In recent seasons, a number of talented youth players have made the step up from academy to first-team prominence. The likes of Jack Wilshere, Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin and Alex Iwobi have all become important members of the club’s first-team set up and will be for a number of years.
Arsene Wenger, while criticised for his lack of trophies and results of late, has always been praised for his willingness to trust in youth and incorporate them as an important part of his philosophy.
With Iwobi having started the season with the under-21s but ending it as one of the first names on the team sheet, it ponders the question – who next?
We’ve taken a look at a number of players who could make their step up to first-team football at Arsenal next season.
Zelalem is a massive, massive talent.
He’s great on the ball, can control a midfield similarly to the way that Santi Cazorla does and has been on the books at the club since 2013 when he joined at youth level.
The American youth international is currently on loan at Rangers and started his season so well before picking up an injury which led to him being dropped upon his return with the Scottish side looking to gain promotion back to the Premiership. However, the 19-year-old has worked his way back into the side and has played his part, impressing with his technical ability and passing range.
With the likes of Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky all expected to leave the club this summer, it’s likely that Zelalem, who admitted himself that he will return to the club this summer, will have his chance to be in and around the first-team. If Zelalem can impress during pre-season,
If Zelalem can impress during pre-season, he could certainly find himself with a chance of stepping up.
Johnson, despite suffering from injury problems all season, has proven himself to be an impressive and vital member of the under-21s.
The 18-year-old is a fast right back who has intelligence and sums up the ‘modern day full back’. With Mathieu Debuchy expected to leave the club this summer, it leaves just Hector Bellerin as a senior right sided player at the club (based on Calum Chambers being moved to the centre of defence), as well as Carl Jenkinson. The 23-year-old is a good talent and while Wenger supports him, he is a little bit inconsistent and has yet to find his feet at the club.
Johnson, having been at the club since a young age possesses all of the ability to make the step-up to the first-team scene, he dethroned the impressive Tafari Moore in the under-21s and will push Bellerin for his place in the first-team.
Arsenal’s under-21 captain is a man who is highly touted for a bright future in north London.
Plegueuzuelo is an impressive defender who can play the ball across the ground, has pace and never looks out of his comfort zone.
With Arsenal’s frailties defensively, the Spanish talent could be the next La Masia graduate who Barcelona regret getting rid of.
Willock is a big talent, those who watched the FA Youth Cup semi-final second leg at the Emirates Stadium against Manchester City will know that. He proved himself in that game.
He has a big eye for goal, can run at defenders with the ball in a way that only Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere are showing and has trained regularly with the first-team this season.
The boss has also confirmed that Willock is likely to be in the first-team next season, a mark of almost certainty that the teenagers time is coming.
Reine-Adelaide showed what he was able to do in last season’s Emirates Cup. Despite being just 17-years-old, the Frenchman – who joined the club last summer, is pretty likely to walk into the first-team picture next season.
He’s already had a few opportunities in the FA Cup but has had little chance to really show what he is capable of. Reine-Adelaide has shown his versatility as of late, performing in a deeper midfield role at times and showing his ability to control possession. He’ll have plenty of competition in the forward areas but is more than capable of staking his claim for a place in the first-team
The midfielder has been plying his trade at the heart of the defence this season but is certain to move back into the middle of the team as he matures his game.
Bielik signed for Arsenal just over a year ago and has formed an impressive partnership with Pleguezuelo and doesn’t look likely to be hanging around with the youth sides for very long.
The Poland youth international could, and without exaggerating too much, be the ‘big and powerful’ midfielder that the Gunners have missed since the days of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva.
Toral is a super talent and is currently on loan at Birmingham City, where he is flourished. The 19-year-old is a goalscorer, can provide assists and looks ready to move into the first-team set up.
The Spaniard can play in behind the striker or on the right of a midfield front three, which means that he would have to challenge the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi for a place in the side.
Toral, however, while perhaps not ready to get in the team ahead of that impressive trio, will not sit on the bench and could do with another loan move if Wenger doesn’t believe that he is quite there yet.
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