The Arsenal squad are deep into their preparations for the 2013/14 season and have already arrived in Indonesia for the first leg of their 2013 Asia Tour.
Pre-season is traditionally the time of year where players work on their fitness levels and new signings settle (yet to come!) in ahead of the new campaign.
Unsurprisingly, Arsenal’s Asia Tour squad includes a mixture of experienced senior players and unproven youth – with the latter hoping to catch the eye of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
We’ve compiled a mini-bio on each of the five youngsters’ who have travelled to Asia.
Here’s what you can expect from the north Londoners highly-rated prospects:
Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi is probably best known to Arsenal fans for sprinting across the Emirates Stadium pitch in under 15 seconds during a League Cup match against Bolton.
Other than the aforementioned industrious display of pace and commitment, Miyiachi has seen himself shipped out on-loan to Bolton and FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic.
Ryo’s time at Wigan was littered with injuries which meant he only made four appearances for Roberto Martinez’s side.
Blessed with blistering pace and raw ability, ‘Ryodinho’ is capable of providing vital assists for his team-mates but can also chip in with the odd goal as he proved during his time at Feyenoord two years ago.
Wenger says: “He has to learn to become mature tactically – shrewd tactically – but all the rest, he has.”
First team chances: Dependent on his pre-season performances. Will be hopeful of making the senior squad and challenging for a starting place, otherwise another loan deal beckons.
Chuba Akpom (Striker)
17-year-old Chuba Akpom rose to promise last season after countless Man of the Match displays for Arsenal U21s.
Akpom has already been fast-tracked to lead the line for England U19s as well as Arsenal’s second string and has received rave reviews from supporters and players alike.
Possessing all the physical attributes of a top striker, Akpom’s attack-minded nature has caused havoc for some of England’s biggest defensive prospects.
Wenger says: “He has personality [and] he has quality.”
First team chances: Likely to be involved in League Cup games. Expected to go out on-loan for further experience.
Gedion Zelalem (Midfielder)
Plucked from relative obscurity by Arsenal’s America-based scout Danny Karbassiyoon last summer, 15-year-old Zelalem is surprise inclusion on Arsenal’s Asia Tour.
Having trained with the Gunners’ first team squad on a handful of occassions, Gedion is no stranger to pressure and will be desperate to showcase his talent over the next fortnight.
What Zelalem lacks in physical presence he makes up for in technical ability, the Germany U16 international will eventually look to play alongside Jack Wilshere in central midfield.
First team chances: Could become a 16-year-old League Cup debutant if his impressive performances continue. Another season in the U21s looks likely.
Kris Olsson (Midfielder)
Pin-pointed as one of the best passers in the Arsenal youth set-up, Swedish U19 midfielder Kris Olsson illustrated his qualities throughout the NextGen tournament where he played 9 times.
Now an established Arsenal U21 midfielder, highly-rated Olsson has drawn praise from youth coach Steve Gatting for his never-say-die attitude and consistent work ethic.
Olsson made 20 appearances for the second-string last season and scored in consecutive games against Norwich City and West Brom.
First team chances: Again, Olsson will be hopeful of being involved in the League Cup. Loan move could be on the cards.
Chuks Aneke (Midfielder)
Chuks Aneke is no stanger to Arsenal’s pre-season tours. The England U19 midfielder was part of last summer’s 2012 Asia tour and scored the winner against a Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur.
Indeed, Aneke is already a much-travelled player for his age, being sent out on loan spells to lower league sides Stevenage and Preston where his excellent form saw both club’s extend his deal.
Aneke, who signed scholarship terms in 2009, made his first-team debut coming on as a late substitute against Shrewsbury in the League Cup.
Wenger says: “Chuks is a bit like Yaya Toure – he has body power and good technique.”
First team chances: Aneke needs to leave his mark on the pre-season tour if he wants to avoid being shipped out on loan once again. The latter looks likely.
Also to watch out for: Thomas Eisfeld & Serge Gnabry.
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