Ben Cottrell v MK Dons (Thanks to Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
This week, inspired by his recent goal scoring exploits, John (@willow1886) and I are returning to midfield, and discussing U23 Man of the Moment, Ben Cottrell. Ben has been at Arsenal since he was 9 years old and signed his first professional contract in July last year, so let’s find out more about this youngster who had his first taste of first team action in the pre-season friendly at MK Dons.
John if we start with the friendly, Ben came on and caught the eye playing as a left wing-back, replacing Tierney. He impressed so much that I have heard fans asking if he could be cover on the left if we sold Kolasinac. Praise indeed given he is and has always been a central midfielder.
Response: I feel Ben is probably too young and inexperienced to be looking at regular first team football; he certainly has the ability to cover if called upon, it’s a massive step up playing well against League 1 club to playing against Premier League teams where the demands are greater and any mistakes get punished.
Having established that Cottrell is flexible we should concentrate on his actual role. He plays centrally, but having recently raved about Charlie Patino, would it be fair to say that Ben would operate in a more advanced area. More of an 8 or even a 10 perhaps?
Response: Over the years, I have seen Ben play across the midfield, my favourite position for him is at the front of midfield, playing as a link to the front players, more the No 8 role than a No 10 role. Ben does like to get forward, scoring more than the odd goal. He has played wide in the past and can deliver decent passes and crosses, but I feel he is more effective in the middle.
I recall when he first moved from the U18s into the U23s last season when still 18, whilst he impressed, there was some concern about whether his slight frame could adapt to the physicality?
Response: What Ben lacks in height; he certainly makes up in strength with the ability to power through players. Recently, Ben has become more of a physical player, tough tackling, who very rarely gives the ball away.
Ben is a player who I always enjoy watching, he is a feisty player but tends to fade out towards the end of matches. Arsenal would have noticed this, and I am sure working on his fitness levels.
At present Arteta is playing a flexible 343 for the first team but most feel he will revert to 433 or 4231 when he is confident in a settled back 4 and signs a new creative player. Would those formations be better suited to Ben as a central attacking midfielder and is that the role he is playing for the u23s?
Response: If Ben makes his way through to the first team, he would be suited into that role. As one of only 6 of last seasons 2nd year scholars remaining, it shows that Arsenal think of him with high regard.
Would it be fair to say that at a year his junior, that Ben has stepped into Matt Smith’s shoes in position and in responsibility in the U23s?
Response: With Matt currently on loan at Swindon, it presents Ben with an opportunity to make the role his own. He certainly has the confidence and the ability to do so, it may depend on how Matt progresses this season.
I have not read anything about him going on loan this campaign so if he continues with his current form would you anticipate him making the squads for Carabou or perhaps even early Europa fixtures? (Hope this is not of date on Weds v Leicester haha)
Response: Arsenal tend not to send players on loan during their first year of progression from the U18s up to the U23s. Looking at our tough Carabao Cup fixtures, a run out in this competition is doubtful, should we get through the Europa League Group Stage early, there may be an opportunity in the later matches.
Ben has represented England at all the youth levels I believe and perhaps played for the U18s in some friendlies. There are been no U19’s fixtures for 10 months but would breaking into Paul Simpson’s squad be a realistic target for this season?
Response: Having made his England U18 debut at the end of the 2018/19 season, Ben has made only one further appearance at this level but has also made the bench twice. I feel that he is more than ready to move up to the U19s if called upon.
Given the fierce competition in his position, with Smith and of course Smith-Rowe ahead him and Arsenal linked to Aouar from Lyon who also plays in that area what should Cottrell’s short-term aspirations be for this season and next do you think?
Response: My belief is that Ben will remain with the Club for 2020/21, where he should be looking at establishing himself as a regular in the U23s. It would be beneficial for Ben to go out on loan next season to a Division 1 club where he will be able to progress his footballing career with regular first team competitive football.
Last and by no means least John it is Willowmeter time. A tough one here I know but where do Ben Cottrell’s chances of making it as Arsenal as a first team regular measure on the meter. Remember readers, 0 is a no chance and 20 is a racing certainty.
Currently, I feel that due to Ben’s age, he is a solid 10, though this could rise as his career progresses.
Thanks as always to the main man @willow1886 who you should all be following.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.