that Sheffield Wednesday League Cup game in October 2015 and was part of the youth team that beat Villa to get promotion in May 2016.

He then went to Birmingham in January for a half-season loan and was playing regularly until Zola was dismissed and Redknapp became manager and instantly dropped Bielik, using him just in the last game through which they avoided relegation to the third tier.  After a bad start this season it was Redknapp who got the chop.

And where can you see these guys?

The next chances are October 19 (away to Red Star) and October 24, (home to Norwich).

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8 comments to From humiliation at Sheff Wed to the Magnificent 7 youngsters in the space of 2 years.

  • Gord

    Bielik is out until December recovering from shoulder surgery.

    http://www.90min.com/posts/5491747-photo-arsenal-youngster-krystian-bielik-gives-update-on-injury-after-undergoing-surgery

    That article is dated 2017/09/04

  • dats

    Don’t forget Eddie Nketieh – Lacazette rates him highly

  • Mandy Dodd

    I sense Wenger is going back to basics with this crop of youngsters, developing young players is clearly one of his passions.
    He cannot compete with countries owning clubs, but he can do one of the things he does best, bring the kids through.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I don’t know if Marcus MCGuane has a good body frame as I’ve not googled him to know his physical profile. If he has, fine. But if he’s of the average body frame, good. And if he’s small framed, no problem provided he has the footballing attributes of Santi Cazorla which will make him outstanding. What seems to be of mind boggling about him is his ability to play in at anywhere on the field of play. A multipurpose utility player who can be made to play at anywhere on the field for Arsenal is desirous to have in the Arsenal first team but if he has the upper side of mental, technical, physical and tactical qualities in him which’ll make him attain such a unique position uncommon. He should become a good Arsenal player in the very near future. But he must work very hard and keep to self discipline eschewing all the anti-disciplines.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    What I would like to see is an entire team of Arsenal acedemy and youth products.
    And being supported to the hilt by former players and the loyal fans . Only wishing them well in all their exertopns and endeavpurs , as well praising their achievements .
    And they say I’m a dreamer ….but not the only one !

  • GoonerEd25

    Jeff Reine-Adélaïde made his debut against Nottingham Forest in the league cup last season; we have not played Northampton (other than friendliest) in my time as a fan (1985 onwards). And to complete the pedantry, we beat Galtasaray 4-1 the night Ainsley debuted.

    I’ll get my coat.

  • GoonerEd you might be right and I am not going to spend time looking it up, but I rather suspect that Le Jeff made his first start against Forest. I seem to remember him popping up as a sub before that.

  • GoonerEd25

    I looked it up (well, what else is there to do on an International Saturday); he had made 2 sub appearances the previous season against Sunderland (9.1.16) & Hull City (8.3.16), both in FA cup ties.

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