Which Arsenal youngster could be the next to step up to the first team?
Posted by John Smith | Published on June 10, 2016
It’s becoming a constant theme at Arsenal FC where a new youngster laces up his boots for the first time surrounded by his new experienced teammates, already proving their value to the club and supporters.
From the likes of Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas to newer additions in Héctor Bellerín and most recently Alex Iwobi, the 2016/17 Premier League season will likely see a new hungry youngster looking to make their impact on the first team and steal the headlines. With some returning from successful loan spells, whilst others play their part for the U21 side, who could be the next academy player to make their introduction to the first team?
If you want to keep an eye on one youth player in particular, that should be focused on Spaniard Jon Toral. The former Barcelona product joined the club in 2011 alongside current right back, Héctor Bellerín. The problem for Toral is the fact that it will be difficult for him to break into the team with so many names dominating the midfield. Players such as: Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Alex Iwobi and many others are all already competing for a place within the first team on a regular basis.
However, with the pre-season beginning soon as well as reports claiming his contract is due next summer, this summer could potentially be make-or-break for the Spaniard. Toral recently enjoyed a highly successful loan spell at Birmingham City, with 8 goals and 3 assists to his name. The midfielder has been a mainstay at Birmingham; producing many key passes and cutting into the midfield to build up play. On top of this, the midfielder also claimed three individual trophies during his tenure at Birmingham City, claiming the: Supporters’ Player of the Season; Players’ Player of the Season and also Goal of the Season awards.
The competition to be the starting goalkeeper is starting to heat up, with Petr Čech looking likely to keep his place going into the new season. Considering this, both current keepers David Ospina and Wojciech Szczęsny have been linked with a move away from the Gunners according to reports. Although Martinez could look to go out on loan for another season, this season could also be the season where he cements his position within the first-team line up.
The Argentinian is not unknown to playing at the first-team tier of football, having made 8 appearances for the Arsenal side. As a result of injuries, Martinez briefly stepped up to the first team during the 2014/15 league season, playing against the likes of Anderlecht and Borussia Dortmund in; whilst impressively keeping a clean sheet against the latter. Due to his “faultless” performances, he was gifted the opportunity to play a hint of regular first team football, with clean sheet winning performances against West Brom and Southampton.
However, Martinez has not cemented his position within the Arsenal first-team lineup, having been sent out on loan to the likes of: Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, and most recently, Wolverhampton Wanderers, to build up his experience. But, Martinez will most certainly be looking to make the jump to first-team football once again within the new 2016/17 Premier League season.
In the 2015 January Transfer Window, Arsenal completed the signing of Polish youngster Krystian Bielik for just over £1m. He has been very impressive within the Arsenal academy – both as a defensive midfielder as well as playing as a center back. Bielik has had a brief hint of first team football, in a losing appearance to Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup. Although losing the game shamefully at 3-0, Bielik was one of the only bright sparks of the overall game. Despite the brief appearance, this season could be the time for Bielik to be tested at a much higher level.
The current Arsenal defensive set-up features: Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Gabriel and Calum Chambers. With Koscielny getting older, Chambers being potentially loaned out, and, Mertesacker and Gabriel consistently swapping places in the starting lineup, work needs to be done. If the previous season is anything to judge by, the defense definitely needs improvements – and the impact of Bielik could definitely give Arsenal the kick they need to improve their defensive woes.
Arsenal have been known to have consistent attacking problems within the club. Main striker Olivier Giroud continues to be blasted with criticism whilst others such as Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott continue to pick up injuries and have not be good enough to be playing as striker consistently. If Arsenal fail to land a new striker this summer, Chuba Akpom could look to make his impact on the first team, and give the fans something to cheer for.
The U21 star has recently completed a loan spell at newly promoted side Hull City, unimpressively scoring 7 goals within 41 appearances at the club. Despite the lack of scoring prowess at the Tigers, the Englishman will still look to add to his game and make his impact on the Arsenal first team. The striker is known for being quick on the ball, which benefits his style of keeping hold of the ball and dribbling past opposition. Despite the positives, his lack of goals has definitely been an issue – which Akpom will need to improve on if he wants to make his impact on the Arsenal first team.
The last of the five names to appear on this list is none other than midfielder Gedion Zelalem. The U23 American midfielder is known to a majority of Arsenal fans; following a successful pre-season campaign in 2014. Since then, he has been playing in the U21 Arsenal side, and was sent off to Scottish side Rangers for the entirety of the 2015/16 season.
Unfortunately, the overall season was rather lackluster for Zelalem, with only a few assists to his name as well as scoring a penalty in Rangers shootout versus rivals Celtic in 28 appearances. His overall ability as a play-maker has been exposed during his loan spell, and will definitely need to be improved on in the future.
The competition for places is definitely a struggle in the midfield at Arsenal. With a variety of players playing in each position in the midfield, it would definitely be a difficult task for the youngster to get regular appearances in the first team. However, he could make his impact on the team similar to former academy player Alex Iwobi – through the FA Cup.