One of the (many) memorable moments of last season came at the awards dinner at the Lincolnshire Showground. Arsene Wenger took the time out of his contract negotiations to record a short message wishing Danny and Nicky luck, and congratulating us on our promotion to the Football League. It came as some surprise to Nicky, who claimed Danny ‘bored Arsene to tears’ for hours after the game.
It did lead me to wonder if we might go back to Arsenal in pre-season, not for a friendly but for a young player to come to us on loan? We had an Arsenal boy on loan before, Gavin Hoyte, and he played in games we lost 5-1 (Shrewsbury) and 5-0 (Bury) at Sincil Bank the year we came down. It did surprise me the low-quality that he offered considering his back ground, but some of the other players kicking around the Arsenal fringes and academy might be a bit more useful. If Arsene recognises our management team as ambitious and able to develop players, perhaps we could be euntrusted with one or two?
Take Cohen Bramall for instance. He’s the former Hednesford defender who got made redundant from the factory where he worked in January, and the next day got a call from Arsenal offering him a deal. He played consistently for the under-23 side last season, and turned some heads with his blistering pace and ability to deliver a cross. He is seen mainly as a left-back though, and I don’t think we’d want to bring in a left-back whom expected immediate first team football, and something tells me if we brought a player in from Arsenal converting him to another position wouldn’t be the smartest move.
Kaylen Hines is a young player who already has experience at this level having spent the latter part of 2016/17 on loan at Stevenage. He made four starts for them with a further nine outings from the bench, but he failed to net a solitary goal. He has represented England at Under 16, 17 and 18 level, and I imagine he’ll be out on loan again this season. He is billed as a forward, but he is comfortable playing across the attacking positions as a winger, attacking midfielder or a main striker. Whether that goal haul is reflective of the team he was playing for, or his ability to compete at League Two level is up for debate, but he is a strong boy who wouldn’t be at Arsenal if he didn’t have something about him.
If we are looking for that smaller striker to partner Rheady, nippy but dangerous, perhaps we could obtain the services of Chris Willock (pictured top)? He’s squad number 68 at the Emirates, and as yet he hasn’t spent time out on loan at another club, but he has represented England at under 16, 17, 18 and 19 ranks. Chris was viewed as so talented that he trained with the first-team at London Colney in 2013/14 whilst he was still as schoolboy, and he was the subject of considerable interest from Manchester United before his move.
In truth I think me suggesting Willock is a bit fanciful. The 19-year old is very highly rated at Arsenal, and as his contract expires this month he will have a host of options available to him. He actually looks set to leave Arsenal, with Everton, Southampton and Bournemouth all monitoring his progress. You never know though, right? After all, Josh Ginnelly was highly rated at Burnley and we secured him for six months.
Stephy Mavididi might not be such an ambitious long shot though. He joined up with Charlton on loan in January of 2017, but an injury restricted him to just five appearances. He is another who has under 16, 17 and 18 experience with England, and another who has the potential to be a really good player. He is a playmaker in the main, comfortable playing in the middle in an advanced role, not unlike the spot occupied by Elliott Whitehouse or Billy Knott. He was a striker but the competition for places amongst the Arsenal under 23’s meant he shifted slightly down the park to accommodate other players. He’s strong, quick and skilful but has been described as not always having ‘perfect’ finishing ability. Something to work on at Lincoln?
If it is goals we are looking for then we could do worse than take Edward Nketiah on loan for a while. He was on the books of Chelsea and is another small and tricky forward who can drift out wide. He is described as not being a particularly strong player though, and at just 17 it may not be the right time to expose him to the rough and tumble of League Two. He has been a feature in the under 23 side this season though, and he been keeping another talented young player called Donyell Malen out of the side. Malen has looked out-of-sorts this campaign for Arsenal, but he is rated very highly having signed from Ajax. Malen is described as a ‘tremendously quick player who possesses great dribbling skills and an aptitude for prolific goal scoring’, and he has represented the Netherlands all the way from under 15 to under 20 level. Is he one that Arsenal academy manager Luke Hobbs might want to get out on loan?
It wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t bring in a couple of young Premier League players in to boost our squad, and given the relationship that we’ve built with Arsenal it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that we borrow someone from them. Chris Willock would almost certainly be playing Championship football if he were to go out on loan, but players such as Malen and Mavididi might be available to Lincoln. The fact is Arsenal have so many young players that would benefit out squad. Ben Sheaf, Charlie Gilmour, Joe Willock (brother of Chris) and the aptly named Dan Crowley would all make great additions to our squad should they be available. If a lad has played most of his youth football at Arsenal he is going to have something about him, that’s a fact.
I would like to end this little look at Arsenal kids by raising a glass (okay a mug of tea) to Arsene Wenger and his new two-year deal. After listening to the guys on Arsenal Fan TV recently I’m delighted for him, those handful of moaning fans don’t know what it is like to have an unsuccessful football club, and Arsene not only revolutionised Arsenal, turning them from ‘boring Arsenal’ into the Barcelona of Britain, but he also brought a completely new way of thinking to the Premier League.
Despite everything he’s gone through he still wins trophies, he still conducts himself with dignity and respect and if what I’ve been told is true, he does that not only with Bayern Munich and Liverpool, but also with Lincoln and Sutton. Football needs more like him. The guys at Arsenal Fan TV are welcome to an opinion, but one fan described losing to Liverpool as “Anger has turned to resentment. I resent Arsenal, I resent Arsene, I resent the board, I’m resenting fans, I’m resenting everything about the club. I’m tired. I’m drained by this club. They’ve killed me. They’re killing me inside man.”
Try losing 1-0 at home to Welling pal. Jeez.