Kyle Bartley confirmed last night via his Twitter account that he had completed a permanent move to fellow Premier League side Swansea City in time for the new campaign, and although the timing of his departure is a little surprising given that he was only recently promoted to the first-team squad, the move looks to suit all parties concerned.
Bartley, 21, had, despite his promotion, only been promised limited game time at Emirates Stadium this season barring a substantial injury crisis and found himself behind four comparatively experienced centre-backs in the pecking order at the club. Having only managed to make one competitive senior outing during his five years at the club, spending much of that time on loan at Sheffield United and Rangers, this move seems like the perfect opportunity for him to prove that he is capable of performing regularly in the Premier League.
Whether he will succeed in doing so remains to be seen, but in the long term it was highly unlikely that Bartley was going to make the grade at Arsenal. A commanding centre-back with a strong physique, he is often rash in his decision making and, at the highest level, such mistakes do not often go unpunished. His departure does mean another Academy graduate has failed to carve out a long-term career at the club, but Bartley will still be hoping to follow the likes of Sebastian Larsson and, before his cardiac arrest, Fabrice Mumaba, who went on to establish themselves as Premier League players.
Speaking of Bartley, his former club Bolton Wanderers will provide Arsenal’s first opponents this week in the newly formed Premier U21 and U18 leagues. The U18s travel to face the Trotters’ at their training ground tomorrow morning, whilst the two sides will also meet in the more senior age group at Emirates Stadium on Monday evening.
The latter fixture should provide the opportunity for some of the club’s supporters to witness the highly-rated members of the current crop in the flesh, with Serge Gnabry, Hector Bellerin, Kris Olsson, Jon Toral and Chuba Akpom all set to feature at some stage. The U18s meanwhile, will be fielding a new-look side, likely to be primarily composed of the new intake of first-year scholars.
Akpom is likely to be kept in reserve for the U21s, but promising central midfielder Jack Jebb could feature, with attacker Austin Lipman and left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill other players to look out for.
It promises to be a busy next few weeks for the youngsters, with another U21 fixture, against Blackburn Rovers, to follow at Emirates next Saturday, before the NextGen Series, which pits the young Gunners against the youth sides of top teams from across Europe, gets underway at the end of the month.