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June 2021

The Arsenal Youngsters 2017/18: complete review and the 8 marked out for the big time

by Andrew Crawshaw

Please note that where I haven’t mentioned a player’s nationality he will be English.  There are also a number of other players who I haven’t included where they are already part of the first team squad or where I believe that their futures are likely to be away from the club either through being sold or going out on loan.

The U18s

Of all of the players who appeared for Arsenal last year, 24 will still be eligible to represent the club at the U18 level this coming year.  The most important thing for the First Year Scholars will be to get enough game time and impress sufficiently to earn their first professional contracts.


Joao Virginia – Now classified as a Young Professional, 18 in September this year,  Portuguese, has been with the club since August 2015, will qualify as home grown.  He is likely to be the starting goalkeeper at this level for the season.

Alex Crean – Young Professional – 18 on 1st January next year, a Scottish player, been with the club since September 2016 so will also qualify as home grown.  Likely to be the main backup to Joao.

Arthur Onkwonko – Still classified as a schoolboy will be hoping to earn a first year scholarship with his performances during the year.  18 in September 2019, still qualifies for the U16 team for this next season but will be looking to move up a level if the opportunity arises.

Daniel Barden – Schoolboy, made the bench on a few occasions this last year, will be looking for further opportunities.

Centre Backs

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Daniel Ballard – First Year Scholar, will be 18 in September.

Joseph Olowu – First Year Scholar, will be 18 in November.

Zech Medley – A first Year Scholar, will be 18 in July 2018

Toby Omole – as well as CB can also play as defensive midfield.  A first Year Scholar who will be 18 in December.

Right and Left Back

I have no-one listed as a specialist in these positions so there is scope (and need) for midfielders or attackers to be converted to cover these positions.


Dominic Thompson – First Year Scholar is listed as a right winger – he will be 18 in July 2018

Josh Benson – First Year Scholar, will be 18 in May 2017

Nathan Tormey – First Year Scholar, will be 18 in May 2018

Robbie Burton – First Year Scholar, will be 18 in Dec 2017

Xavier Amaechi – Schoolboy, still qualifies for U16 level this season, will be looking for game time to set out a claim to become a scholar for next season.


Tyrece John-Jules – Schoolboy.  Another youngster who is still eligible for U16 matches this season again will be looking to impress and get the coveted Scholarship deal next Spring.

Emile Smith-Rowe – First Year Scholar, will be 18 in February 2018

Jay Beckford – First Year Scholar, turned 18 earlier in June this year

There is plenty of spaces that will be taken by players emerging from last year’s U16 team. I will identify those later as and when there is some further clarity as to who they might be.

There are a further 8 players who I am including in the U23 squad as I believe that they have outgrown the U18 level and they certainly need to move up in order to continue their development.

U23 Squad


We have too many goalkeepers age qualified at this level. Matt Macey will be spending his time with the first team and, probably, one of Deyan Iliev or Ryan Huddart will be sold or go out on loan.

Matt Macey – Young Professional will be 23 in September so will have to take one of the 25 man senior squad places.  If retained Matt will be spending most of his time with the First Team squad, but may well play at U23 level to retain match sharpness as well as Cup and Europa League matches.  Matt is currently the No 4 ranked keeper at the Club, behind Cech, Ospina and Szcz, is highly regarded and quite competent should he be asked to move up the rankings in the event of movements/injuries to those above him.  I would have no worries about him being our No 3 keeper and it wouldn’t cause me particular problems were he to become our No 2 either.

Deyan Iliev – Young Professional and Macedonian (but will qualify as home grown).  Deyan is over 21 and so would also require one of the senior squad places.  My feeling is that he will be sent out on loan for first team experience.

Hugo Keto – Young Professional; Finish nationality (but will qualify as home grown).  Turned 19 in February so will certainly be retained and will look to challenge Ryan Huddart and make the goalkeeping position at this level his own.

Ryan Huddart – Young Professional and turned 20 in May this year.  Will almost certainly be the No 1 Keeper at this level this year and will be looking to make the squad at least for Cup games against suitable opposition.  Long term progression to the first team looks problematic and will certainly require some of those ahead of him in the ’pecking order’ to leave the club.  He will need to play well throughout the season to press a case for inclusion into the senior 25 man squad as our No 3 keeper.

Central Defenders

Julio Pleguezuelo – Young professional; Spanish (but will qualify as Home Grown) has nothing to learn from returning to play at this level.  A further loan is probable as it is too soon to give up on his chances of making the first team squad.  May well feature in the pre-season as a number of our First Team squad may well be on holiday due to involvement in the various international tournaments.  Was on loan at Mallorca last season.

