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Arsenal Academy: U23s & U18s Season Update

Plenty of potential standing out for the young Gunners this season.

Newport County v Arsenal U21 - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

The first team’s strong run of form isn’t exclusive at the senior level. Per Mertesacker has the academy producing results on the field and promising talents for Arsenal’s future. With yet another international break upon us, it’s a great time to check in with Arsenal’s U23 and U18 squads.

Arsenal U23s

Table: 1st place. 11 matches into the season and like the senior squad the Arsenal U23s have responded to a disappointing opening day defeat to quickly climb up the league. They lead the league in goals scored (32) and have the sixth-best defense (21 goals allowed), putting them one point ahead of West Ham U23s and two clear of last year’s champions Manchester City U23s. Recall that last season the Arsenal U23s finished in 10th place and were still at risk of relegation late into the year. An impressive debut season in charge for Kevin Betsy.

Recent Form: In mid-October, Arsenal suffered their second loss of the season, 3-0 to Liverpool, but have since bounced back nicely. Winning twice and picking up a draw, the U23s have outscored their opponents 11-to-3 in the last three matches. Last Saturday’s point came in particularly dramatic fashion, trailing 3-0 heading into stoppage time Arsenal scored in the 91st, 93rd, and 97th minutes.

Key Players:

- Folarin Balogun: Despite his new senior contract he is still stuck down the depth chart and starting for the U23s again this season. Or thriving, as he already has 10 goals and two assists from eight matches. Unless multiple forwards exit in January, Balogon would benefit from a half-season loan into the Championship or League One.

- Mika Biereth: The 18-year-old Fulham academy product has instantly become one of the U23s most pivotal players in what is his first full season at the U23 level. Second in goals (4) and second in assists (3), the Danish forward was called into the Denmark U19s side recently, getting his first international goal last month.

- Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand: As the season opened, Charlie Patino captured the early reports as the breakout midfield talent for the U23s. His progress was halted recently by an ankle injury, but Salah-Eddine has proven just as impressive with the U23s now having quite the midfield depth and plenty of reasons to get excited about the future. He has scored in four of his last five matches, which when coupled with his training effort, earned him praise from Mikel Arteta and a spot on the bench with the senior side in the League Cup last month.

And there are still many more to highlight - Charlie Patino, Omari Hutchinson, Kido Taylor Hart, Ryan Alebiousu, etc.

Upcoming Schedule: Thursday (11/11) they host group leaders West Brom in the Premier League Cup with Arsenal currently in second place, four points back. Then it’s back to the Premier League 2 against two of the three bottom teams in the division, Blackburn and Derby County.

Arsenal U18s

Table: 5th place, with 21 goals for and 14 against. 17 points from nine matches, Arsenal are level with Fulham and just two points back from a three-way tie at the top between Chelsea, Southampton, and Leicester City.

Recent Form: A 1-0 win over Reading, which followed a pair of losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester City.

Key Players:

- Khayon Edwards: There is no shortage of promising forward talent in the Arsenal academy at the moment. The 18-year-old has 11 goals and two assists from the side’s nine matches this season. In the last game, he scored the winner against Reading and captained the side.

- Marcelo Flores: It’s been six goals and two assists from eight matches this season for the attacking midfielder. He’s already featured for Mexico’s U20 side and has received an invitation from the Canadian national team setup as well. If not by the end of the season, Flores could be a key part of the Arsenal U23 side next season.

- Brooke Norton-Cuffy & Reuell Walters: The 17 and 16-year-olds, respectively, have both been called into the England U18 national team camp. The duo have each featured for Arsenal U18s and U23s this season playing a combination of right midfielder, right-back, and center back.

Upcoming Schedule: Up next is 8th place, West Ham, before Arsenal gets the chance to catch the top of the table with matches against Chelsea and Fulham in December.

Who from the U23s or the U18s has stood out for you this season and which players do you think could eventually make the leap into the first team (outside of Balogun)?