By Tony Attwood
Leaving aside the infinite number of players who are linked, for whom Arsenal are on red alert or who have been seen driving round and round the M25 looking for a signpost saying Highbury, there are a fair number of players who could either breakthrough or make a return.
Whether any of them are going to do a Coquelin or Bellerin this coming year, it is hard to say, but even so the list of possibles (when one includes the players returning from loan) is perhaps bigger than one might imagine.
Lukas Podolski seemed to be out of favour, and his loan spell only resulted in eight starts for Inter, so that wasn’t too hopeful. Although he can certainly come on and zap in some last minute goals. But I doubt that he will be happy with that as a role.
Joel Campbell was tried out but really doesn’t seem to be in Arsène Wenger’s thinking now, so a transfer to Real Sociedad is being talked out. There are plenty of other suitors out there too.
Yaya Sanogo just seems bedevilled by injury, and only got to start three times for Palace on loan, but on the other hand Arsène Wenger appeared to have a great belief in him. One more season looking for an opportunity? Perhaps.
Carl Jenkinson has been in the news and it seems well established, if not actually settled, that he will play for Sunderland this coming season. Strong noises from Arsenal however that he most certainly does have a future with us.
Wellington Silva now, at the age of 22, has an EU passport and so a work permit. But he is quoted recently as saying, “There are two clubs in England that have already spoken with my agent, so I know I have those two options. I would like to play in England now, even if it isn’t for Arsenal. I hope to show my potential.”
He was at Almeria last season, playing on the wing quite often, which is not where he seemed to be heading from his earlier days. However as he is now 22 he will have to take up one of the valuable “25” slots in the Premier League and Champions League squads if he is going to play at all. If not, then he has to go, either as a transfer or on loan.
Quite probably he will feature in pre-season games to give him a chance to show his potential. Then perhaps a half season loan to a Premier League club with fewer forwards on their books.
Krystian Bielik played for the first team at Legia Warsaw but not for Arsenal after his transfer. Mr Wenger described it as a gamble at the time, and no one knows what the thinks now. He started out in the under 18s, then quickly moved up to the under 21s, and those who have seen him have spoken highly of what they saw. So there is a chance.
He has played in the centre of defence and defensive midfield – he is a player who can break up attacks, but he is (according to the odd report I have seen) not the finished article as yet. But that gamble of signing him could well have been a good one.
He has trained with the first team, and could be available on the sidelines for a few outings, including the league cup perhaps.
Jon Toral had a very positive season playing 36 times for Brentford who made the play offs. He has signed a new one-year deal with Arsenal so this again looks like the chance to shine and step up, or else move on.
Gedion Zelalem was expected by some (well, me) to have got further by now, having seen him actually play for the first team but something seems to have slipped back. In some games he has looked less in touch with the match around him than was the case before. Maybe he expected more by now, as well.
But he is still only 18 years and has played 34 times for the under 21s. And maybe the fact that he seems to have settled on the USA as the country he will represent.
Recently, Zelalem has been making something of an impact on the international stage as well. He has played for the USA at the U20 World Cup in New Zealand where his country reached the quarter finals before going out on penalties.
He was highlighted as the star of the show in the US 4-0 defeat of New Zealand, and Talk Sprout have put up some videos of him. Just scroll down the page, get rid of the advertising and you will see what I mean.
Isaac Hayden wasn’t heard so much of last season because of injury although he has already played for the first-team against WBA in the league cup and there has been talk of him approaching a break through moment.
He has already played for England at under 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 level, which shows a certain consistency in his work, and he has been captain of the under 21s, so maybe a loan this season is the most likely outcome.
Serge Gnabry also missed the season because of injury, having made his breakthrough into the first team in the season before. He is overdue a return because he looked sensational the season before last.
Chuba Akpom appeared on the bench goodness knows how many times last season, has played in four Arsenal league games, has played ten times for England’s under 20s (scoring six), and has been nicknamed “Titi” by Alexis Sánchez because of the similarity of his style to, well, you know…
His breakthrough, when it comes, will be an explosion.
So to answer my question at the top. In order of possibility I’d go for…
If two from that list do what Coquelin and Bellerin did this season, we’ll be laughing. Two more top first team players, without spending a penny or worrying about stupid transfer windows. That’s the way to do it.