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June 2021

Judging the young guns after pre-season: who will make it, who will quietly fade away.

By Walter Broeckx

With the Emirates Cup finished one could say that the fun part of the preseason is over. Mind you I don’t know if the players will have found this part the “fun part”. I can imagine them more thinking in terms of the terrible part. With all the running they have to do to get to a certain fitness level.  But now with the Community Shield to be played next weekend the last step up to the real start of the season is in front of us.

So far in preseason we had mixed results. 3 wins, 2 defeats and 1 draw. That one draw was against Bayern Munich. The two defeats against Chelsea and Sevilla.

Looking back at some of the individual performances you can see what a difference it makes to when a player has started training. The ones who have been there from the start look ready. Others who came later showed some rustiness. But that is normal from an individual point of view but shows how much more difficult it is for a manager to pick a team for a match.

Looking at the players we bought I think that both Lacazette and Kolasinac have done a good job. Lacazette scored a few goals and Kolasinac after a hesitating start in his first matches has shown what he can do and why he was picked in the Bundesliga team of the season. Strong, powerful… but he hasn’t seen Moss yet….

But what interested me most in this preseason was the performance of some of the younger players.

Nketiah showed that he can become a real natural goalscorer even without scoring a goal. But in the short spells he got he managed to hit the post twice so that is a question of being a bit more lucky or not. I have a feeling goals will come for him.

Maitland-Niles has had in my opinion a bit of a hot and cold performance. Excellent in some moments but also had a few moments where you could see his inexperience too much and a bit rash at times. Also a few technical errors, and you are not allowed to have them at the top level or your team will pay for them in cash.  I still can’t really say what his best position would be . Probably Wenger also doesn’t know as he has been used all over midfield and at the back.

Joe Willock was a player I hadn’t really heard a lot about. What I liked from him was his good defensive work at times. Pocking the ball away from opponents feet more than once showed he has a good eye for when to pick the moment to kick the ball away and to put the opponents under pressure. What I didn’t like about him was that on some occasions he took too much of a risk by dribbling in front of his own penalty area.

Now I wouldn’t want to say that he should stop dribbling but there are spaces where you can dribble and others where you are better off seeing if a good pass to an unmarked teammate might be the better option. But that is something you have to learn as a young man. It is about taking the right decision. Something that will come with experience.

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The man that caught everyone’s eye will have been Reiss Nelson I think. Well he caught my eye. The 17 year old (shouldn’t that be young?) has shown what a great player he could become. He’s got a lot of skills and he can go past players without them even knowing anything about it. He is just one of those natural players who can go past opponents on pace, technique, or a combination of both.

If I’m not mistake Bayern Munich wanted him when he was 16 years old two summers ago. I hope this London born boy will stay at Arsenal for many, many years.

But now comes the hardest moment in his career I think. After having tasted playing in front of big crowds he will still have to spend some time in the U23 team for much of the season. Unless Wenger throws him in the mix of the first team. We know Wenger is not afraid of doing this with young players. But it is also dangerous and might come at a cost.

If there is one player that looks ready to become a real big player for us coming from our own academy I think it is Reiss Nelson. For the first time since I saw Bellerin playing I had that feeling of: this might be one of those who can become a real big player for us. I was right about Bellerin, hope I will be right about Nelson also.

The only one that did disappoint me a bit was Cohen Bramall.

Now disappoint is maybe a strong word.   I really do want to believe in fairy tales but I don’t really believe in this one. Now I sincerely hope that I will be proven wrong in the future and I will gladly accept me being wrong….but somehow I doubt that I will be wrong.

Not once while he has been on the field I have seen anything that made me think: “now he might turn in to some player.” Now of course Wenger has turned players in to great players but if he is to make Bramall in to a player that would get a starting place in the Arsenal team then it would probably be his greatest achievement ever.

