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Which Arsenal youngsters are closest to breaking into Arteta’s First Team Squad for 2020/21?

Miguel Azeez

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Age: 17

Name: Miguel Azeez

Position: Box to Box Midfielder/ CDM

Joined Arsenal: 5 years old

An extremely talented player who is comfortable playing multiple roles in midfield, whether he’s asked to play a deep-lying playmaker role or a box-to-box role, Azeez has all the tools in his locker to be the midfield maestro his early promise has shown.

Azeez could be in the middle of an International tug of war, being eligible to play for 3 countries as he was born in England to a Nigerian father and a Spanish mother. Azeez has been capped by England’s under-16’s, u17’s and England under-18’s.

With Mikel Arteta giving youngsters like Matthew Smith a chance to train with the first team, it will encourage Azeez that he too might get a chance sooner than later.

Miguel has mostly been deployed as a box-to-box midfielder, capable of breaking up opponent’s play turning defence into attack with his excellent range of passing being one of his best qualities.

Miguel Azeez

Miguel Azeez

The dynamic midfielder, who turns 18 in September, who also possesses a tremendous work ethic recently signed his first professional contract with Arsenal after been linked to several clubs around Europe. It is a 3 year contract with an option of another 2 years that the club can activate.

Azeez has made great strides in the last few years with his relentless work ethic his most endearing trait. He has competition in that midfield spot from Matthew Smith who I’ll talk about further down.

“I have the attitude, I have the work rate so it’s up to me to keep working hard and I would love to win lots of titles with my club and my country.

It seems the Arsenal midfielder will not stop until he has reached the very top.

“I’m never satisfied with what I do,” he said. “If there is more to do, then I will do it”.

“I’m always the first to arrive at training and the last to leave and do any extras I can to make myself the best possible player that I can be. That has to be your mindset if you want to be the very best.”

Arsenal midfielder Azeez also stated who he models his game on and who is idols were growing up citing Sergio Busquets and Patrick Vieira.

Both midfielders were known for their talent and presence. Arsenal fans will be delighted to hear he regularly watches Vieira and tries to emulate the way the Frenchman played. After a conversation with Arsenal Academy manager Per Mertesacker, the BFG has advised that he takes up the position as a deep-lying playmaker.

Most interestingly, Azeez admitted that he’s already trying to master the dark art of tactical fouling, “I’ve already got too many yellow cards this season”.

“I think I have six or seven already in about 15 games and most of the time they are because of tactical fouls, but I understand they are important because you have to stop a team from breaking and it’s vital,” he said.

Azeez appearances

Azeez appearances

As you can see from the table above Miguel has played 12 times for the u18’s and another 5 times in with players 5/6 years older then him.

He has the world at his feet, let’s hope he can continue to improve and become the player we know he can be.

Tyreece John-Jules

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Name: Tyreece John-Jules

Age: 19

Position: Striker

Joined Arsenal: 8 years old

Most Arsenal fans came to know the name Tyreece John-Jules after he was giving the opportunity to join the squad for Arsenals US pre season tour in 2019, an opportunity he would take with both hands. He made a lasting impression during the tour with his confident performances that suggest a calmness well beyond his age.

Tyreece John-Jules

Tyreece John-Jules

It was perhaps a bold choice to include John-Jules as part of the US pre-season tour as he only had 1 year left on his contract with some of Europe’s heavyweights circling for his signature.

One of his good friends Xavier Amaechi was in the same situation. He decided to try his luck in 2.Bundesliga where he joined Hamburg. He made 2 appearances and got demoted to the Hamburg II side where he has only managed 4 appearances to date.

Thankfully John-Jules opted for a brand new shiny five-year contract to remain in North London.

“It’s always been a dream come true to play at this club,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, so I think I deserve this new contract. Now I need to keep working hard and when I get my chance, try to take it as well as possible.”

Tyreece John-Jules admitted he grew up idolising Thierry Henry and tried to play like Henry as much as he could. He quickly established himself as a goalscorer at every underage level, while making a name for himself at National level representing England u16’s through to the u19’s.

Following his impressive pre-season tour, John-Jules seemed to gain confidence from his first team inclusion, returning to the U23’s, scoring five goals in 12 appearances during the first half of the season.

Tyreece John-Jules

Tyreece John-Jules

He was sent out on loan to League One side Lincoln City in January hoping to kick on further, but not before making a big impression on new head coach Mikel Arteta

“I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen from him in training, I really like him and I think for the last minutes the other day it was a perfect fit,” he said of the 19-year-old.

Unfortunately for John-Jules, a foot injury caused his loan move to end after just seven games, scoring one goal in the process. He returned to Arsenal to regain full fitness.

With Arsenal having Martinelli (who can play through the middle) and Nketiah (who Arteta rates highly), another loan move might be on the cards so he can show what he’s made of in senior football.

It will be interesting to watch how John-Jules’ immediate future unfolds.

Mattew Smith

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Name: Matthew Smith

Age: 19

Position: Midfielder

Joined Arsenal: 7 years old

Of the players in this article, it’s looking likely that Smith has the best chance of making the break-through to Arsenal first team, by regularly training with the first team to making the match day squad on 4 occasions since the restart. The long absences of Ozil and Guendouzi obviously makes his route that bit easier.

Matthew Smith eyeing Ozil

Matthew Smith eyeing Ozil

He’s described as a “composed midfielder with an eye for a pass” by staff and a player who “typically looks to operate as a deep-lying playmaker, tasked with controlling the tempo of games and picking out runners in the final third”.

Another player who signed his first professional contract after excelling at youth level and going on to impress for the u23’s. “It’s an amazing feeling. Arsenal is a massive club and I’ve supported it my whole life. I’ve been here since I was seven, so this is a really proud moment.”

Last season was his breakout one with the u18’s ending the 18/19 campaign with nine goals and 15 assists in 39 games. An excellent return from a center midfielder. This season in Premier League 2 he had 1 goal and three assists in 12 appearances.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Smith will be boosted by the confidence shown in him from Mister Arteta. A loan may not be out of the question.

Folarin Balogun

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Name: Folarin Balogun

Age: 19

Position: Striker

Joined Arsenal: 10 years old

This is was a tricky one, only because according to reports, he has not agreed a new contract meaning he’ll be sold this Summer as he enters the final 12 months of his current one. I had to have him in because of his talent. Whether he leaves or not, he’s an exciting talent.

Folarin Balogun

Folarin Balogun

He is a goal-scorer machine, last season for the u18’s he scored 34 goals in 33 appearances helping Arsenal win the u18 Premier League. A phenomenal return. He was fast-tracked to the u23’s this season scoring 10 goals and 4 assists in 15 matches. He took the jump in quality in his stride and continued to impress with numbers like that.

Pace to burn, decent first touch, excellent movement, he’s a nightmare for defenders.

Folarin Balogun

Folarin Balogun

Like Miguel Azeez, when it comes to playing International football, Balogun can represent 3 countries.

USA – where he was born.

England – Moved to England at the age of 2.

Nigeria – Parents are Nigerian.

Balogun has featured for both the England and USA at Under-18 level.

Let’s hope the club can agree terms of a new contract. It would be a shame if we were to lose Balogun at this stage of his career.

Until next time …

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