MIRROR Online: LONDON, England, By Tom Victor – Arsenal‘s first-team might have a long break without a game, but that hasn’t stopped the Gunners adding to their youth ranks with the signing of promising defender Brayden Clarke.

            Mikel Arteta’s senior side are in the midst of a break of more than a fortnight between their Champions League penalty shoot-out victory over Porto and a potential Premier League title decider with Manchester City. In the meantime, though, the club have announced the arrival of a player they hope will become a star of the future.

            Welsh centre-back Clarke, who doesn’t turn 17 until July, has joined the Gunners from Wolves‘ academy. The teenager has joined Arsenal’s under-18 squad to begin with, though there have been plenty of examples of under-18 stars being fast-tracked to first-team action by Arteta.

            Arsenal’s under-18s reached the final of the FA Youth Cup in 2023, losing to West Ham. Jack Wilshere’s squad suffered a heavy defeat to Liverpool to exit this season’s competition, but the addition of Clarke bolsters a side in the top half of the Under-18 Premier League.

            In announcing Clarke’s arrival, Arsenal confirmed the youngster joins as a first-team scholar. The club added that he was expected to immediately link up with the Under-18 squad for their London derby against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

            Clarke has played 10 times for Wolves’ Under-18 side this term. They sit fifth in the Under-18 Premier League’s north section, the same position occupied by Arsenal in the south.

            It’s at international level where the centre-back has really caught the eye, though. He was part of a Wales Under-17 team which qualified for the Euros in 2023, the first Welsh men’s age group side to reach a major tournament since way back in 1981.

            Brayden Clarke playing for Wales under-17s

            Centre-back Clarke will initially join Arsenal’s Under-18 squad Image: Football Association of Wales

            Clarke formed part of a Wales squad which also included Gabriele Biancheri, the young forward who has trained with Manchester United’s first-team this season. They weren’t able to make it out of the group, but Clarke’s performances in qualifying – where Wales went through unbeaten – caught the eye.

            “Brayden was coming back from an injury and it shows how much they think of him,” Wolves academy boss Jon Hunter-Barrett said after Wales’ qualification. “He got selected to go having played limited games for our under-16s and 18s respectively.”

            He played all three games at the tournament itself, and remains eligible for the under-17 squad as they aim to qualify for the 2024 edition. Clarke started wins against Belgium and Gibraltar to take Wales into the final round of qualifying without conceding a goal, and captained the side in a friendly victory over Bosnia in February.

            Top Feature Photo: Arsenal new-boy Brayden Clarke is a Wales youth international Image: Football Association of Wales