Six young talents playing for Arsenal: Part 2
This second installment has been long in the pipeline, so long that I’ll begin with discussing how the players I mentioned in the first part are doing.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain: Although it seems like he has become slightly indifferent over the past season, his performance against West Brom was heartening. I echo Wenger’s sentiments when he said ‘The OX is becoming a better player and threat now.” He has become a first team regular and has started many matches this season.
Ryo Miyachi: Currently on loan at Wigan after an impressive loan spell with relegated Bolton Wanderers, he impressed for Arsenal in the pre-season but somehow has not found a foothold in Roberto Martinez’s Wigan first team. One wonders when he will return to his parent club and break into the first team.
Benik Afobe: Has gone to Bolton on loan and scored twice in 12 appearances in both league and cup.
Chuks Aneke: Aneke has become one of the stars of Terry Burton’s reserves line up. His performances in both the U-21 league and the ‘Next Gen’ series have been excellent. He made his competitive debut for Arsenal in the Carling Cup against Shrewsbury town. He is being hailed as the next Yaya Toure.
Ozyakup: Switched to Turkish side Galatasaray.
Eisfeld: One of the Gunner’s best young signing in a long time, Eisfeld was brilliant in his substitute appearance in the league cup against Coventry. Comparisons are already being drawn to Cesc Fabregas and one would think, if not for Arsenal’s dearth of creative midfielders, that he would have broken into the first team already. He is probably the closest to the first team among his teammates.
The Next Six.
Another winger of the Walcott build, Gnabry has in one year of signing from VFB Stuttgart, already been given a professional contract. Like Walcott, he is remarkably fast and like the ‘OX’, he has exquisite skill. Couple this with his vision and a keen eye for goal and we have one of the world’s hottest prospects. At the age of seventeen, the German has already seen cup, league and champions league action for the first team. Wenger believes he will break into the first team this year and make an impact. Walcott’s possible departure could see him fast tracked to the first team and with an opportunity to learn from fellow German winger Lukas Podolski this youngster is the future in our wings.
Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin
Probably the only positive thing that came out of Fabregas’ transfer farce to Barcelona was that we poached two of their top talents from La Masia.
Jon Toral is a creative midfielder who, although is Spanish, plays like an English attacker. La Masia’s former No.10, who cites Wilshere and Lampard to be his favorites, is known for his surging runs from midfield and innate understanding with Bellerin. He is somebody who reminds many of Tomas Rosicky. If he is anything as good as the Czech Mozart, our midfield is in good hands in the future.
Bellerin is a winger who now plays right back for the gunners. Probably one of the best young wing-backs in England, he is known for his exceptional crossing ability and his combinations with Gnabry and Toral down the right flank. It has become common place in the reserves league to see Bellerin surge down the right and cross to a waiting Toral. This move, they claim, was drilled into them at the Nou camp. Toral would then set up Gnabry to unleash one of his trademark vicious shots. I only wish we get to see this particular combination in a premier league game soon enough.
One of the more unheralded players in the reserves set up, it is hard to overlook the fact that he has more reserve appearances than most others in the team. Many hadn’t heard of him until his sudden start against Olympiakos in the final match-day of the Champions League. The diminutive left back impressed all with his solid performance against the free crossing Greek champions. What he lacks for in height, he makes up with a tremendous acceleration and good technical ability. It is too early to say but it seems he will follow in the footsteps of compatriots Gibbs and Ashley Cole for Arsenal and England.
You would not think that he just learnt to play with proper football studs if you watched him at the Underhill training ground outside London. The Swedish youth international returning from injury has regained most of his form. Usually a holding midfielder, Arsenal has converted him almost as a second striker. His one touch football fits beautifully into Arsenal’s style and if history has shown one thing, passers make it at the Emirates. The fact that he idolizes ex- Arsenal great Fred Ljungberg and wants to better him does his prospects no harm.
The striker has yet to see Arsenal action following failure to obtain a work permit. As part of the Costa Rican national team though, he has scored, notably against Spain and Wales. Campbell, currently on loan with Real Betis, has shown glimpses of his potential in the La Liga but has never built on it. That all changed last week when he scored an absolute scorcher against Deportivo La Coruna. It would be good for Arsenal if he kicks on an begins performing regularly at the highest leagues so he can come to London a potent force. He is part of the burgeoning wave of left footers who ply their trade for the Gunners.
So what have these players achieved? What do they do?
Well, they constitute what arsenal are – it’s foundation. Rearing youth players for greatness is a Highbury tradition and these kids are the torch bearers of that legacy. The U- 21s are 4 points off the top in the premier league standings and just qualified for the knockout stages of the ‘Next Gen’ series by beating Atletico Bilbao and Marseilles handsomely. They are, hence, gaining much needed experience playing at the highest standards and with Wenger’s youth policy, the future definitely is red and white.