World Cup provides young centre-backs with opportunity


Pre-season, particularly in a World Cup year, can be a perfect opportunity for young professionals to prove their worth as they attempt to make the first-team squad.

This year, with Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou (the latter is still technically an Arsenal player) all having reached the Last 16 of the World Cup with their respective countries, there is likely to be an opening for at least one of the club’s young centre-backs.

Ignasi Miquel, back from an indifferent loan spell at Leicester City, is in a do or die situation as far as his Arsenal career is concerned. The Spaniard will turn 22 in September and would be required to be named in the club’s senior squad in the Premier League if he is to be eligible for that competition this season.

Beyond him, Semi Ajayi could finally represent the first-team in pre-season having trained with Arsene Wenger’s side on numerous occasions last season following his move from Charlton Athletic. An imposing presence at the heart of the defence who has been capped by Nigeria at youth level, Ajayi does still have some flaws in his game which need addressing, most notably his passing range.

Perhaps Arsenal’s most promising young central-defender is Julio Pleguezuelo, the latest in a growing line of prospects plucked from Barcelona’s La Masia Academy. Although not the tallest, Plegeuzuelo, is, as would be expected, very adept in possession, whilst his positioning also improved commendably during his first season in North London. At just 17, it may be a little early for him to earn a permanent promotion this Summer, but he could well make an impression in training.

With the first-team centre-backs not due to return until the end of July or possibly even later, depending on their progress in the tournament, it will be especially interesting to see who Wenger deploys in that position during the pre-season programme. With three friendlies to fulfil, he may opt to play some players out of position (perhaps Carl Jenkinson, who can cover in central-defence if needed), but the chances are that Miquel and Ajayi will receive a considerable amount of game time.

If either of them was to impress sufficiently, they may well earn themselves a place in the squad for next season.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


  1. I am surprised that there is no mention of Isaac Hayden. I reckon he might make a handful of first team appearances.

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  2. I like Miquel. He has always given his all when he get his chance in the first team. I’m hoping to see alot more from him in the coming season.

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  3. Well Plegeuzuelo signed a professional contract right at the end of the season past so he could be that fourth choice. Doubt it some how.

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  4. Would love to see some young English centre backs coming through to be the next Adams or Keown. There seems to be a real shortage in this country at the moment which is why we have been forced to use shitty Cahill and Jagielka. Arsenal have a good history of great English defenders would love to see that continue

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  5. I keep reading about how Julio Pleguezuelo isn’t the tallest, but I’d like to know exactly how tall (or short) he is. I can’t seem to find an official height listed anywhere.
    Having said that, Fabio Cannavaro was 5’9″ish, and look at what he’s achieved!

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  6. I’d love to see any of them make a push for promotion. But man, I miss Johan Djourou of 2010-2011. Confident, strong and intelligent. I’ll always appreciate a homegrown talent establishing his place in the starting 11 (however briefly). I guess we’ll never see that from him again in an Arsenal shirt but he was truly fulfilling his potential in those couple of months, as good as any CB in the league. I’ll never quite understand or get over the disappearance of that short-lived display of quality

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  7. Will we be ready defensively for our champions league qualifiers? This article has made me worry now. Not a nice way to start the day.

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  8. Jeorge, do the u21s have any friendly games in July? We seem to be one the of latest premier league teams to play a match as we don’t visit NY Red Bulls until 26 July. If the U21s had earlier friendly games organised, could we see some 1st team players play? I’m thinking of Ramsey, Arteta, Jenkinson, Rosicky, or Woicech.

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  9. Speaking of youth, any update on Gnabry, Zelalem and Eisfeld? It looks clear Ryo is on his way out, but the aforementioned three seems to go under the radar for many months now.

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  10. We need more English young guns, now Liverpool are beating us, they have the most English players in their team 🙂 the more foreign players come in the less our home grown comes through.

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  11. Contrary to what’s written in the article, Djourou signed permanently with Hamburg in April, unless my memory betrays me.

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  12. Puyol was about 5’10” and was a monster centre-back. No reason Julio Pleguezuelo can’t be either.

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  13. Our rivals are strengthening. I don’t know about you guys but I’m kinda scared. They said we need a holding midfielder. Fernando just moved to City. We could have gone for him

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  14. Obviously all manner of stuff could be going on behind the scenes or may already have been finalised, but why is it all our main rivals have had no problem adding one/two players to their squads already and we (as far as we know haven’t started yet?)
    (Assuming we are after him) if we lose out in the race for Sanchez for example because we are such slow starters in the transfer window I will be less than impressed!

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    • As you say ‘ all manner of stuff could be going on behind the scenes or may already have been finalised’.
      If something has been finalised (unlikely but possible), we’re unlikely to know until the Puma Kit deal comes into effect as the club/Puma wouldn’t want a new player appearing in the old Nike kit.

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  15. Off topic, but as per today’s blog, I’m suprised we’ve been linked with the chillian Vidal so soon.


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