Given his experiences away from the club last season, Chuks Aneke could be forgiven for being satisfied at featuring regularly for Crewe Alexandra in League One this season. The 19 year old struggled to impose himself during stints with Stevenage and Preston North End in 2011/12, as he found it difficult to adapt to tactics which strayed quite far from what he was used to. At Crewe, however, he has found his niche, helping to orchestrate attacks, win the ball back and weighing in with a fair share of goals in the process.
Aneke’s impressive form meant that his loan deal was extended on three occasions and, although Crewe are willing to extend his stay even further, the midfielder has now temporarily returned to Arsenal to reflect on his immediate future having not featured as regularly in recent weeks after opportunities were given to Bradden Inman, a fellow midfielder on loan from Newcastle United, instead.
Aneke can certainly be satisfied with his contribution at the Alexandra Stadium, having scored six times and set up four goals in 17 matches. His desire to play regularly, however, may see him opt to seek a separate loan spell elsewhere, possibly in the Championship, as he continues in his quest for the ultimate dream of a place in the first-team squad at Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger has long been an admirer of the midfielder, who has been capped by England from U16 through to U19 level, and handed Aneke his senior debut as a late substitute against Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup last season. Aneke subsequently impressed on the pre-season tour of Asia last summer, but, having seen the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Henri Lansbury make fleeting first-team appearances before being sent packing, he will be under no illusions of just how difficult it is to make the grade at Emirates Stadium.
He is certainly doing the best that he can to achieve that goal, however, and has been a rare plus point when the overall landscape of this season’s Arsenal loanees is assessed. Capable of playing effective short and long passes, as well as knowing when to take touches in difficult areas, Aneke has thrived this campaign, demonstrating the potential first witnessed in Arsenal’s Premier Academy League success in 2009/10.
Back then, the likes of Benik Afobe, Oguzhan Ozyakup and Luke Freeman were competing with Aneke for the mantle of the Academy’s most promising player. Ozyakup and Freeman have since departed, whilst Afobe has not enjoyed much success on loan at Bolton Wanderers this season. It could transpire that Aneke will be the member of that quartet to progress the furthest with regards to a long-term future at Arsenal but, before any bold predictions are made about the future, he has a very important decision to make regarding how he will spend the remainder of the campaign.