So all in all I am really pleased with what I have seen from our younger players in this preseason. But now is for all of them the most difficult step to take. Let us hope they manage to take that next step in the near future. Because it brings me more joy when I see one of the kids make it than I get joy from spending millions on some big player.

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14 comments to Judging the young guns after pre-season: who will make it, who will quietly fade away.

  • Yiannis

    It’s inevitable that some will quietly fade away. Think of Jeff Adelaide and Chuba Akpom. Last years prospects, this year nowhere to be seen.

  • mjc

    Yiannis – I think they were both injured for pre-season. Hopefully they will both be back soon!

  • Chris

    There is talk that some of the players on contract but ‘free to go’ have so far refused to leave because allegedly they do not want to see their pay lowered when they switch clubs.

    it’s ironic to me because a few years ago Arsenal/AW were taking flak because they were supposedly not paying the players enough…

    One way or another there’s always criticism to come.

    I wonder what the press would find by looking at the business of the owners of Chelsea, MU, Pool or City…..probably nothing as horrible as a US TV Channel….

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Both played in the Borehamwood friendly on Thursday evening. Akpom scored the first goal (of four) from the penalty spot after Nketiah was upended and had a thunderous shot come back off the crossbar in the second half. Overall though Mavididi and Nketiah the other members of the front three were more potent on the night.

    Jeff played in midfield alongside Jon Toral and it was the latter who caught my eye. Jeff has everything in terms of skills needed to be one a great midfielder but rarely , to me at least, gives enough on the pitch.

    I suspect that Akpom will be sold if a suitable offer comes in for him, although I think him no worse than Wellbeck. Jeff will probably go on a season loan hopeUlly to a team where he will get a real kick up the backside in terms of the effort required to succeed at the top level.

  • Devon Stu

    Walter, I might be wrong, but I think you have invented a new English verb” to pock”. I like it and shall make frequent use of it myself. I agree with all you have said, though I feel a bit more strongly about Maitland-Niles. I think he has quality and could fit in well at centre-midfield or as cover for Bellerin.

  • ARSENAL 13


    Wrong times to be using the word GUN.

  • Andy Mack

    I think the manager knows AM-Ns best positions but as he seems to be a good all round player he wanted to see if he can play in a back 3 as well.
    Personally I don’t think he can (but I don’t see him in training every day) but I can see him getting game time this season (not 1st choice though) as RFB and MF, with possibly some RW subs when we’re trying to close a game down (a bit like Gibbs was often used last season).
    I hope we hold onto Akpom and only loan him out this season, but he’ll need to make a real impact wherever he’s loaned or IMO it will be his last one with us. A very talented lad that really needs to make a step up in level if he wants to be a PL player anywhere.

    I like Ed Nketiah a lot but he’ll need to work on his physic as he’s too lightweight for senior football, but he does seem to have the eye for a goal.

  • Damilare


    I just visited now and was greeted by the picture of Alexis sweating it out in training. I’m not a psychologist but his body language seems to say ” I love football, and I’m going to play it to the best of my ability this season…AT ARSENAL!”

    I wish I had power to know what is in peoples’ head and mind like the journalists and their pundit friends.

  • Damilare

    … I have also seen Perez, Gibbs and JW10.

    “Excitement is killing me”…(here in Nigeria, it means I’m over excited!)

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ARSENAL 13 – 01/08/2017- What about the following words then?
    – Target .
    – Shoot on sight .
    – Fired .
    – Cross hairs.
    – Aiming .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    In the meantime , some good news for us who love a shot or two…

  • Gord

    Woo Hoo! (apologies to Brickfields on that)

    Leyton Orient 1 5 Arsenal U23

    Bielik (3′) Volley
    Akpom (15′)
    Mavididi (45′)
    C. Jenkinson (66′)
    Nketiah (79′)

  • ARSENAL 13


    In this day, those words together would alert the aliens……

  • para

    Brickfields Gunners
    The new gods(scientists) have decided that alcohol sales are low.