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Young Guns to look out for at Arsenal next season

It's no secret that Arsenal field the youngest team in the Premier League, but according to insiders, the current crop of youth and reserve players are the best the club has ever had and we could start to see some of them breaking into the first team squad this season.

We've already seen a fair bit of Lukasz Fabianski and Armand Traore, while we've had tantalising glimpses of Henri Lansbury, Kieran Gibbs and Mark Randall, but there are a whole slew of other players that are just waiting for their chance, aside from new signings Luke Freeman, Carlos Vela and Aaron Ramsey.

Unfortunately, unless there are some injuries to current first team regulars, it's unlikely we'll see too much of the emerging teenage talent this season. But as usual the Carling Cup will give us an idea of who we can expect to be pushing for places in a couple of years time.

Gibbs and Randall were loaned out last season and should have benefitted from that experience, while Jay Simpson comes back to the club having been voted PFA PLayer of the Year in League One for his stint at Millwall.

Kerrea Gilbert has already been loaned out to Leicester for the season, having been at Cardiff last year, and I think we'll hear about more loan deals in the days ahead as Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff aim to develop their young stars.

So who are the names to look for in the season ahead...?


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Posted by Gordon Masson on July 28, 2008 8:36 AM in Players
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Play Fantasy Arsene Wenger: Pick your first team to face Barnet

We're just a few weeks away from the start of the new season and Arsenal's preparations for the next campaign ease into gear on Saturday when the Gunners take on Barnet at Underhill.

The occasion was used last year by Arsene Wenger to introduce Eduardo to the fans, albeit dressed in civvies on the bench, but this year it looks as though those making their way to north London may get the chance to see at least one new signing.

Aaron Ramsey is included in the squad for the game, but fellow summer signing Samir Nasri is not, so us Gooners will have to content ourselves with a sneak peak at the former Cardiff midfielder.

More exciting than that is the prospect of Carlos Vela getting his first game in an Arsenal shirt. That, my friends, is worth the admission money alone...


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Posted by Gordon Masson on July 16, 2008 4:05 PM in Players
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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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Fabregas v Lehmann: who will win Euro 2008?

Cesc Fabregas last night staked his claim as the player of the tournament when he came off the bench to inspire Spain to a 3-0 victory over Russia in the second semi final of Euro 2008.

Spain's win sets up an intriguing final with Germany on Sunday, when Fabregas will face his old team mate Jens Lehmann in the Bundesgoal. Lehmann doesn't officially join new team Stuttgart until next Tuesday so technically Arsenal have two players in the final, while if the newspapers are to be believed, there could be as many as six others among the finalists - Spain's David Villa, David Silva, Raul Albiol and Dani Guiza and Germany's Lukas Podolski and Torsten Frings.

Of course, Cesc's star turn last night will undoubtedly see him linked yet again with a move back to his homeland, so it was heartening to hear that he'd publicly spoken out against his childhood club Barcelona for the "disrespectful"way in which they have been courting his Gunner team mates Alexander Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Another Cesc Fabregas show on Sunday will have the Spanish giants reaching for their special cheque book, but the 21-year-old seems extremely happy learning his trade under Arsene Wenger, so thankfully for us Gooners, it doesn't look like Fab 4 will be thinking of leaving any time soon. Indeed, he could prove to be a great asset in attracting his national compatriots into considering a move to Arsenal.

As for his battle against Lehmann's Germany on Sunday, I hope that the more entertaining nation wins. That'll be Spain then. And if Cesc can help drive his country to its first major trophy in 44 years, then maybe my one-man campaign to see him given the Arsenal captaincy will finally gain some momentum.

What do you think? Will Spain's flowing football sweep aside Germany or will the more experienced campaigners prevail on Sunday? Share your comments here

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Posted by Gordon Masson on June 27, 2008 10:21 AM in Players
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Arsenal squad numbers suggest there are signings to come

Arsenal today announced the club's shirt numbers for next season and with a number of obvious holes in the first team squad, it looks certain that Arsene Wenger will be wielding the Gunners' cheque book before the campaign begins.

