by Andrew Crawshaw
One of the big cries last season was for Arsenal to “get rid of the deadwood”. The club certainly seem to have addressed the number of players within the club and one way or another have moved on no fewer than 25 players. Some were well known and high ranking, others barely heard of other than for a few of us who follow the junior teams.
Here is the full list
8 members of last season’s first team squad have moved on:-
Per Mertesacker – retired from playing at the end of a long and distinguished career. His home town club was Hannover 96 where he progressed through their junior ranks before making his first team debut in 2003. He moved to Werder Bremen in 2006 and joining Arsenal on transfer deadline day in 2011. A German World Cup winner in 2014 with 104 international caps scoring four goals, he lifted the FA Cup on three occasions with Arsenal. He has taken on the role as Head of our Academy so the club have retained his vast experience and footballing knowledge. Never the fastest of defenders he nevertheless usually seemed to me to get himself in the right place at the right time and his long legs normally ended up with the ball at his feet or clear from danger.
Santi Cazorla – Following a long injury which seemed at one point to be likely to end his playing career (and quite likely his ability to do anything more than walk) Santi was released at the end of his contract. Santi joined us from Malaga in Summer 2012 and made 180 appearances for us scoring 29 goals. He was the most two footed player I have ever seen and his ability to play one-twos with himselg to wriggle out of tight spaces was mesmerising. One of the most popular members of the Arsenal Squad, his song is sure to be heard throughout the stadium should he ever make an appearance at the ground. Santi has returned to Spain and has a contract with Villareal. I wish him every success and hope that he makes as full a recovery from his injury as is possible.
Jack Wilshere – Jack needs very few words from me; an Arsenal boy from the age of nine he seemed to have the world at his feet. I remember seeing him in an Emirates Cup competition aged 16 when he won man of the match awards on both days putting in performances of astonishing maturity and quality and totally bossing the midfield. Unfortunately a string of poor challenges from far less skilful players gradually diminished his effectiveness and his ankles. He made his debut for the first team in September 2008 (becoming our youngest ever debutante at 16 years and 256 days) and played a total of 197 appearances (surprisingly few due to his injury record). He declined to sign a new contract and moved to West Ham on a free transfer.
Lucas Perez – Lucas also joined West Ham on a permanent basis having failed to establish a first team place. He joined us from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016 and scored 7 times in his 21 appearances.
Joel Campbell – Joel joined us in 2011 from Deportivo Saprissa and seems to have been on almost permanent loans ever since. He has made 40 first team appearances but like Lucas Perez failed to convince either Arsene Wenger or Unai Emery that he possesses the necessary quality to be a regular starter. He has left to join Frosinone Calcio in Serie A.
David Ospina – Our No 2 goalkeeper from last year left the club on loan to Napoli following the arrival of Bernd Leno. David joined us from Nice in 2014 and has made 70 appearances in all competitions winning two FA Cups and Community Shields. He has two years left on his contract.
Calum Chambers – Calum, rather surprisingly was allowed to join Fulham on Loan on Transfer Deadline day. He and the club clearly thought that he would get a higher game time there than at Arsenal. He joined us from Southampton in 2014 and has 82 appearances in his time with the club. Still regarded as one for the future it will be interesting to see how he gets on on the banks of the Thames.
Takuma Asano – Takuma is a player who none of us have seen properly so far. He joined us in 2016 from Japanese J1 League Sanfrecce Hiroshima. So far he has failed to qualify for a UK work permit and has spent his time out on loan in Germany, firstly with VfB Stuttgart and for this season with Hannover96. He still hasn’t earned sufficient caps for Japan to qualify for a work permit and it is hard to imagine that changing soon.
We have four members of our U23 squad who are listed as being out on loan:-
Matt Macey – Matt is a 23 year old goalkeeper who made two first team appearances last year against Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League and Norwich in the Carabao Cup. He has joined League 1 side Plymouth Argyle in order to gain more first team experience. Despite our ‘clear out’ of goalkeepers Matt has a lot to do this year to keep a slot open at the club and it wouldn’t be entirely a surprise if he leaves on a permanent basis at the end of the year.
