Earlier this week, we took a look at the center back position at Arsenal - the current depth chart, each players contract situations, and what might happen this summer. By Tuesday it was already out of date. Arsenal U23 captain Julio Pleguezuelo elected to leave the club and sign for FC Twente.
Freddie Ljungberg thought highly enough of Pleguezuelo that he urged Arsenal to sign the Spanish defender to a contract extension. Whether the club offered a new deal is unknown, but it does open up new opportunities for the U23s captaincy, as well as a chance to feature more prominently in Arsenal’s preseason. Here’s a look at three options heading into next season:
1 - Krystian Bielik
Bielik was probably already ahead in the depth chart, but this move only furthers his chances to impress during the preseason tour. Currently on loan at Charlton Athletic, Bielik has helped the League One side make the playoffs - scoring in the second leg to help secure a spot in the Final.
When considering Konstantinos Mavropanos or even Calum Chambers, there isn’t really a good reason not to give Bielik a look heading into 2019/20. 21 years old and standing 6’2”, he’d be better served sticking with the first team, getting time during European group stage matches and the League Cup, while allowing Mavropanos to go out on loan next season. He’s gotten 7 appearances over the past two seasons and needs regular playing time to further his game.
2 - Zech Medley
During the 2018/19 season we saw 5+ appearances from the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe, and Joe Willock. But we didn’t see Medley, the 6’4” 18-year-old used to captain the U18s - we can expect that to change next season. A regular starter this past season for the U23s, he looks like the sure fill in for Pleguezuelo and should get a few looks during the upcoming US tour. He has the physical attributes, would count as a home grown player, and signed a new deal back in February.
3 - Joseph Olowu
Looking at Arsenal’s current stable of center backs, adding in Zech Medley and a likely summer signing, I don’t think we should expect to see Olowu in the Arsenal 18 next season. But his versatility does make an interesting option if the club suffer injuries along the back line. 19 years old and 6’0”, Olowu is listed as a center back, but has split time between the middle of the defense and right back over the past two seasons with the Arsenal U23s.
His future looks more likely at CB, but given Arsenal’s issues at right back this past year, coupled with the fact that Stephan Lichtsteiner and Carl Jenkinson may both be on the way out this summer, Olowu is another option alongside Jordi Osei-Tutu.
Which prospect are you the most intrigued by for the 2019/20 season (and beyond) as a potential Arsenal senior team starter?