Even though recent comments have suggested that there could be a change in direction when it comes to player investment over next couple of transfer windows, few people could argue that Arsenal are probably going to have to rely on their academy products more than other top sides in the division.
Over the years the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Ashley Cole and Jack Wilshere have all been developed in the Arsenal school of football and while two thirds of that selection are no longer with the club, it would be fair to say their effect on the team has been huge in one way or another.
The betting offers on Arsenal this week have been interesting due to their recent bad run. As I write this piece [before Monday nights 5-2 win over Reading], the club appear to be at one of their lowest ebbs for many a year following that League Cup loss to Bradford. Bearing this in mind, it’s clear that Arsene Wenger has more to focus on than just bringing young players into the squad and investment has to be made if the Gunners are to return to their former glory. However, for the purposes of this piece I will be concentrating on just the academy side of the club – more specifically, the top three players who we should be excited about seeing in the very near future. Here goes…
While Serge Gnabry is still officially a youth player, most believe that he will make the step up to the first team in the very near future. A 17-year-old German, Gnabry can operate in any position across midfield and is particularly dangerous from the wing. The fact that Arsene Wenger has hinted that the Germany Under-17 international could be a long-term replacement for Theo Walcott speaks volumes about his potential, while he has already had a glimpse of the first team after making brief appearances in the Capital One Cup, Champions League and Premiership through the course of the season.
As you would expect from any member of the academy, Gnabry is of course very technically gifted. However, one of the things that sets him apart from other players of a similar age is his incredible physical build and as well as boasting an incredible amount of pace, he is very difficult to knock off the ball.
With this player still being a schoolboy at 15-years-old, some could suggest that he is too young to be included in the list. However, despite his age, he is probably the player with the most potential in the whole of the academy. This is another boy that Wenger has been full of praise for and after bringing him along to first team training sessions, very little else needs to be said.
A central midfielder by nature, most who have had the pleasure of seeing him play claim that he tends to be more defensive if anything. He has very quick feet, a fantastic range of passing while his head is apparently in the right place and his reading of the game far surpasses what a boy of his age should be capable of.
With Jon Toral described as a 17-year-old, ex-Barcelona attacking midfielder – it doesn’t take an expert of the game to realise who he is generally likened to. Toral arrived at the Emirates Stadium with the reputation of being the next Fabregas and while he may have had his injury problems over the last year, hopes are still high that he will realise his dream of becoming one of the world’s best.
In comparison to Zelalem, Toral is much more offensive-minded and is described as the typical continental player. His technical ability is second to none and being naturally left footed, he brings something a little different to the table than what the other two do.
Who are your tips for success from the Arsenal youth academy? Get involved in the comments section below.