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Arsenal’s youngest league players and the return of Campbell

By Tony Attwood

So what we heard after the goal against Man U last season in the Champions League, is now confirmed, Campbell is part of Arsenal once again and will be with the squad in pre-season training.

After that Arsène Wenger will decide what to do.  Campbell has done his time at Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiakos so it is now or never be it on the wing or as a centre forward. And with the counter rumours about Vela now circulating to the effect that Arsenal will not pay £3m for him, but will accept instead a fee to end their interest, that could give Campbell a greater chance.

Certainly given that he is still only 21 he could easily have a season or two of occasional appearances in the league, with games in the league cup, and perhaps at the end of the Champions League group stages – with even an FA Cup venture, depending on who we are playing.

The Telegraph quotes the Costa Rica coach Paulo Wanchope as saying, “He really wants to go back to Arsenal and play and I told him that the only way to do that is on the pitch,” which is pretty much a obvious advice, given that selling ice creams pr leading a rebellion has never been much of a route into Arsenal’s first team.

So Campbell is now added to the list of players who are at Arsenal, and might come good in the season to come.    I think there are seven such players without Campbell, and there is the eternal hope that finally, finally, Diaby might be all right.  Without injury he is such a wonderful box-to-box player and quite how he has the psychological ability to come back onto the field each time after a long lay off is beyond me.

He’s 28 now, so he’s getting close to the time when there can’t be any more long injuries – but the one thing in his favour is that having made that brief appearance at the end of the season he’s now had the whole pre-season to work on his strength and be ready for 2014/15

Looking at the list of youngsters, as we have done before here, and as we do each season, I’m reminded of two facts.

One is that Arsène Wenger has stated that basically players need training not games up to the age of 21, and after that they are ready.  So Gnabry and Zelalem are the exceptions.  The others might still come through – especially as there is no need to save money on transfers of older players in order to rush them into the team.

Gnabry in 18 and after his assured performances last season must play a major part in this coming season.   Zelalem is still only 17 but has already played.

Arsenal of course tend to play youngsters in league cup games first, but even so, some very young players do make it into the Premier League side.  Here’s the list of all the players who have played in the league aged under 18.

  • Jack Wilshere – 16 years 256 days (2008)
  • Serge Gnabry – 17 years 98 days (2012)
  • Cesc Fabregas – 17 years 103 days (2004)
  • Gavin McGowan – 17 years 110 days (1993)
  • Theo Walcott – 17 years 115 days ( 2006)
  • Aaron Ramsey – 17 years 261 days (2008)
  • Chuba Akpom – 17 years 340 days (2013)

What is interesting is that with the exception of Gavin McGowan they have all done very well for Arsenal.  Gavin only made a handful of appearances for Arsenal at centre back before going to Luton, but there eventually faded from contention, hampered by injury, and is now a teacher in Croydon.

Indeed if we go back to First Division days (and continuing to exclude appearances in the cups) these are the players who made it as under 18s into the first team.  We have

Gerry Ward, Tony Adams, John Radford, Stewart Robson, David O’Leary, Ritchie Powling, George Armstrong, Cliff Bastin, Paul Vaessen, Liam Brady, Tommy Meade, John Sammels, Reg Lewis, David Price, Brian McDermott, Ray Parkin and John Sneddon.

That is 25 players who have played league games under the age of 18 for Arsenal – and most of them have played in recent times.  And indeed most of them have been quite a success for the club.  So my hopes for Gnabry and Zelalem remain very high.

Moving on to our other hopefuls, by the time this is published we may have released some of them, but here’s the list as I see it.

Ryo has five appearances to his credit and a lot of injuries.  He’s 21 and after his explosion onto the scene with his 12 games for Feyenoord I really thought it would happen quickly for him, but the injuries have happened instead.

Akpom is in the list of under 18s in the first team above, so the omens are with him.  I think we signed him when he was six and he’s still only 18 – a supporting role might be in line for him this year.

Bellerin the centre back is 19 and has played just 8 times for Watford, but could be gradually moving into contention.

Which leads us to Eisfeld, now 21, and I wonder what on earth happened to him last year.  When I have seen him play he looked like Bergkamp to me and yet he seems to have taken no steps forward.  But then, what do I know?

Hayden is the other centre back coming through – he is 19.

My guess is that fitness permitting, we’ll see all of these at the Emirates Cup, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess.

