It had been anticipated for some time that many youngsters would be departing the club this summer, but it was still came as something of a shock on Friday when it was revealed that at least 15 members of the U21 squad will depart when their contracts expire at the end of next month.
Some players, such as Jernade Meade and Jordan Wynter, refused a new deal in search of first-team opportunities elsewhere, whilst others, including defenders Sead Hajrovic and Elton Monteiro were let go having failed to break into the senior picture at Emirates Stadium.
The sheer number of players being let go may come as a shock to many, and does rather beg the question as to why many of these players were kept at the club for so long when they had very little chance of making the grade. For some players, such as Nigel Neita, a striker who went almost two years without scoring in a competitive fixture, it had long been apparent that even a cameo in the Capital One Cup was highly improbable, but the departure of Meade has sparked some confusion, with the left-back having performed diligently during his two first-team outings this season.
Meade, however, acknowledged that, with Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal ahead of him, he would probably have had to go on loan next season in order to receive first-team game time, and instead came to the conclusion that it would be more beneficial to make a permanent switch now so that he could become fully integrated at his new club.
Some of the elder statesmen of the second-string set-up will be leaving too, with midfielder Craig Eastmond having signed a pre-contract agreement with Colchester United, whilst it would not be a huge surprise to see Sanchez Watt join him at the League One club, with the pair having both impressed during a loan spell there earlier in the campaign.
Goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook also leaves, despite impressing on the few occasions that he was called upon over the past few years, with Samir Bihmoutine, Conor Henderson, Josh Rees, James Shea, Zach Fagan, Martin Angha and Kyle Ebecilio completing the plethora of players departing. Angha and Ebecilio have already signed deals with Nuremberg and FC Twente for next season and will be hopeful of featuring regularly in two of Europe’s top leagues.
These departures have considerably culled the number of players available for the club at both U21 and U18 levels next season, but their exits are likely to be compensated for by the acquisitions of several promising talents from elsewhere, which could include Aston Villa’s England U17 midfielder Dan Crowley.