As expected, Manuel Almunia takes Jens Lehmann's old no. 1 shirt, while the other additions involve Carlos Vela taking the vacant no.12 shirt, last worn by Lauren, Aaron Ramsey taking custody of Mathieu Flamini's no. 16 and young goalkeeper Vito Mannone grabbing the 24 jersey.

The vacant no.8 shirt will hopefully be filled by Samir Nasri, but other than that, the first team squad has been whittled down to 30, meaning there is plenty of scope for new players to come in.

Despite the continuing transfer speculation, both Alexander Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor retain their squad numbers, while Thierry Henry's 14 vest joins 18, 23, 28 and 29 as possibilities for anyone arriving at the club.

Last season's first team squad included 33 or 34 players, so there is definitely room for Le Gaffer to promote some fringe players or hopefully bring in some experience from elsewhere. And with the Premier League allowing seven subs on the bench next season, there's no excuse to limit the first team squad numbers.

For all the shirt numbers, see the next page...


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Posted by Gordon Masson on June 23, 2008 12:10 PM in Players
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Arsenal's Euro 2008 stars begin to eye summer holidays

With the group stages of Euro 2008 set to conclude tomorrow, the good news for us Gooners is that three Arsenal players are now packing their bags for a much deserved summer holiday and there could be another lining up a rest after today's games.

The early knock out for co-hosts Switzerland means that Philippe Senderos and Johan Djourou can take a few weeks break before joining their Arsenal team mates and Poland's exit last night will see Lukasz Fabianski also heading to the beach to recharge his batteries.

Mind you, neither Fabianski nor Djourou saw any action for their countries at the tournament, so they should hopefully be taking advantage of not being involved competitively already.

Tonight could see skipper William Gallas booking his vacation with France struggling and needing a win over world champions Italy to have any hope of progressing. A surprise early exit for the French might also help Arsene Wenger in his attempts to sign Samir Nasri who has pledged a decision on his future once his participation in Euro 2008 is over. So we should all be backing Italy tonight.

If France do falter, that will leave just two Gunners on Euro duty - Cesc Fabregas for Spain and Robin van Persie for Holland. Those nations are the bookies' favourites to win the tournament, so it might be another 12 days before all our players can pencil in some rest, but given that Holland and Spain would meet in the semi finals if they both progress, then at best there can only be one Arsenal player in the Euro final. Sod's law it will be RvP and he'll pick up a serious injury in extra time.

With the tournament ending a week on Sunday, hopefully Le Gaffer will be able to reveal a signing or two in the days to come and we'll maybe see one of Euro 2008's star performers on his way to Arsenal.

So which Euro 2008 player would you most like to see joining the Gunners? Share your thoughts here.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on June 17, 2008 8:58 AM in Players
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Carlos Vela becomes instant fans favourite after Tottenham jibe

Mexican wonderkid Carlos Vela is likely to receive a very warm reception with Arsenal fans when he first pulls on the famous red and white colours, after he displayed a remarkable knowledge of the Gunners' north London rivalry with the Spuds.

Vela's international team mate Giovani Dos Santos has just agreed a £4.7 million move from the glamour of Barcelona's Nou Camp to the footballing backwaters of White Hart Lane, and Vela believes that the 19-year-old will be a hit in England.

"I am happy for him," said Vela. "I hope things go well for him at Tottenham, that he gets the minutes he wasn't given at Barcelona and that he shows what he can do."

Vela has spent his first two years as an Arsenal player on loan in Spain while work permit red tape was sorted out. But despite never having kicked a ball for the Gunners, Carlos has shown that he is a true Gooner with his final comment on Giovani's transfer: "He is a very good player and let's hope he can then move on to a better team."

Class! Welcome to Arsenal, Carlos. With your help maybe the gulf between the Gunners and the Spuds will be even greater than 37 points next season.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on June 11, 2008 8:26 AM in News| Players
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