With this season’s Premier Academy League title no longer in Arsenal’s hands, attention is already beginning to turn to the next campaign and the exciting new crop of individuals which coach Steve Bould will have at his disposal in 2012/13.
Several members of this contingent have spent this season training full time at London Colney and so should not find the progression to the under-18 side too difficult a challenge, whilst others have spent this year completing their studies whilst also turning out for the club at under-16 level.
Two of the most prominent individuals in this group are Chuba Akpom and Jack Jebb, who are both graduates of the club’s Hale End Academy and have both represented England up to under-17 level. Both players have also been something of a regular presence in the under-18 squad this season, despite still technically being schoolboys. Akpom, a skilful attack minded player who can operate anywhere across the attacking line, scored a crucial late winner against West Ham back in December and followed that up with another strike in the 5-0 trouncing of Portsmouth. Central midfielder Jebb, meanwhile, has recovered from an injury that kept him out over the Christmas period, but, when fit, has shone with his vision and passing ability.
Left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill received a shock call-up to train with the Arsenal first-team squad prior to the first leg of the Champions League tie with AC Milan despite having made just one appearance at under-18 level. Quick and a good crosser of the ball, he should feature more regularly next season, as should hard working forward Austin Lipman, who has been in good goalscoring form for the under-16s throughout this season.
German centre back Leander Siemann, signed from Hertha Berlin last summer but as yet untested at under-18 level, will look to prove his worth next campaign and will surely benefit from working under the tutelage of Bould, whilst goalkeeper Josh Vickers has been an unused substitute on several occasions for the under-18s without featuring. In the meantime, he has made some good saves at under-16 level and should receive some game time with the older age group next season, although the current custodian at that level, Reice Charles-Cook, may still feature as an overage player.
In addition to the acquisition of Siemann, two players have also been recruited from much closer to home. The signing of tricky winger Tarum Dawkins from Luton Town attracted some publicity, whilst the club have also signed centre back Tom Dallison from West Ham. Both players will be eased in slowly to the set up, but will be hopeful of being regular starters for Bould’s side by the end of next season.
The final three scholars are all graduates of the aforementioned Hale End Academy. England under-16 winger Alex Iwobi, the nephew of former Bolton player Jay-Jay Okocha, is one to look out for with his speed and trickery, whilst Alfred Mugabo, also a winger, travelled to the FIFA U-17 World Cup with Rwanda last summer. Arinse Uade, a Nigerian-affiliated defender who can play at both centre-back and left-back, completes the set.