Marc Bola – Young Professional (and not related to Tolaji).  Can also play at Left Back, now 19 he will turn 20 in December.  Still has some time on his side to improve and show the necessary skills and attributes to become a first team player.  This year is likely to be one of consolidation for Marc but he will be disappointed if he doesn’t make the squad for cup games against suitable opposition.

Ben Sheaf – Young Professional is listed as a central midfielder but has more normally been deployed at Centre Back in recent months and has adapted well.  He turned 19 this last February and is likely to be a first pick for the coming season.

Clearly two CBs are insufficient, particularly if the U23s move to a back three to mirror the first team.  Calum Chambers and Rob Holding are both age qualified and may well get game time to retain match fitness but both (if retained) will be spending most of their time with the first team.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see one or two new recruits being signed over summer.

Right Back/Wingback

Chiori Johnson – Chiori is an Arsenal rarity, a fullback who likes defending, has made good progress through the years, but probably needs to show rather more than he has often done.  I like him as a player but I’m honestly not sure he has quite what it takes to succeed in the PL.

Aaron Eyoma – Young Professional will be 20 in September this year also plays right wing so could be a good fit if the U23s mirror the first team with a back three and wingbacks.  Not as competent as Chiori in defensive terms but probably a better attacker.

Left Back/Wingback

Tolaji Bola – Young Professional, can also play CB.  Turned 18 in April this year so could also play at U18 level if required.  Will be looking very closely at the situation that Cohen Bramall finds himself in and will be looking to take over the left back position for himself.

Cohen Bramall – Cohen turned 22 this February and will probably need to be allocated a precious slot in out 25 man senior squad if he is retained.  He joined us in January on a two year contract from Non-League Hedensford in a real fairy tale signing.  He is extremely quick and has learned a lot in the half season playing for the U23s last year but I’m honestly not sure he is ready to challenge for the wing back position for the first team yet.  If it is possible to keep him for a second year at U23 level without including him in the 25 man squad I would do it but I’m not sure if that is possible within the player registration rules.


Charlie Gilmour – Young Professional, turns 18 in November this year, so still could play at the lower U18 level but that wouldn’t encourage further development.

Marcus McGuane – Young Professional, very competent Defensive Midfielder who I rate quite highly.  Likely to be a mainstay at this level, involved with the first team on occasions and may well feature in the Cup squads and also in pre-season.

Vlad Dragomir – Young Professional, Romanian and another player whom I rate very highly.  Will be another main player at U23 level this coming season and another whom I would expect to be knocking very firmly on the doors of the first team squad as the season progresses.  And what a fabulous name!

Ismael Bennacer – Young Professional.  He is French (although will qualify as home grown).  He will be 20 in December this year.  He spent the second half of last season out on loan and Arsène said of him that whilst unspectacular he is one of those players who once you put him into the team you don’t take him out again.  I would expect him to feature in pre-season and there is an outside chance of him making a sufficient impression to make the first team squad for this coming season.

Savvas Mourgos – Young Professional, Greek (but will qualify as home grown).  Savvas is now 19 so is still maturing and will be a squad player at this level this season.  He has some way to go before ensuring his long term future with the Club.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be part of the first team squad for next season.  He was part of the England U20 World Cup winning squad earlier this month and is currently a utility midfielder competent almost anywhere.  If we are daft enough to allow The Ox to leave this summer, I would regard Ainsley as pretty much a direct replacement.


Donyell Malen – Young Professional, Dutch but will qualify as home grown.  Turned 18 in January this year; still qualifies as an U18 player but will be a mainstay of the U23s this coming year.  Will also be expecting to be involved in the first team squad during the course of the season and will probably get game time during pre-season and Cup games against lower ranked teams

Edward Nketiah – Young Professional.  English, turned 18 in May this year has been a prolific goalscorer at every level since he joined Arsenal aged 14 from Chelsea.  He will certainly be vying with Donyell for the starting position in attack for the coming season and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him making a full first team league debut during this year.  He is no Mbappe in terms of physical presence but one of the best finishers at any level at the club.

Reiss Nelson – Young Professional.  English; usually plays from the wing and has been regarded as one of the brightest of our young prospects for some time.  Currently only 17 he has certainly outgrown the U18s and will be looking to cement a place in the U23s and make the breakthrough to the first team squad this year.  Another player who we should expect to see during both pre-season and as part of the Cup squads.

Yassin Fortune – Young Professional, French but will qualify as home grown, he joined the club at the same time as Reine-Adelaide but his development has been hampered by a number of injuries which has opened up a gap between the two players in terms of his development.  He turned 18 at the end of January.  Will be hoping to remain fit and play the full season establishing himself in the U23 team.

