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Arsenal sign six English players on pro contracts

Arsene Wenger has spoken about Arsenal's next generation of youngsters being English and as if to accentuate that point, the club yesterday handed professional contracts to half a dozen of its most promising teenagers.

Defenders Kyle Bartley and Thomas Cruise, midfielders Henri Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and strikers Rhys Murphy and Sanchez Watt have all been awarded with professional deals and should feature for the Arsenal first team next season - most likely during the Carling Cup campaign.

Of the six, Lansbury (pictured) is regarded as the most promising player and has represented his country at youth and under-19 levels. Although he's still just 17, Henri has been attending Arsenal's academy since the age of nine and is the only one of the new squad members to have already played for the first team - albeit just seven minutes in the Carling Cup win over Sheffield United last October.

Bartley (17) joined the club last summer from Bolton and along with Cruise he has also represented his country. Emmanuel-Thomas is sure to be a hit with the fans as the 17-year-old is a lifelong Gooner and has spoken publicly about playing for the club that he loves.

And up front, Murphy is prolific in front of goal, netting 17 in just 21 games for the under-18s last season despite suffering from injuries for most of the campaign. Strike partner Watt is the youngest of the bunch, but limited appearances don't seem to have deterred the club from offering him a deal and the fact that he has been at Arsenal since 1999 suggests that the coaching staff know him well and have confidence in his ability.

Let's hope that all six players have long and successful careers with Arsenal and that we get the chance to see them in action soon. Just imagine, if they can all make the grade then "foreign" Arsenal could be providing the bulk of the England team in a few years time.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on July 2, 2008 9:16 AM in Players
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