Saturday, January 28, 2023

O’Connor set to be rewarded for good start to the season

Per Mertesacker may be Arsenal’s only senior available centre-back at present, but at youth level Arsenal have plenty of options at the heart of the defence.

Isaac Hayden and Semi Ajayi have both been called up to the first-team squad this season, first-year George Dobson is impressing and Julio Pleguezuelo will seek to push on when he returns from an injury problem that has been troubling him since pre-season.

However, it is one of the lesser known talents in the Arsenal Academy that can be particularly pleased with his start to the season. Stefan O’Connor experienced some teething problems when he was first deployed in the older age groups last season, but he is now extremely calm on the ball as well as being capable of timing his challenges to perfection.

It is being reported that O’Connor, who is in the second year of his scholarship deal at the club, has agreed to sign a professional contract. The news will come as a major boost to the Croydon-born youngster, who has enjoyed a whirlwind few weeks.

Having already featured ten times at U21 level last season, he has become something of a regular at that level in the early weeks of the new campaign, starting the last four games in a row for Steve Gatting’s side. In addition, he has been a key part of the U19 team that has conceded just one goal in their first two UEFA Youth League fixtures.

O’Connor’s most significant moment of the campaign, however, came when, in the absence of several defenders, he was asked to train with the first-team squad prior to the Champions League game against Galatasaray. O’Connor is believed to have acquitted himself well in the training session, which has prompted his award of a professional contract.

He has achieved a lot already this season, but this is not the time for the 17 year old to rest on his laurels. If either Hayden or Ajayi leave on loan in January, then an opportunity could arise for O’Connor to train with the first-team on a more regular basis, which would be hugely beneficial for his development.

O’Connor has a lot of promise, but he also still has much to learn. His distribution can be wasteful at times, whilst he is still capable of making mistakes at costly moments.

The youngster’s form in the early weeks of the season has only gone to show, however, that the youth sides have numerous central-defensive options at present. If only the same was the case for the first-team.

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


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La Défense

Good lad


You guys should check out afobes stats this season he’s been amazing for mk dons, he’s got 11 or 12 in all competitions already.

Alright Mate

Premier League clubs developing Centre Backs is a tough gig. Compared to, say, wingers, where you can sub young players on for the end of games, it is hard to integrate centre backs into the first team over time. They generally only become ready by 26 years old. If they have stayed at a PL club until that age, it is likely they will have become frustrated wanting more game time. It’s quite rare to see young players come through at the club they played their youth football. We may be better off just buying centre backs ready made from… Read more »

Desert Fox

Totally agree that it is rare, but when you see some of the examples where this has happened – Maldini at Milan, our very own Adams etc – you can see why it is a valid path to take. Given that Gazidis is saying the Academy will form the foundation for future success, I think it is something they are likely to persevere at. I think the key will be to look at it in the same way businesses look at succession planning and ensuring that those that are being developed can see that there is a path for them… Read more »


I tend to disagree with the sentiment that defenders are ready at 26, Tony Adams was just a kid when he broke into the 1st team. As for letting a few out on loan, thats just madness considering we are in deperate need of numbers in that area. The likes of Kos and BFG should be rested for games against the ‘lesser’ sides so these kids can show what they can do rather than running 1st team regulars into the ground.

Andy Mack

If he were starting now it’s unlikely Tony Adams would get a chance in the any PL team before the age of 21 but with the top 6 clubs 23+ is more likely (football has moved on so much since then). The problem is that it’s such a pivotal role where one mistake can lead to conceding a goal, which at home would start the boo-boys on his case and probably break his confidence. Then he’d have to move on to regain any confidence and wouldn’t want to return to our ‘boo-boy supporters’!, so we’d just have trained him for… Read more »


i was going to give you the thumbsup when i saw your nickname. what the fuck happened there?? do you really think thats funny?


You’re right to a certain degree buts it’s not like the got straight from reserves to first team games, they train with the first team initially and it should be clear to see if they can make it from those performances in training.

Then it’s a matter of blooding them against some of the lesser teams at home, something we never do. Squad rotation doesn’t really seem to exist for us

Andy Mack

Not really that much ‘lesser’ teams in the EPL and AW get slagged-off for using them in the TinPot Cup.

The Only Olivier is Giroud

Blooding young defenders seems to be a bit of a catch-22 for managers. Sell them and they become regulars in other pl clubs, then you get flak for not holding onto talent. Keep them and they go stale, and it’s a waste. Keep them and play them and all of a sudden you’re asking the poor blokes to step into a league with Costa, Di Maria and Lukaku running at you. I’d say the perfect system is a blend between keeping and loaning, withv1st team training as a valuable in-between which isn’t always as obviously visible to us fans.

Desert Fox

Look at what happened to Senderos – bet he still has sleepless nights thinking of Drogba!

Steve Walford's grimace

I have to agree with Alright Mate. It is exceptionally difficult to develop centre backs and only prodigious talents come through. TA6 was a once in a generation player, self made, self motivated and he endured difficult periods in his development. The 19 year old ‘donkey’ that marked van basten – then the best striker in the world , ultimately made him a better player but he didn’t play in another international tournament for right years. Still he’s for my money the best player afc have ever developed. Not sure where another one can come from…


TA6? Do fuck off.


So that’s why we didn’t buy a centre half.
We have 6 promising 17 year olds to blood!!!

Andy Mack

My guess is we didn’t buy a CB because the few available weren’t particularly good or would cause problems if they weren’t first choice.


We should of bought a cb of course but now we haven’t let’s not compound that by playing the two we have got in every game


huuuuuuuuuuuuuoooouuuaaaaaaahaaa… This interlull is shamefully long.

Dan the Arsenal Fan

Teach him how to not get injured, that’s a talent no one else at Arsenal seems to have.

Steve Walford's grimace

So we get told to fuck off for using short hand abbreviations now? Ffs…

Eddy Kelly scores!

If we are into grammar “should OF” FFS! When do you say “I of”? The word is “have”. “Should have” abbreviated to “should’ve”, not “should OF”.

Parisian Weetabix

The Arseblog faithful are arguing about grammar. Is there an interlull on by any chance?


Oh dear.




Or is he saying ‘ta6’ not best player we ever produced…Rocastle..?

Thierry Bergkamp

I’d go for Gus Caesar


Wenger more stubborn than a mule with a degree in stubborness earned at stubborn university now resides in stubborn street, stubborn town, stubbornshire, stubbornland. STUBB ORN.


Rocky went and joined leeds and chavski. Theres a reason Adams is known as Mr Arsenal.!

Tazmanian Jesus

Now so calm on the ball, he brings one to bed at night to get to sleep faster!

Jamaican Gooner

This dude and Hayden at the back at U21 level is a great partnership hopefully he gets his chance…

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