Krystian Bielik – Krystian joined us in Jan 2015 from Polish side Legia Warsaw where he was a defensive midfielder, we converted him to a Centre Back because of his size, but he was always willing to adopt a midfield role whenever the situation on the pitch allowed him to (and sometimes when it didn’t). He has probably outgrown U23 football and needs a regular spell of first team football to progress. I hope very much that his loan spell with Charlton gives him the necessary opportunities. His early games have seen him play as DM and also score his first first team goal.
Kelechi Nwakali – Kelechi joined us aged 18 from Nigeria but wasn’t granted a UK Work Permit despite his international experience at U18 level. He spent 2016/17 in the Dutch second division with MVV Maastricht where he made 34 appearances scoring three times. Last season he remained in Holland but moved up to the Eredivisie with VWW Venlo scoring once in 11 appearances. This season he will be in Portugal with Porto. He still has time on his side to earn his work permit and show what he is capable of in Arsenal colours.
Reiss Nelson – Reiss made a rather surprising deadline day move to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Fortunately for Arsenal he did sign a contract extension first. Reiss was one of the standout players for our U23s last season and won the Division Player of the Year award. He has the potential to become a real world star and we should all watch his progress in Germany
Four U23 players made permanent transfers to other clubs:-
Jeff Reine-Adelaide – Jeff went back to France where he will play for Ligue 1 side Angers. Jeff joined us in 2015 from Ligue 2 side Racing Club Lens where he featured in their youth teams. A powerful attacker or midfielder, I feel that we only rarely saw the best of him. Without doubt he has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure if he has the necessary application.
Chuba Akpom – 22 year old Chuba has seemed to be around the club in one way or another for ever. He actually joined the academy aged six and appeared for our U18s when aged 15. A prolific striker coming through the youth ranks but strangely failed to kick on during a series of loan spells. He has joined Greek Super League side PAOK Salonica. I hope that we have a good sell-on clause in his contract because if he regains his mojo he will be a real handful for defenders in any league in the world.
Joao Virginia – another of our young goalkeepers too low down the pecking order to stand any realistic chance of breaking through into our first team Joao has transferred to Everton in the hope of more meaningful opportunities.
Stephy Mavididi – 20 year old Stephy, like Chuba was another prolific striker in our junior ranks but was overtaken by the rapid rise of Eddie Nketiah (two years his junior). Had he stayed with Arsenal he would have spent most of his time with the U23s a level of football he has really outgrown. With no obvious opportunities at Arsenal he has decided to make a clean break and move to Juventus in Italy. I would expect most of his football there this year will be with their ‘B’ team but he will be looking to impress sufficiently to move up to the first team as quickly as possible.
There were 9 youngsters released on the expiry of their professional contracts, none deemed good enough to earn renewals
Hugo Keto – our young Finnish goalkeeper Hugo was a rather surprising departure, I had thought that he had a reasonably secure place as keeper for our U23s this year but he decided to move to theSouth Coast with Brighton
Vlad Dragomir – a wonderful name and a solid enough performer at U18 level but failed to ‘kick on’ at U23 level.
Ryan Huddart – yet another young keeper (the trouble is that the turn over of keepers at top level is far less than with other positions and so unless they are outstanding young keepers rarely stand much chance).
Tafari Moore – Right Back but unlikely to threaten Hector Bellerin for the first team.
Chiori Johnson – another right back and unusual in that he was a defender first. I was sorry he failed to make the grade at Arsenal as his Dad is a friend of my daughter but I have to say that ultimately he isn’t good enough. He has moved to Bolton and I wish him every success for his future.
Yassin Fortune – a striker signed at the same time as the Jeff. Sadly a series of injuries prevented him progressing as he would have liked.
Aaron Eyoma – another right back or right midfielder, represented us up to U23 level.
Alex Crean – the youngest of our goalkeepers released.
Marc Bola – a left back, Marc was a regular for the youth teams up to the U23s. Marc has now joined Blackpool.
All of us here at Untold wish to thank all of these players for their efforts at Arsenal and hope that their future life choices have positive outcomes – unless they play against an Arsenal side of course!
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