There is always an element of apprehension concerning players who enter the second year of their scholarship without having been offered a professional contract by the club, but perhaps the motivation to impress will be even greater on this occasion following the recent cull of youngsters.
As things stand there are currently seven players on the club’s books who signed scholarship terms last summer but have yet to secure their medium-term futures at Emirates Stadium. Five members of that intake have already done just that, with Hale End products Chuba Akpom, Jack Jebb, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Austin Lipman joining foreign recruit Leander Siemann in signing professional deals throughout the course of the campaign.
The remaining seven youngsters of that batch will, then, be desperate to join them in the not too distant future. Midfielder Glen Kamara appears to be a near-certainty for a deal, with the Finland youth international having impressed with his unique blend of tenacity and technique during his maiden campaign for the club, which saw him captain the U18s on several occasions towards the end of the season.
England youth international Alex Iwobi was another who enjoyed a relatively promising campaign, with the youngster adapting well to a new position behind the main striker having previously been regularly deployed on the flanks. He will look to add more goals to his game, having found the net just four times in 25 outings during 2012/13, but, having already featured in the NextGen Series, will surely make his debut for the U21s next season.
Winger Tarum Dawkins, meanwhile, demonstrated glimpses of potential following his high-profile arrival from Luton Town, but, like Iwobi, will seek to improve his return in front of goal during the forthcoming campaign. The versatile Alfred Mugabo, however, seems assured of a deal, with the Rwanda U17 international impressing in a range of positions and in a range of competitions during his first season as a scholar.
Goalkeeper Josh Vickers should be the regular shot-stopper for the U18s this season, with Deyan iliev having now progressed to the U21s. Vickers himself made his second-string debut towards the end of the season, but perhaps the biggest challenges await young defenders Tom Dallison and Arinse Uade, who both missed much of their first full season at the club through injury and will be especially determined to earn an extended stay.