With another season wrapped up, it’s the perfect time to check in with the future of the club. Here is a quick overview of for the Arsenal U21 side did in the Premier League 2, multiple cup competitions - Football League Trophy, Premier League Cup, & the Premier League International Cup - stat leaders, and key players to watch heading into next season.
Premier League 2 - Season Results
After finishing third last season, 13 points off the top, the young Gunners took a step back this year. They ended the season seventh with 34 points, 25 from the once-again champions Manchester City. Like in the Premier League, City has begun to dominate the league winning three straight titles. And while Arsenal failed to push on, the Tottenham U21s were relegated - by a single goal. The Gunners' defense improved, allowing just 40 goals this season compared to 48 in ‘21-22, but struggled to consistently score with goals for dropping from 56 to 39.
Football League Trophy
Arsenal’s U21s were placed in a group with Ipswich Town and Cambridge United from League One, and Northampton Town from League Two. Ipswich finished second in their league earning promotion to the Championship, and Northampton were promoted up to League One after finishing third. Suffice it to say the young Gunners were in a difficult group.
Three teams finished group play tied on six points, with Arsenal picking up their wins over Cambridge and Northampton. Ultimately, the Gunners advanced on goal difference beating Cambridge +2 to +1. In the knockout rounds, they first drew Stevenage, the side who would finish second in League Two and earn promotion. Arsenal scored first from Nathan Butler-Oyedeji but ultimately fell 3-2 on the road. Overall, a great showing from the young side. This year’s EFL Trophy was won by League One’s Bolton.
Premier League Cup
In the U21 cup competition, Arsenal were drawn in a group with the academy sides from Stoke City, Burnley, and Swansea City. After a six-match home-and-away round, the Gunners topped the group with 11 points and a +5 goal difference. In the Round of 16, they drew a home tie against Reading. Both sides scored in regulation before Mauro Gomes Bandeira’s 96th-minute goal sent Arsenal through. In the Quarterfinals they traveled to Brentford and were knocked out by a brutal 91st penalty. Brentford ultimately went on to win the competition.
Premier League International Cup
European competition for U23s, with 12 teams from the English pyramid and another 12 from other European leagues. The teams were split into three groups of eight, playing just four matches (all four at home for Arsenal). Arsenal started the competition drawing 1-1 against Feyenoord, before defeating Monaco 2-1. But losses to Sparta Prague and PSV Eindhoven (2-7) saw the Gunners finish sixth, three points away from advancing. PSV Eindhoven would go on to win the competition 3-1 over Crystal Palace, marking the second time Arsenal were knocked out by the eventual winner.
- 7 - Amario Cozier-Duberry
- 6 - Nathan Butler-Oyedeji & Charles Sagoe Jr.
- 4 - Marquinhos & Khayon Edwards
- 5 - Amario Cozier-Duberry & James Olayinka
- 4 - Matt Smith
- 3 - Charles Sagoe Jr.
Key Players to Watch for Next Season
Here are a few players to keep an eye on as we approach the fall and where the next step in their development takes them:
- Amario Cozier-Duberry - The breakout star of the season. Having played with the U18s the year before, Cozier-Duberry found the transition up to the U21s with ease leading the club in goals and assists. Turning 18 today (5/29), Arsenal should work to find him a club around League One where he can start most weeks against stronger defenses.
- Zach Awe - 19 and one of the first names in the starting XI for the U21s. He often trained with the senior side and will most likely head out in the fall for his first-ever loan.
- Matt Smith - After spending the previous season out on loan, Smith returned to captain the U21s this year. But turning 23 in the fall, he could be released to sign with another club over the summer.
- Lino Sousa - The 18-year-old left-back started the majority of U21 matches this season.
- Charles Sagoe Jr. Should be in line for a loan move in August.
- Reuell Walters - Still just 18, Walters became a bench regular over the final few weeks of the season with Arsenal’s fullbacks filling up the injury room. A loan move to test him at the senior level seems the next move.
- Hubert Graczyk - Primary keeper this season. Will still be 20 when next year starts, so will he return for the U21s or go out on loan?
- Karl Jakob Hein - The Estonian National Team keeper was Arsenal’s third goalie this year. For his development, it would be ideal, if Matt Turner remains, for Hein to move on loan to the Championship or a top-flight league in Europe next season.
- Khayon Edwards - Having dominated the U18 league last season (16 goals and 5 assists), Edwards suffered periods out of the squad due to injury and form this year. If Cozier-Duberry goes out on loan, next season could be Edwards up top.
- Marquinhos - Technically, a senior squad player, but will include him here based on where he is in his development. After his €3.5 million transfer he made six appearances for the senior side, with one goal and one assist, plus four goals and two assists in five matches for the U21s. He joined Norwich on loan for the second half of the season in the Championship and has helped Brazil’s U20 side advance in the U20 World Cup, which resumes this weekend. Will he join the senior side next year or head out on another loan in the Championship or top flight in Europe?
- Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand - Failed to make an appearance while on loan at Hull City and barely featured for the U21s when he returned in January. Will be 20 when the next season starts with Arsenal likely looking for another loan for him in League One or the Championship.
- George Lewis - The winger was deemed ‘talented, but raw’ when Arsenal signed him from Norwegian side Fram in 2020. Since then he has been unable to impress during loan spells. Will he get another year on loan or move on from the club?
Which young players impressed you the most this season and who are you looking forward to seeing where they land in the fall?