Category Archives: Reserves & Youths

Arsenal’s European Legion

Arsene Wenger will be busy this summer in the transfer market, but when looks at bringing players in he has to negotiate carefully as there is a small army of Arsenal players who were scattered  throughout Europe.

Of the players plying their trade, Pedro Botelho is the most likely player to make the Arsenal first team squad this season.  He is a left sided, pacy player, initially a left-back.  He has spent two years in Spain, playing for Celta Vigo and last season for FC Cartagena where he played on wing and had a very successful season. With the imminent departure of Gael Clichy, Botelho will provide adequate back-up to Kieran Gibbs.

The player that Wenger would love to get back to the Emirates is Ryo Miyaichi. Arsenal signed the young Japan player in January this year, but loaned him out to Feyernoord.  So good was Ryo that he held his own in the Eerdivisie and made 12 appearances scoring 3 goals. So impressed have the Dutch been that he has been given the name “Ryodinho” and been compared to both Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo.  If Arsenal fans are to see Myaichi next season, it will require the club to get a work permit as an exceptional talent.

Another youngster who has excited Wenger is the Brazilian striker Wellington.  Arsenal tracked this lad for several seasons before finally landing the striker in January.  Once again British red-tape meant that Wellington had to go to Spain and play for Levante, or in Wellington’s case not play.  He had several disagreements with the coaching staff so his playing time was restricted.  Wenger believes that this striker can make the grade now rather than later, but once again it will depend on getting a work permit; otherwise it is another season on loan in Spain.

The most likely player to make the grade next season is Francis Coquelin.  He has spent two seasons at Arsenal, learning the trade in the reserves and making three first team appearances.  Initially bought as a midfielder, he was later switched to right-back. Coquelin spent last season at Ligue 1 club Lorient where he played in midfield making 25 appearances and scoring 1 gaol.  Coquelin has represented France at all levels up to under-20, he was part of the France squad that won the European under-19 championship last summer. This summer he is part of the France under-20 squad competing for the FIFA under-20 Championships.  It is this inclusion that could hamper his progress at Arsenal as he will be away with France from the end of July through to the middle of August.

Fellow France striker Gilles Sunu has trodden the same path as Coquelin.  Several season in Arsenal’s youth and reserve set-up followed by a couple of appearances for Arsenal and a loan spell at Derby County.  Sunu spent last season at Lorient. His loan spell at Lorient saw Sunu make 9 appearances and scoring 1 goal.  Sunu is also part of the France under-20 squad.  It is unlikely that we will see Sunu at Arsenal next season; I imagine he will have another season on loan at Lorient.

Last summer Arsenal signed the Bolivia winger Samuel Galindo, once again Galindo had to go to Spain and play for second division side UD Salamanca.  Galindo has also made his full international appearance for Bolivia.  Galindo will probably spend two more seasons on loan in Spain.  As with Vela and Botelho, he will gradually move up the ranks in terms of Spanish clubs to ensure that he is ready for first team action when he re-joins Arsenal.

Any signings by Wenger will have to take into account the progress of these players.  Arsenal have invested heavily in these players and Wenger will wish to incorporate this players into the first team squad sooner rather later.

Young Gun Recruitment

Whilst Arsene Wenger has been quiet in the transfer market with regards the first team, the same cannot be said with the youth recruitment programme.

Arsenal have signed Jamie Edge a centre half from Cheltenham Town. The youngster is 15 years old and will be one of many additions to the youth set up this summer.

Arsenal’s second youth signing was Martin Angha another centre half, who previously played for FC Zurich.  Some reports state that Angha will play with FC Zurich until January. 

Arsenal returned to Switzerland to secure the signing of another centre half, 16-year-old defender Sead Hajrovic from Grasshoppers for a fee of around £300,000.  This makes three centre backs for Steve Bould to add to another great defender in Ignasi Miguel. 

Arsenal are also looking closely at three forwards.  Frank Noble, who has left Chelsea’s academy and could be heading for Arsenal is the first.  Flumenese’s young striker Wellington is in England and a decision will be made this week.  Any deal will see the youngster go on loan to UD Salamanca for the next two years.  Wellington was in England in January, so the coaching staff know what to expect.

The third is FK Bubamara striker Veljko Batrović.  He has been invited to Arsenal for a trial, however the club Chairman Budom Miranović sees this as a mere formality as he stated on recently:

“Nothing is specified, but it is almost certain that Veljko will soon become a member of Arsenal’s Academy.”

“Nothing is yet finished, but Veljko will go to a club with the strongest agreement, not only for Bubamara, but for Montenegro football in general. The details we’ll talk about when the time comes.”

These will not be the only additions to the youth team, as Arsenal are expected to complete the signing of Feyenoord winger Luc Castaignos in the coming weeks.

Arsenal Reserve Fixtures Announced

The Reserve fixtures were announced today and are available to view on Arsenal.com.

Normally I would not get excited about such an event and would skip past this “Breaking News”, but this season’s fixtures need a second look.  In fact if you look a second time you would see what a farce Reserve team football is.

Arsenal have two games in August, one in September and then two in October, November is more meaningful with a four games whilst December and January have one each.  We then have games in February, three in March and the season ends on 5 April.

How are players supposed to be ready for the first team if they have such big gaps between games?  How is Neil Banfield supposed to get some continuity in his team if the team rarely plays two weeks in a row?  The reserves are meant to be the next step for the very successful and all conquering FA Youth Cup winning team, but they must be wondering what they have let themselves in for, players like to train all week and then the training culminates in a match, not for our reserves.

Tottenham withdrew from the FA Premier Reserve League South and when you see what we have to deal with I do not blame them. Banfield will be spending most of the next few weeks trying to organise friendlies against reserve teams from clubs in the Championship.

This state of play cannot be allowed to continue, the football authorities need to look at what is happening and change things.  I have advocated our reserve team be allowed to enter League 2, or even the Conference League.  At least then the boys will get meaningful games, week in week out.

Coquelin Arsenal’s Makelele

Last summer on the recommendations of Giles Grimandi Arsenal signed a young French midfielder from Stade Laval. As with most of Arsenal’s French signings Francis Coquelin was a mystery.

He made his debut against Barnet and also played against Szombathelyi Haladás.  Even though the opposition on both occasions was not top rate, Francis showed great potential.  He was not fazed by the stage he was playing at, he continued to play his normal game.

He breaks up play with ease, and strokes the ball around the field bringing in others into play.  He has continued to perform in this manner all season both for the reserves and the all conquering youth team.

Coquelin is not a tall player, he stands at 5 foot 10, but neither were Makelele nor Lassana Diarra tall, yet they are acknowledged to be two of the best holding midfield players in the game.  Many commentators have compared Coquelin to his two compatriots.

Coquelin is an aggressive player and will be looking forward to a place in the pre-season squad to Austria this summer.  He will be looking to show Arsene that he is not far away from first team football.  He certainly has the attributes to make into the first team, but not to become a regular at this moment in time.

This is the dilemma facing Arsene this summer, with young players like Coquelin, Frimpong, Randall, Merida and Ramsey all pushing for a first team start if not this season then certainly next season, who does Arsene recruit without curtailing their progress.

Give time Coquelin will become a regular starter for Arsenal and will be an effective midfielder, giving us defensive cover for the back four, whilst also contributing to our attacking play.