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August 2021

Some kids knocking on the door

By Walter Broeckx


Last week I went to see the match between the U19 from Dortmund and Arsenal played a few hours before the real CL match between both teams. Now I’m not going to pretend to have more knowledge about the youth players than anyone else for this. I was lucky to had the chance to see them play and like I said in my article it was a great experience and I have seen some players that I really like.


I have seen players like Zelalem on the field. Zelalem who I was watching in particular. And he is some player in the making. His vision is amazing but that is something most of us have seen in the pre season tour in Asia this summer. Being there in Dortmund was good as it was his first game in months as he has been out with an injury. So I think he was not really top fit yet or completely match fit. But he played the full 90 minutes and showed what a remarkable player he is and still only 16.


Apart from his vision he seems to be a player that always knows where to find space on the field. No matter how tight the angles, no matter how much pressure they put on him by challenging him with 2 or 3 players he always seems to have that extra bit of time on the ball. Not that he didn’t lose it from time to time of course. He is human and not some kind of god.


But you could also see that he had some things to work on. And I think that is only normal when you are so young. At times when he lost the ball he sometimes didn’t go after it leaving the pressure on his team mates. Maybe this was down to not being completely match fit after his injury of course. But I noticed it, so I can only hope that the coaching staff at Arsenal will talk about it with him.


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Another one is  Bellerin who I have big hopes for in the future. When he goes forward alarm bells went ringing for Dortmund. He is very skilful and fast and a real attacking right back in the making. A real Arsenal right back. One that will score his goals also from time to time. And one with a good and sharp cross. Sometimes wanting to take too many players on at times but that is what you get when you have a defender that could play as a right midfielder and maybe even as a right winger.


In Dortmund in the second half he struggled with an injury that forced him off and I found that once he had gone we missed his runs on the right flank.


Now yesterday the U21 played against Aston Villa. Not much an affair one could say. After all playing in the youth champions league against Dortmund is more exciting than playing Aston Villa. But 8 of the players on the field for Aston Villa were last seasons winners of the Uefa Youth league competition. We finished in 4th place last season. So it was more than just a youth team visiting Arsenal. This was last seasons best European youth team one could say.


And a few players on show this time for Arsenal that wanted to show something in front of Wenger who was at the stadium.


Gnabry showed that he is too good for this level. Scoring a goal and giving two assists. And with his performances for the first team it really is a bit surprising that given the injuries we have with The Ox and Theo that he didn’t play more games. Because when he played he surely didn’t disappoint. Au contraire. He was amazingly strong.


But this shows that since a few seasons Arsenal had changed. A few seasons ago I think that Gnabry would have been in the team for weeks starting games. But this time even for such a talented kid it is much more difficult to get in the team. Even when Theo and TheOx out injured.


It even leads to people shouting against Wenger for not putting him on sooner at Old Trafford. Probably the same people who were shouting against Wenger when he played too many kids in the past….  Another example of the fact that maybe it was more forced upon Wenger by circumstances (stadium debt) than a real choice? A bit like Wenger not wanting to spend money they said but the same not understanding that Wenger would spend but not just for the sake of spending money.


But back to Gnabry who seems to have a big future in front of him. I would love to see him more but then again I always feel such a joy when we bring our own future super stars in the first team. He is German Gnabry and so we know that we get quality and hard work and he can score goals, create goals… Hell Wenger, why don’t you play him a bit more.


Another player that has gone missing in the youth team for me was Toral. He also made his first game back after a very long injury spell on the side lines. And he scored a goal in Dortmund and gave an assist. Yesterday against Villa he scored two goals and had an assist. One of my friends who was with un in Dortmund is a youth coach at Racing Genk in Belgium and he said that he would take Toral for the first team from Genk in a heartbeat. So he made a big impression on him.


Could it be that Jon Toral will be the next youngster to step up?  He is 18 years old and if he can brush of his injury and continue his fine form since then he could be in the picture.


But then again if you look at the players we are going to see back in the next weeks and hopefully after the international break like Walcott, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain the path of these youngsters like Gnabry and Toral looks to be blocked still for a while.  So will we have to loan them to get them more experience on a higher level?  On the other hand have them playing the Arsenal way is maybe more benefitting for them once they can make the step to the first team.


What do I know what is best for them? What I do know is that what I have seen from them so far is promising. Now it is up to them to make life difficult for Wenger. Give Wenger a headache on how to fit them in, in the future. Better to have such a headache than having to wonder who will be fit for the next game.


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9 comments to Some kids knocking on the door

  • Armin

    After preseason I was 100% sure Akpom and Afoebe will get chance which Gnabry is getting now, same as last year I was 100% sure Eisfeld will. But Arsene didn’t need them (this also says something about “thin squad” we have). Most of them, in 70% of PL clubs would be starters, but we have enough depth in team to leave them in academy for proper development.
    For a youngster of that age, maybe it is even better to remain at youth squads where they are less exposed to media moaners who would wait first chance to bury them as “never reaching full potential” and all other stuff we were listening about TheO for a years.

  • Gerry Lennon

    Walter, I must thank you for the first article you wrote on this for, in part, it inspired me to write a full blog on the academy players elsewhere.