Joshua DaSilva – Young Professional will be 19 in October, hasn’t got the same profile as some of the other forwards at this level but will be looking for sufficient game time to change that as the season progresses.  It is difficult to see a long term future at Arsenal without him having a spectacular breakout season.

Kaylen Hinds – Young Professional turned 19 in January this year is in pretty much the same situation as Joshua.  Both can count themselves somewhat unlucky to have higher profile players around who are a year or two younger than them.

My tips for 8 players to look out for this season.

  • Goalkeeper –  Matt Macey (I expect him to prove to be a solid backup to Petr Cech and banish thoughts of Szcz and Ospina to distant memory.  In a couple of years I expect himto take over as our No1 with Cech staying on as No2 and mentor)
  • Left wingback – Cohen Bramall (if he is retained it will be because he has the ability to surpass both Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal buy the end of the season)
  • Midfielders – Marcus McGuane (a quietly impressive DM), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (fabulous player with great drive, a real star in the making) and Ismael Bennacer (less obvious than the other two but another very effective player, will probably never be a ‘star’ but will provide the ‘glue’ that holds things together)
  • Forwards – Donyell Malen, Edward Nketiah and Reiss Nelson  All are quite capable of producing the sort of breakout season that has propelled Mbappe to the top of the wanted list this season

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15 comments to The Arsenal Youngsters 2017/18: complete review and the 8 marked out for the big time

  • crispen

    You may need to relook at your goal keeper situation. You left out our best young keeper.The Argentinian guy.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Crispen, Thanks, Emi Martinez is indeed above Matt Macey in the goalkeeping pecking order. His future at the club is linked with Szcz, Ospina and Macey. I can see only two being at the club for next season and two being sold. The next couple of months should see that situation being clarified. Assuming he is retained, Emi will certainly be with the first team and not as an over age player for the U23 team.

  • Max Kerr

    Hi Andrew.

    Jon Toral.

    Kristian Bielik.

    Steffy Mavididi.

    Daniel Crowley.

    The Willock brothers.

    Are ALL leaving?

    I hope not. The Jeff might be in the first team squad again, but also still qualifies. Same status as Ainsley M-N.

  • Max Kerr

    Oh. And Zelalem?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Good work Andrew , keep it up.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    To think of it, why should Le Prof sells an effective mainstream Gunner of Oxlade Chamberlain caliber to another Premier League club especially if he wants to remain at Arsenal? If the rumour of his likely sales to Liverpool, Man City or West Ham in the media is to be believed, there are some first team Gunners who are currently on the fringe in the Arsenal first team squad amongst some can be sold.(excluding the CB Chambers) Some of whom were loaned out to other club sides last season and have since all reported back to the club at the end of last season.

    If Arsenal have to sell some first teamers to enabled them bring in the likely to be costly 1-2 new additions to their first team this summer, certainty, the Ox should not be a target for sales by Le Prof this summer, but should be kept and also extend his current deal at Arsenal. Despite he’s being an injury prone Gunner in which he had a limited injury spells last season that sidelined him for a little time, I think the Pacey Ox is a special quality Le Prof should try to resist the temptation of selling him this summer .

  • Andy Mack

    Max Kerr, Some of those guys are pretty much certain to go out on loan (maybe they’ll be sold but who knows…), other than the Willock boys that will leave.

  • Jammy J

    “Matt is currently the No 4 ranked keeper at the Club, behind Cech, Ospina and Szcz” You’ve completely forgotten about Martinez! With his inclusion, the whole segment about goalkeepers would have to be altered.

    Have always been very impressed with him and hope that he gets a lot more game-time in the coming seasons. Would hate to see him be sold.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Jammy, I have already apologised for this error, as regards the goalkeepers for the U23 team for this coming season I stick with what I have written. I will do a full article covering all of our keepers who are in contention for first team places in a day or so, unless you would like to do one, coherently argued articles by new authors are always welcomed. Please do submit one to Tony at the address on the web page.

  • Martinez has not been forgotten. He is already in the senior squad as third choice keeper this past season.

  • Oldham Gooner

    Cheers Andrew,

    Another facet of Untold’s charm is letting the punters like me know about our academy talent 🙂

    Always good news about our talented bunch, but wish them all well, wherever they ply their trade.

  • Leon

    I read on the BBC “gossip” section that Chris Willock was going to Benfica.
    The origin of the item was the Sunday Mirror, so unlikely.

  • Goonerdav

    Great insight into the youth setup. Thanks for the great article!

  • Atid

    So many players missing.
    Mavididi, Moore, osei-tutu and coyle amongst them

  • doc

    Ismael Bennacer was in the Algerian squad for this year’s African Cup of Nations.