With Arsenal now aiming to integrate more youngsters into the first team following Freddie Ljungberg’s promotion, there may be a chance for Arsenal youngsters to really grow this coming season.
Unai Emery appeared under pressure to deliver last season and so his use of academy players was limited. Now the club must give more chances to young players as they seek internal solutions to many of their squad deficiencies.
Liverpool’s transfer dealings in recent years show how even with a low net spend you can sign world class players and compete at the very top. Liverpool have managed to generate a good amount of funds from moving on young English players like Dominic Solanke and Jordon Ibe, whilst others such as Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold have taken their chances and proven their quality in the first team. The Gunners can take a similar approach with their latest crop of young players including Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka.
But of those, who stands the most chance of first team action next season?
1 – Joe Willock
With Aaron Ramsey leaving and Mesut Ozil out of favour, Arsenal may choose to involve Willock in the first team more frequently this season. The young English midfielder was perhaps the best performer for Ljungberg’s under 23’s last season and there are not many reports linking Arsenal with replacements for Ramsey as they have other areas to focus on strengthening.
2 – Reiss Nelson
On the face of the Wilfried Zaha rumours you may fear that young wingers like Nelson may see their game time restricted, but it is likely to actually help his playing time. Emery setup without wingers last season but that formation is likely to be abandoned if Zaha signed. The change to a 433 or 4231 would open up the opportunity for Nelson and others to feature more than many may anticipate. Following a loan spell at Hoffenheim, Nelson is desperate to return to Arsenal and prove his quality.
3 – Bukayo Saka
Just 17, Saka was another bright spark in Ljungberg’s youth team last season. Due to his age his appearances may be restricted to the Europa League, but that still gives him the potential to rack up both PB and MB dividends.
Should he stick around, Emile Smith Rowe is another strong candidate but the English midfielder had an injury plagued loan spell in the Bundesliga and so is likely to again go out on loan. Nketiah’s minutes could also be limited with Aubameyang and Lacazette around, especially if the team move to a one striker system, then you would expect Eddie to go out on loan.
Who do you think will be Arsenal’s emerging young star for this season? Tweet me at @OliPriceBates to talk about football and Arsenal!