    The three players you describe here are my thoughts exactly.
    You cannot believe how long I have been saying that Bellerin is wasted as a fullback. However, I am coming around to the view that AW is changing that role into more advanced wing backs, which is the role Bellerin was born for?

    Gnabry – I want him to play centre forward against Cardiff and Hull, preferably with Podolski on his left. That would leave Giroud fresh for those tricky three fixtures following on – Everton, Napoli, Man City in December?

    Jon Toral, many before me have been singing his praises. i think as we start the second half of the season, the bench has got to make space for players like him to do the odd 20 minutes and more people get to see his talent. It will also give him encouragement to know what his future holds and keep working to improve?

    Zelalem is indeed a gem. I agree with AW’s policy of taking it steady with these exceptional players. Nobody wants to see a repeat of what has happened to Wilshere? But short spells from the bench, and may be longer time in the early rounds of the FA Cup will be possible, even this season?

    In two years time, many of the current first names on the team sheet will be looking over their shoulders with a nervy twitch?

  • ARSENAL 13

    AND Walter, Crowley. This boy, I think he is injured right now, is very impressive as per some.
    Names aside, we’ve got a very talented bunch at the doors of the first team. With their hands up and ready to knock. I think they just wont knock the door, they’ll knock it off the hinges and force their way into the team…

  • WalterBroeckx


    About Bellerin he has a style that reminds me a lot of (I hate him but admit he is a great RB) Danny Alvez from Barcelona in his prime. I think he(Alvez of course) is a c*nt of the highest order but one of the best attacking right backs there is. And Bellerin has the same attributes I think.
    I hope that Sagna signs another contract for another season and than that Bellerin slowly will take over after having learned his job. We would have an awesome attacking threat on the right flank then. But we would need a good covering midfielder then. Oh that’s right we got Flamini 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    Crowley was amongst the subs at Dortmund but didn’t came on. It was the first time that he was with the team also after an injury. So I couldn’t make any statement about him as I haven’t seen him play.

    By the way Arsenal won 4-2 against Aston Villa last night. The first half seemed rather well with Arsenal going 4-0 up. In the second half the keeper made a mistake and Villa came back to 4-1. And then Villa showed their quality by pressing us back and scoring another goal but that was it.

    The U21 are still unbeaten in their season and with 3 games in hand could go top if they win all those games.
    And most of the games they didn’t play Zelalem (was on international duty this week I think) or Crowley.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Thanks for these updates of the young ‘uns,Walter . I don’t really follow them closely and yours ,and others ‘opinions here often get me excited of these new developing talents .
    And talking of kids ,have a look at these fine photos of fathers and sons from all over the world .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    View the above to this song ….

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And here’s to daddy’s girl…

  • Brickfields Gunners

    On the subject of kids ,here’s …. A Very Smart Boy

    A first-grade teacher, Ms. Williams, was having trouble with one of her students. The teacher asked, “Jerry, what’s your problem?”

    Jerry answered, “I’m too smart for the 1st grade. My sister is in the 3rd grade and I’m smarter than she is! I think I should be in the 5rd grade!”

    Ms. Williams had had enough. She took Jerry to the principal’s office.

    While Jerry waited in the outer office, the teacher explained to the principal that this was an exceptionally bright kid. The principal told Ms. Williams he would give the boy a test. If he failed to answer any of his questions he was to go back to the 1st grade and behave. She agreed.

    Jerry was brought in and the conditions were explained to him and he agreed to take the test.

    Principal: “What is 3 x 3?”

    Jerry: “9.

    Principal: “What is 6 x 6?”

    Jerry: “36.”

    And so it went with every question the principal thought a 3rd grader should know.

    The principal looks at Ms. Williams and tells her, “I think Jerry can go to the 3rd grade”

    Ms. Williams says to the principal, “Let me ask him some questions.”

    The principal and Jerry both agreed.

    Ms. Williams asks, “What does a cow have four of that I have only two of?”

    Jerry, after a moment: “Legs.”

    Ms. Williams: “What is in your pants that you have but I do not have?”

    The principal wondered why would she ask such a question!

    Jerry replied: “Pockets.”

    Ms. Williams: “What does a dog do that a man steps into?”

    Jerry: “Pants.”

    Ms. Williams: “What starts with a C, ends with a T, is hairy, oval, delicious and contains thin, whitish liquid?”

    Jerry: “Coconut.”

    The principal sat forward with his mouth hanging open.

    Ms. Williams: “What goes in hard and pink then comes out soft and sticky?”

    The principal’s eyes opened really wide and before he could stop the answer, Jerry replied, “Bubble gum.”

    Ms. Williams: “What does a man do standing up, a woman does sitting down and a dog does on three legs?”

    Jerry: “Shake hands.”

    The principal was trembling.

    Ms. Williams: “What word starts with an ‘F’ and ends in ‘K’ that means a lot of heat and excitement?”

    Jerry: “Firetruck.”

    The principal breathed a sigh of relief and told the teacher, “Put Jerry in the fifth-grade, I got the last seven questions wrong.”