By Tony Attwood, with data from Andrew Crawshaw
I suspect most Arsenal fans have a particular affection for players who come up through the club from a young age and make it into the first team. Perhaps doubly so when they are so evidently Arsenal born and bred as Jack Wilshere. Which is what makes his moving away so sad.
But time moves on and the question always arises, who next? Who will we see moving from the ranks of youth player into the first team?
This past season that mantle was taken by Ainsley Maitland-Niles who joined Arsenal aged six and now has his squad shirt number. He played 28 games last season (15 in the league, nine in Europe and the one FA Cup match) and looks set to exceed that in 2018/19.
But who else now will step up?
Last season was a stellar campaign for the under 23s as the final league table shows…
|West Ham United||22||9||4||9||30||32||-2||31|
We also have a new under 23s manager: Freddie Ljungberg. Freddie previously coached the under-15s during the 2016/17 season and then was assistant coach at Wolfsburg. He also worked with the under-19s as an assistant in 2016 and 2017, and so obviously will remember many of the players he will coach this season.
As Per Mertesacker said, “Everyone knows Freddie loves the club and we look forward to him developing his career with us.” And of course he was an Invincible as well as winning a second league title and three FA Cups, and 75 caps for Sweden.
Here are the players who are still registered as youth players and so don’t count in the list of 25 first teamers. Having such players clearly helps expand the squad beyond the restrictive 25 player limit, particularly as these players will often see each and every game in the first team as a bonus rather than seeing playing in the under 23s as a step down.
The first seven players can already be said to be first teamers…
|Player||Country||No.||Position||1st team||Loan 2017/18|
|Jeff Reine-Adelaide||France||31||Forward||Y||Angers Jan 18|
|Kelechi Nwakali||Nigeria||Midfield||VVV Venlo|
|Krystian Bielik||Poland||37||Midfield||Walsall J an 18|
|Stephy Mavididi||England||57||Forward||Preston North End|
Of course more names could be added and there is no doubt that we have several players in the second part of that list above who have been rated highly by the club.
It could indeed be that several players from the list above could play in the first team in the coming season. After all some of us thought the Reiss Nelson would be making a further breakthrough this past season. Now, one year on, maybe this is his year.
But if the club can find just five players who can step forward into the first team when there is a chance, and avoid the sort of injury that has blighted the progress of, for example, Zelalem, then it could be an exceptionally exciting new season.
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