First the cull, then the repercussions. After 15 youngsters saw their careers at the club come to an end last month, plans are now in place regarding how those players will be replaced.
One significant signing has already been made for the U18 squad, with highly-rated England U17 midfielder Dan Crowley completing his move to the club from Aston Villa last weekend. Crowley is certainly no stranger to the Arsenal coaching staff having almost single-handedly orchestrated Villa’s victory over the young Gunners in the Academy League at London Colney towards the end of last season.
The midfielder does not turn 16 until August but possesses vision and a sense of calm in possession that belie his years. It will be especially interesting to see how he is deployed during his first season at the club, with a range of other midfield talents- including Chuks Aneke, Gedion Zelalem, Kristoffer Olsson, Jon Toral and Jack Jebb also on the club’s books. It is expected that Crowley will commence in the U18s, but, should he impress sufficiently, could be elevated to the U21 set-up in the early months of the season.
French striker Yaya Sanogo is also expected to join, although once that deal is complete he is likely to take a place in the first-team squad, whilst, according to reports emanating from Italy last night, the club are also in talks to sign Aleksandar Mitrovic, an 18 year old Serbian striker who currently plays for Partizan Belgrade.
Add that to the impending deal to sign Barcelona defender Julio Pleguezuelo Selva, and the possible captures of several players who have been on trial with the club in recent months, and it appears that there could be several incomings as well as outgoings at youth level this summer.
The U21 squad could certainly do with a few more arrivals. At present, following the mass clear-out, there are only 19 players who would fall into that age group that are not still eligible for the U18s, and, with the likelihood of injuries, first-team call-ups and loans to follow, that number will tumble rapidly as the season progresses, meaning that further recruits are likely.
The club have also yet to confirm where the U21s will be playing the majority of their home games next season following Barnet’s decision to leave Underhill. There was speculation that Arsenal could buy Barnet’s old ground, or instead play their second-string games at Boreham Wood, but perhaps the best option would be to make use of Barnet’s impressive new facility in Edgware, The Hive, which has a playing surface comparable to that at Emirates Stadium.