AMSTERDAM, 23-10-2023, Sportpark de Toekomst, Dutch Keuken Kampioen Divisie football, season 2023/2024, match between Jong Ajax and ADO Den Haag, ADO Den Haag player Joel Ideho (Photo by Pro Shots/Sipa USA)

The 9 Arsenal academy kids released in summer 2023 & how they’ve fared since

In recent years, Arsenal have seen the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe progress from the youth ranks to become important first-team players, but not every talented prospect can make it at the club.

“We thank all the above players for their contributions to the club during their time with us,” read an official Arsenal club statement in the summer, announcing the release of nine academy players.

“You will always be part of the Arsenal Family and we wish you all the best of health, happiness and success in your futures.”

We’ve taken a closer look at how those nine Hale End kids have gotten on since leaving the club in the summer.

Zach Awe

It’s a bit gutting that Awe didn’t make it at Arsenal, because it would’ve been cool to see one of the best names in football lighting up the Premier League.

But it’s still worth keeping tabs on how the defender progresses from here, having joined Southampton on a three-year deal.

“We are excited to see what Zach can achieve here at Southampton Football Club,” Saints academy director said when the signing was announced.

“He’s a player who we believe will not only thrive within the club-wide game model and our player development strategy, but also enhance the depth of talent we have in the 2023-24 season.”

Awe is yet to make his debut for Russell Martin’s side, but has regularly featured for Saints Under-21s in the Premier League 2.

Joel Ideho

The Dutch forward joined Arsenal from Ajax’s famous academy. He soon caught the eye with some audacious long-distance lobbed goals (see below) and spent three years on the Gunners’ books without ever quite pushing to make it into Mikel Arteta’s squad.

Senior football never looked likely at The Emirates. He’s since returned to the Netherlands, signing for second-tier Den Haag, in a bid to kick off his career.

Ideho has made 12 appearances in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie in 2023-24 so far, and has notched two goals and one assist.

George Lewis

Born in Rwanda and raised in Norway, Lewis represented Tronso, Tromsdalen and Fram Larvik before moving to England in 2020 and going on trials with Solihull United, Bournemouth, Ipswich and Arsenal.

He evidently impressed at Arsenal and signed a two-year professional contract with the club, but he never made it beyond the periphery of the Under-23s.

The forward remains unattached since being released in the summer.

Matt Smith

The Essex-born midfielder joined Arsenal’s youth set-up in 2009, came up alongside Folarin Balogun, and was in the year above Bukayo Saka.

He went on to captain their Under-18s to the Premier League South title in 2019. In subsequent years he gained over 6000 minutes of senior, competitive experience in loans to Swindon, Charlton and Doncaster.

Since leaving Arsenal, he joined League One outfit Wigan Athletic on a three-year deal.

Smith has made eight appearances for the Latics this season and has nothing but gratitude for the platform his boyhood club gave him.

“It was really good working under Mikel (Arteta), he brought something I hadn’t really seen before with the things he used to say and what he’d teach you,” Smith told Wigan Today.

“He makes you see football in a different way, he helped me to develop.

“He’s big on how people are around the training ground, he made it a family club with everyone being close- which is why I think they did well last season.

Tom Smith

No relation to Matt, goalkeeper Tom Smith progressed through Arsenal’s youth ranks since the age of eight. He spent a series of loans at clubs down the pyramid – Dover, Welling, Bromley, Colchester – before he was let go by his parent club in the summer.

He’s since joined Colchester on a permanent deal, signing a two-year contract, and has featured in three League Two matches this season – whereby he’s endured a touch time of it, conceding 12 goals as the struggling U’s suffered heavy defeats to Forest Green, Barrow and Doncaster.

READ: Arsenal’s all-time greatest Hale End XI: Adams, Cole, Saka, Parlour…

Kaleel Green

Joining Smith at the Colchester Community Stadium is centre-forward Green.

He signed his first professional contract with the U’s back in June, shortly after his departure from Hale End was confirmed. The 19-year-old is still awaiting his first-team debut and has yet to make it onto the bench of Matthew Etherington’s senior squad.

Alexander Kovacevic

The goalkeeper was sidelined with an injury for the latter half of last season and barely featured for the Gunners last term. He made his farewell appearance for the Under-18s with a late cameo off the bench in their final game of the campaign, a 5-1 defeat away to Southampton.

Kovacevic is yet to find a new club at the time of writing.

Tino Quamina

“These days, I would describe myself as a modern attacking fullback. I like to get forward, but I’ll also put in a shift defensively,” Quamina described in a profile on Arsenal’s official website published in 2021.

“Wing back is my preferred position, it’s more attacking than just playing as a left back. Physically the role is tough, but it’s part of the game, it gives me more opportunities to get nearer to the goal and get more assists, and that’s what I’m all about.”

The Trinidad & Tobago Under-20 international made a name for himself as one to watch at Hale End and made 12 appearances for Jack Wilshere’s Under-18s last term but never really kicked on to first-team contention.

He remains unattached since leaving the Gunners.

Mathaeus Roberts

“I spoke to Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka in lockdown too,” attacking midfielder Roberts told Arsenal’s official website back in 2021.

“They talked me through their memories of stepping up from Hale End to Colney and I think that gave me a bit of an advantage when I arrived full-time at the training ground,

“Hopefully in time I’ll be able to emulate what they’ve achieved.”

If he is to follow in the footsteps of his inspirations, the Wales Under-18 international will have to take a different path. He joined Championship club Ipswich Town after leaving Arsenal and is currently continuing his development in their youth set-up.

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