Many promising youngsters have been on the cusp of the Arsenal first-team squad in recent years without managing to make a sustained breakthrough- the likes of Nacer Barazite and Gilles Sunu spring to mind- and the final step can often prove to be the most difficult.
There are several players on Arsenal’s books who are still technically young professionals yet have already been involved in the senior set-up in some capacity. Here is a run-down of those who will be seeking to move ever closer to achieving their aims in 2013/14.
Something of a veteran at second-string level, with four years’ worth of Reserve and U21 experience at the club, Miquel already has a considerable amount of experience for the first-team too, having featured five times in the Premier League as well as making a solitary outing in the Champions League. Somewhat surprisingly, he has yet to experience a loan spell, something which is likely to change next season.
Just back from a hugely successful loan spell with Crewe Alexandra in League One, powerful midfielder Aneke has intentions of adding to his cameo appearance in the Carling Cup against Shrewsbury Town two years ago. Spells with Stevenage and Preston North End did not yield great results, but the youngster demonstrated his potential at Crewe and will hope to feature heavily during the club’s pre-season tour of Asia.
A striker whose fledgling career has been heavily affected by persistent injuries, Ansah made the
squad for the Champions League trip to Olympiacos last season, but has struggled to find the net regularly for the U21s and, when called upon at that level, has often been forced to play on the right wing to accomodate Chuba Akpom. A loan spell could be in the offing next campaign.
Having enjoyed a hugely impressive 2012/13 campaign, which witnessed a welcome improvement in his defensive capabilities, big things will be expected of Bellerin next time around, especially given the possible departure of first-choice right-back Bacary Sagna. Bellerin made the bench in the Capital One Cup last season and should feature heavily in that competition during the next campaign.
Another player who has had to endure his fair share of injury problems, Boateng made his Arsenal debut against Bolton Wanderers in the Carling Cup in 2011, but is unlikely to add to that outing during what is set to be his final season at the club. The centre-back has been unable to establish himself during loan spells with Swindon Town and Oxford United and could head out on temporary transfer again in the coming months, which may be the precursor to a permanent move.
After a superb cameo appearance against Reading in the Capital One Cup, it was something of a surprise that we didn’t see more of the German youngster in the first-team last season. Possessing a fantastic goalscoring record since joining the club, some concerns have been raised about his overall contribution in matches, but he should feature in some capacity for the first-team next season.
The Argentinian goalkeeper was a composed figure on his debut against Coventry City in the Capital One Cup and also made the bench for numerous Premier League fixtures, but endured a torrid time in the aforementioned Reading fixture and didn’t feature thereafter. His end-of-season form for the second-string was impressive, however, and could see him involved again next campaign.
The dynamic winger made his Premier League and Champions League debuts in quick succession during a difficult time for the club early last season, and is a prime candidate to earn more call-ups next campaign. Extremely direct as well as possessing impressive technique, Gnabry is widely regarded as one of Arsenal’s most promising talents.
You certainly wouldn’t have put money on Afobe going past his 20th birthday without making a competitive appearance for the first-team, but injuries and loan spells have made that predicament an unfortunate reality. Having initially shone at Millwall after a difficult stint with Bolton Wanderers, he is currently recovering from another long-term problem and, with the impending signing of Yaya Sanogo, doubts have been cast over his Arsenal future.
The technically-talented Swedish midfielder featured for the first-team in the pre-season Markus Liebherr Cup last year, but was disappointed not to make the squad in the Capital One Cup. He should be involved in that competition this time around, having shone a capability to operate as a deep-lying midfielder during the latter half of the season.
Having burst into the limelight when introduced at half-time against Manchester United in the Premier League in January 2012, Yennaris hasn’t featured as regularly as he would have liked for the first-team since then and will head out on loan during 2013/14 in order to gain regular playing time, with his previous spell with Notts County having been cut short by illness.
The prodigious striker, like Ansah, made the bench against Olympiacos last season, but has usurped his strike colleague in terms of goals and overall performances. Next season should see the 17 year old make his first sustained outings for the first-team.