As is to be expected after a busy fixture list, both in club and international competition, a majority of Arsenal's first-teamers were given the day off of training. Of the senior players, only Petr Cech, Per Mertesacker, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Mathieu Flamini, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, and Joel Campbell trained today ahead of the Capital One Cup matchup against Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow. That left a lot of spots open for youngsters to fill in the numbers. Based on the pictures club photographer Stuart MacFarlane took from training, here are the young Gunners that trained with the first team, with a little background for each:
- Julio Pleguezuelo. A centerback that has made cameos at left back and defensive midfield in the youth ranks. A La Masia prospect, Julio is technically skilled for a defender. A little short for a center back, but has performed quite well this season for the U21 and U19 sides.
- Krystian Bielik. Everyone's favorite January 2015 signing, the young Pole has somewhat struggled since his move to North London. He was brought in as a defensive midfield prospect but for whatever reason, he has featured exclusively as a centerback this season for the U21s and U19s.
- Glen Kamara. A strong contender to get a start beside Flamini in a double pivot tomorrow. A defensive midfielder, Kamara may not have the potential of some of his fellow prospects, but he has been a solid performer for a couple of years now. Finnish by birth, he has represented the Scandavian country in their youth ranks and was called up for senior action in the summer.
- Ben Sheaf. The other contender to play alongside Flamini. A box-to-box midfielder, Sheaf came to Arsenal from West Ham's academy. He's brilliant on set pieces and enjoys thwacking long-range shot attempts. I was initially skeptical of him last season but he has really shown himself to be a solid player this season. Considering Flamini has re-invented himself as a support striker in recent weeks, Kamara is probably going to be the choice, but I would not be surprised if Sheaf made the bench.
- Ismael Bennacer. A summer signing from AC Arles-Avignon, a Ligue 2 side last season, Bennacer is a big-time attacking midfield prospect. Having already featured multiple times professionally in Ligue 2, the atmosphere tomorrow would not be an entirely new experience for the Frenchman. Considering our dearth of healthy attacking midfield backups, one has to think Bennacer has a good shot of taking Mesut Ozil's spot in the starting XI tomorrow.
- Reiss Nelson. This 15 year old prospect has been in the London Colney set-up for awhile and is a really exciting prospect. He began featuring for the U18 side last season and made is UEFA Youth League debut against Bayern Munich last week. Many pointed to him as the bright spot, outside of Alex Iwobi's brace, in the U19 side that day. It would be quite the meteoric rise if he made the bench tomorrow afternoon.
- Donyell Malen. Bright striker prospect the club brought in from Ajax over the summer. Once he received clearance to play for Arsenal, he's been a mainstay in the U18, U19, and U21 sides. Since all indications are Olivier Giroud will not appear tomorrow, there's a good chance Malen makes the bench as our substitute striker.
- Marcus Agyei-Tabi. A promising midfield talent, Agyei-Tabi primarily plays defensive midfield, though he is talent enough to slide around in other areas of midfield. He is an Irish youth international and, outside of Kamara, is probably the best tackler in the Arsenal youth set-up.
- Marc Bola. Bola has been the first choice left back for the U19 and U21 sides this season. Bola has loads of pace and is more of an attacker than a defender. Due to the lack of cover defensively, he seems like a safe bet to make the bench.
- Savvas Mourgos. Mourgos is a midfield prospect that has featured prominently for the U18 and U19 sides. As Kamara is ineligible for the UEFA Youth League, he and Sheaf have been the midfield pair for that side. When paired together, Mourgos is typically the more advanced of the two. He has featured for Greece's youth international sides.
- Josh Dasilva. Dasilva (or DaSilva or Dasilva, depending on who is writing. I followed Arsenal dot com's spelling) is yet another exciting young attack prospect that primarily plays on the wings due to his pace and dribbling ability. Primarily Dasilva has featured for the U18s. He has also come through the Hale End set-up. Would be a bit surprised if he made the bench tomorrow, but he is certainly one to keep an eye on in the future.
If you're looking at this list and wondering where, among others, JEFF (Reine-Adelaide) is, fret not. He, along with other top Arsenal prospects Chris Willock, Kaylen Hinds, and Stephy Mavididi, are at the U17 World Cup in Chile. Yassin Fortune, who joined the club with JEFF in the offseason, appears to be playing for another French U17 side in Euro U17 Qualification. Vlad Dragomir, another big summer youth signing, is with the Romanian U17 side in the same competition.
After a few seasons of the Capitol One Cup featuring primarily older reserves, it will be refreshing to see so many youngsters make their first-team debuts tomorrow, even if it is more a result of bad injury luck than anything else. Hopefully, with this primer, you can legitimately say who know who these kids are when they take the field tomorrow.
Oddly enough, I did not see Alex Iwobi in any of the training shots. That does not mean he didn't train (I could have even missed him somewhere in the background!) but it makes me wonder if he is fit. He was a shoe-in to start tomorrow so if he misses out, that will be quite disappointing for the newly minted Nigerian international.