Arsenal have completed the signings of Tim Akinola and George Lewis on free transfers, as they push to strengthen their certain groups at the club.
The Athletic reported on Monday that Arsenal have signed 19-year-old midfielder Tim Akinola as they look to strengthen their 18-to-21 age group. Huddersfield Town released the player last month, but video analysis impressed Arsenal so much that they signed him up without a trial.
The same report also confirmed the Arsenal signing of George Lewis, as we previously covered. Even now, we’re still waiting for an official announcement from the club. But Lewis’ deal is reportedly complete and he’s already living in Hertfordshire waiting for pre-season.
The Akinola news is much more out of the blue, particularly given his exit from Huddersfield. The Athletic write that ‘intense competition’ in Akinola’s age group led to his release. However, other reports put forward another view of the situation.
FC Naija wrote in May that Huddersfield had a one-year extension clause in Akinola’s contract, but they were struggling for money following the pandemic and he was pushing for a wage increase. As a result, they decided they couldn’t afford to extend his deal.
Regardless of why he left Huddersfield, Arsenal saw an opportunity and snapped the player up. They wanted to move before other clubs in England and Europe had the chance to firm up their interest.
Akinola made the bench for Lincoln City in the EFL Trophy as a 17-year-old in 2018, but he’s still waiting on his senior debut.
The dual benefit of u23 signings like Akinola and Lewis
The benefits of these kinds of deals are two-fold. Primarily, Arsenal are looking to bring in young players for low fees (or no fees at all) who could potentially break out and make a profit.
However, there’s also an element of Arsenal adding to their options at u23 level. With plenty of recent first-team promotions, it’s important Steve Bould’s side remain competitive. It’s difficult for a young academy striker to shine without good supply from behind them, for example.
To develop your top talents, you need to have good players around them. Even if that means playing a 21-year-old who is better suited to youth football and less likely to make the first team themselves.
I’m certainly not saying that’s the case with Lewis or Akinola, we’ll see how well they do next season. But it’s a secondary benefit to these sorts of deals, regardless of whether they ever make their senior debut in North London.