League football is officially back for our young Gunners this weekend.
Both academy teams will face West Ham United on the opening day of the season which will be a particularly interesting for Jack Wilshere’s under-18s, whose August 12 fixture is a rematch of last year’s FA Youth Cup final.
Meanwhile, Mehmet Ali's under-21s side kick-off their league campaign on August 11 - a Friday night fixture at home to start the Premier League 2 season.
Lessons from last season
Our under-21s got off to a flying start last season, winning six of our first seven games and that spectacular unbeaten run continued into January.
Mehmet Ali's young Gunners were also given some valuable European experience during the Premier League International Cup, facing the likes of Sparta Prague, Monaco, PSV and Feyenoord.
Several prospects have headed out on loan this season to further their development in first-team environments including Charlie Patino, Mauro Bandeira, Catalin Cirjan, Mika Biereth, Hubert Graczyk and Billy Vigar. You can keep up with their progress throughout the season via our weekly Loan Watch reports.
Elsewhere, Elian Quesada-Thorn, Ismail Oulad M'Hand, Josh Robinson and Jimi Gower all signed their first professional contracts with The Arsenal over the summer.
Club legend Jack Wilshere took over as under-18s head coach last season and earned his first win in charge in style with a 4-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
We'll be hoping to go one better in the FA Youth Cup after a dramatic journey to last year's final, complete with last-gasp comebacks at Emirates Stadium. You can relive Wilshere's debut season in charge of our under-18s with Back Home - the full documentary available to watch now.
Prepping for the campaign
Whilst the league has only just begun, both of our academy sides have seen plenty of footballing action since July.
Our under-21s kicked pre-season off with a 1-1 draw against Watford at London Colney, where Marquinhos bagged our only goal.
Despite losses to Villarreal and Boreham Wood's first team, Mehmet Ali's side secured wins against Chelmsford City and Bishop’s Stortford, with Khayon Edwards, Marcelo Flores, Jimi Gower and Daniel Oyetunde getting on the scoresheet.
It was a promising summer period for our under-18s as we picked up wins against Colchester United U18 and Sutton United, and draws with Hitchin Town and Real Murcia. The pre-season gave Wilshere plenty of opportunity to work with our first-year scholars ahead of the new season.
Changes in Premier League 2
This new season will see some changes in Premier League 2 as the two divisions will now become one.
Moving to the 'Swiss model', all 26 teams will be divided into five pots based on performances over the past three seasons, with fixtures determined by a draw. Our under-21s will play 20 games in the regular season, six fewer than last year.
Once those 20 fixtures have been played, the top 16 teams in the league will qualify for the play-offs and go head-to-head in one-off elimination matches.
The top 12 sides will also be invited to take part in the next season’s Premier League International Cup.
Back in July, we confirmed our latest set of first-year scholars who will continue their development at London Colney.
The 13 young Gunners include midfield maestro Myles Lewis-Skelly who scored the last-minute winner to put our under-18s through to the 2023 FA Youth Cup final and Ethan Nwaneri, who became the youngest ever player in Premier League history when Mikel Arteta granted him a debut against Brentford in September 2022.
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