As Arsène Wenger injected five experienced acquisitions into his squad in the closing stages of the transfer window, he was keen to stress the days of Arsenal’s youth oriented philosophy were not over.
This week, the Frenchman looked to ramp up the task of blending in those last minute buys, as training intensified ahead of crunch clashes with Olympiakos and Tottenham. Yet despite the importance of these fixtures, a selection of promising Reserve team players were invited to the top table for a work out.
Many of those involved have trained with the first-team before, but the most significant of all was Martin Angha, who has enjoyed not only occasional call ups, but has now spent the last two weeks working with Wenger. It could well prove to be the break through moment for a prospect yet to be handed a big chance shine.
Angha joined Arsenal in the summer of 2009, following a protracted transfer saga. He was spotted playing for home town club FC Zürich in a tournament in Switzerland, and ultimately caught the eye of Gunners scouts by curling home a delightful free-kick as Zürich Under-16’s beat Arsenal Under-16’s 1-0.
He would trial with the club three weeks after that strike, but the deal eventually broke down, before being rekindled a year later. Angha grew up a Gooner, with his only wish every Christmas being not the latest computer game or gadget, but the latest Arsenal kit. His room was packed with mugs, scarfs and photos, all featuring the Cannon badge.
The family waited patiently for the deal with Arsenal to be concluded, even pulling the phone out of the wall to stop other offers coming in. Eventually, he got his dream transfer, and has been quietly working through the ranks ever since.
Angha is a tall, technically brilliant and composed central defender, who has been forced to play right back. He ticks all the boxes of a Wenger-esque player, and his determined and passionate style have seen many of the coaching staff warm to him. All Martin needed was a chance, and in training last week, he settled in well with the first-team.
Wenger hasn’t had a great deal of luck with previous Swiss buys, but Angha has caught his eye and stayed with the setup this week at the expense of the more experienced Danny Boateng and Sead Hajrovic.
Angha is far from the finished product, but having one foot in the door already bodes well for his future prospects.