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12 comments to Arsenal’s youngest league players and the return of Campbell

  • Valentin

    Hector Bellerin is a right back not a centre half. Most likely to go on loan if as rumoured AFC buys an experienced right back, we would have two right with Jenkinson as back up.
    Isaac Hayden used to play centre half, but has been played mainly at defensive midfield for the last 18 months. He is an upgrade on Frimpong, but guilty of at least on rash/reckless challenge per game, he is a red card waiting to happen.
    Thomas Eisfeld could still make it, but outside of scoring he tends to drift out of game. He need to go on loan to further his education.

  • jayramfootball

    You are forgetting Daniel Crowley…watch out for this kid. He is an amazing talent. Roy Hodgeson already has his eye on him for England. He is the most talented player we have coming through in my opinion.

  • rio

    I still hoping for thomas eisfiled.. I don’t know, his got talent for still there’s something missing..

    Hope he can learn something for ozil or carzola..

  • blacksheep63

    I think we might see the emergence of the Swedish academy player Varm Utsikter (16) this season, perhaps in one of the cups

  • bjtgooner

    Campbell looked very impressive in his first WC match, if he continues to show similar form and ability he may do more than play for us in Cup matches next season.

    I agree that Gnabry and Zelalem are exceptional prospects and should break through into the first team, at the minute Gnabry looks closer to that objective.

    Of the other five players discussed in the article, we can be hopeful for their future but not all will make it. However, I liked what I saw of Akpom & would still hope that he progresses.

  • Pete

    Campbell coming for pre-season does not necessarily mean he has a work permit yet. Do we know the status of that?

    I remember Adams’ debut – at home to Sunderland – a real clanger in the first few minutes!

    One of the youngsters I was most excited by was Stewart Robson. Injuries held him back at the time and his attitude subsequently.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Peter, if this is correct, JC already has his permit
    https://mobile.twitter.com/joel_campbell12/status/356887689414455297

    A couple blogs are picking up on the fact that wenger has only said so far he will have Joel back for pre season and a chance to challenge for a place….make of that what you will, just seems to me he will be available to the first team next season as opposed to a loan move, or selling him at what would be a healthy profit.
    Some promising youngsters in there. Still a bit concerned about the mystery of Gnabry in the second half of the season. Heard he had a minor injury but was not really used at a time when we could have done with his width and pace. He looked good earlier on when he did play as well.

  • Mike T

    @ Mandy

    I can help re the permit in that it was granted in July 2013 so he could have played in England last season . I think Palace wanted to take him on loan but AW said no

    His age and time spent at Arsenal means that he cannot qualify as home grown

  • Mick

    I have read that Campbell is shortly entering the final year of his contract which means that a decision on his future involvement at Arsenal will need to be made quickly, ie extend/renew his contract or risk losing him on a free next year. I am sure Arsene will do what is best for all concerned.
    I have read this morning that Monreal is being linked with Atletico Madrid and Vermaelen with Man U. Would this open up possibilities for youth player promotion as backup in these positions or do we not have any youngsters sufficiently advanced to get into the first team squad.

  • finsbury

    Sending Campbell for regular games in the CL and the local league in Greece (out of respect for Pana fans I won’t mention the team!) was, with the benefit of hindsight a great call even ignoring the injuries to Walcott and Chamberlain 🙂
    Although, to be fair, the benefits were obvious, he got 32 appearences under his belt last year, at least eight of them were probably in the CL. Without the pressure of the Groaners that he’d have been under in N.London drip-fed by the Murdoch Media and their pawn bloggers (please refer to Ivory Coast’s goal scorer yesterday, or the Newscorp. coverage of Ozil vs. say Fellaini, or Loldado…etc…it’s a long list…).
    As a 20/21 year old striker he was given the opportunity as a rookie in the CL and it is encouraging that the player took that opportunity in the knock out rounds and now in the World Cup, he’s been very focused. He listened to Wanchope!

  • arse_or_brain

    Eisfield is often played wide for reserve games although he position is really inside, so I think it will be difficult for him to come through. Hayden is Captain of the U21s and is maturing and will hopefully leave his reds behind him. Crowley is very talented but his attitude may be questionable and ollson is nearer at the moment anyway. With the signing of the two Greek lads there is quality coming through in all positions including keepers to be honest.

  • Pat

    Let’s hope Diaby does a Tomas Rosicky and has a great come back.