Saturday, May 25, 2024

Long-serving trio enter pivotal year

Back in the good old days, before specific Premier League squad regulations were introduced, there was no pressure on top division clubs to make early decisions on the fate of their youngsters, with some players, such as Ryan Garry and Kerrea Gilbert, sticking around well past their 21st birthdays without so much as threatening to break into the first-team set-up.

Now, however, the goalposts have moved considerably, with Arsenal, like several other top-flight clubs, making decisions increasingly early to fit in with the regulations that mean players who are over 21 have to be named in the club’s Premier League squad in order to be available for that competition that season.

In recent years, the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Havard Nordtveit, Nacer Barazite, Cedric Evina and Luke Freeman, to mention just some, have been moved on, perhaps a little earlier than they may have been had the aforementioned rules not been in place. Of course, there is always the suggestion that such players could be left out of the squad, but then, if they are also left out of the Champions League squad, which carries similar but not identical regulations, then their game time, if any, would amount to a few domestic cup outings.

Four players whose names were submitted on the U21 list this week will be classed as senior players from next season and, in the case of three of them, that renders this season something of a make-or-break campaign as far as their Arsenal careers are concerned.

The fourth, Francis Coquelin, seems a certainty to be promoted to the senior list, given that he is a member of the first-team squad and has amassed 21 senior appearances for the club. For the remaining three, however, things are less certain, with Conor Henderson, James Shea and Sanchez Watt all currently being faced with an uneasy predicament.

Henderson, for instance, sees his contract expire at the end of the season, and, to date, largely owing to injuries, has only played once for the Arsenal first-team. He had hoped to go on loan during the recent transfer window, but, in an interview in Ireland this week, the midfielder revealed that Arsene Wenger blocked such a move as he wants Henderson to remain at Emirates Stadium for at least the first half of the season.

Henderson, though, is desperate to play regular football having missed almost the entirety of last season through injury. An excellent passer of the ball, he has shone for the U21s so far this campaign, but has readily admitted that he will seek to assess his options at the end of the season if his situation does not change.

Goalkeeper Shea, meanwhile, has shown some real improvement this season, making some vital saves for the U21s, but the recent signing of Macedonian stopper Dejan Iliev would appear to be the death knell as far as his Arsenal career is concerned, especially with the likes of Damian Martinez, Reice Charles-Cook and Josh Vickers also aiming to break into the first-team squad.

Watt has long seemed resigned to his fate, and, having spent four separate loan spells away from the club, is likely to depart on a permanent basis before the end of the campaign. A willing runner and hard worker, he remains some way away from the first-team set-up despite being by far the most senior attacking option in the U21s.

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Shea might still have a future with fabianski out of contract at the end of this seaon and mannone the season after. but he does not have what it takes to be a no.1 at least not in the.premier league on what i have seen. however many keepers dont come into their own until their mid 20s. coquelin could well move on as he appears to be a little frustrated. henderson will need a loan move to see what he is made of. as for watt a real shame for him but his progress has faltered. probably down to the… Read more »


If Theo had been moved on then that may have opened the door to Watt. Let’s see whether Theo goes in January and whether Watt gets a game or two. Still, I think his time is probably up.

Shea is just unlucky to be 5th or 6th choice now, and given that Szczesny will be No. 1 for the next decade, he’d be better off finding another club.

Henderson is class, and like Coquelin needs to have patience. They are both good enough to be first team regulars.


Can’t see a future for Watt, sadly. He got dropped by Crawley in league 2 at one point last year. Shea I’m not sure about either, there’s plenty of talent in the keeper department and Martinez looks a better prospect. Henderson is the pick of the three IMO, I like him as a player.

Steve of Chiang Mai

I cannot believe the attention being given to this kind of thing . It’s not like this has never happened before, yet I cannot remember a season when players who haven’t made the grade and are forced to leave have become such headline grabbers. Of course every one knows that these guys are really leaving because they don’t understand Arsenal’s position regarding transfers and are shocked cause Song and Van Persie left. (The saddest part is some will read the last sentence and agree with the nonsense I just wrote!)

Merlin's Panini

Can’t see Shea making it. Seems like a good lad, but he’s never gone out on loan to anyone decent, and we’re more than covered for keepers. It seems Reece Charles Cook and Damien Martinez are held in higher regard. I think Watt has also missed the boat. Not a bad player but considering he doesn’t get that much game time, even out on loan, it doesn’t bode well. I think Henderson has the best chance. He’s been held back a bit by a long term injury but still has a lot going for him. Might just be a bit… Read more »

Midfield Corporal

I want Henderson to succeed just so we can see him in the same side as Mertersacker, then we can make various poor quality Big Foot and the Henderson jokes. I hate this interlull, will someone wake make when
It’s over.


This isn’t a interlull, you cannot be awoken. Like Big Foot and the Henderson jokes you are dead.


You’re an angry drunk, has anyone ever told you that?


Steve of Chiang Mai, the worthy attention that is being afforded to this is due to the matter concerning the future of something we love. Hopefully Coquelin and Henderson will sign long contracts and have long successful careers at the Arsenal, and I hope the rest craft out good careers for themselves in football too. They were certainly given a top class education


Resigned to his fate, surely – not reserved to it.

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