There was considerable excitement among followers of Arsenal’s youth system last summer when it was announced that the club had offered scholarship deals to two members of its Elite Academy in Greece, according to Arsenal’s official website.
The project, overseen by former Gunner Steve Morrow, has only been in existence for just over four years, but the club saw fit to offer full-time contracts to left-back Ilias Chatzitheodoridis (via Arsenal.com) and attacking-midfielder Savvas Mourgos this time last year according to the player’s profile page.
How did they fare during their first year in North London? It’s safe to say that it wasn’t exactly plain sailing for either of them. Chatzitheodoridis particularly struggled for the U18s, with the youngster frequently caught out of position and often making costly errors that led to goals.
Mourgos, who also featured prominently at U18 level, had a difficult start, with the language barrier proving particularly problematic during his early days at the club. As the season progressed however, he started to have much more of an influence on matches and he ended the campaign with three goals to his name in the Academy league.
Chatzitheodoridis meanwhile, broke into Arsenal’s U21 side in the latter stages of the season and also featured in the UEFA Youth League.
The upcoming season will inevitably be a pivotal one for both players as far as their development is concerned, with neither Chatzitheodoridis or Mourgos guaranteed a professional contract as their scholarship deals enter their final year.
As things stand, Mourgos, as a consequence of the promise he showed last season, appears more likely to be kept on. Both players will be aware that their performances this year will be monitored very closely by the club’s youth coaching staff, who will inevitably be faced with the difficult task of deciding which players to keep on at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Cypriot defender Kostas Pileas is amongst Arsenal’s new intake of scholars for the 2015/16 campaign, and Chatzitheodoridis and Mourgos will certainly be able to pass on their experience of a rather challenging first year at the club.