Benik Afobe made his long-awaited return to the Arsenal fold earlier this week by scoring the only goal in a victory over a Nike XI, but the striker is not the only youngster who used that game to build up his fitness.
Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem, Jon Toral and Tafari Moore, all of whom have been sidelined for various amounts of time, all played some part in that game, with the quartet joining Afobe in edging ever closer to full fitness.
The injury situation concerning Arsenal’s youngsters is certainly starting to become more positive now, with centre-back Zach Fagan also close to a return and midfielder Thomas Eisfeld not expected to be out for too long with the problem that prevented him from participating in the Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea.
Striker Zak Ansah is still some way from completing his recovery from injury, but the vast majority of Arsenal youngsters are now available at a time when the club are preparing for a glut of fixtures at youth level spread across five different competitions.
The U21s have four home fixtures to fulfil before Christmas and will also travel to face Norwich City in the new U21 Premier League Cup later this month. In addition, the club are currently halfway through the group stages of the UEFA Youth League, with a daunting trip to face Borussia Dortmund to follow next week, whilst the U18s will also be busy with league fixtures and the third round of the FA Youth Cup to come.
It will be particularly interesting to see whether Afobe, once he reaches full fitness, will find himself behind Chuba Akpom in the hierarchy of the club’s strikers, with the latter having developed tremendously in the time that Afobe has been out.
Zelalem and Crowley, meanwhile, will simply be attempting to play as many minutes as possible having both seen the start of their first full season at the club heavily disrupted by injury. Zelalem is already part of the first-team squad, but, at present, it is difficult to see him being called upon regularly by Arsene Wenger before Christmas, meaning the Germany U16 international is likely to remain with the U21s for the time being.
Crowley should start with the U18s, but, as he demonstrated in pre-season, he already possesses the technical qualities to shine at a higher level. Toral, meanwhile, is no longer eligible for the U18s, but the Spaniard should play a prominent role in the Youth League as well as featuring for the U21s.
Remaining youth team fixtures in 2013
U21 Premier League
Tue Nov 12- Aston Villa- H- 7pm- Boreham Wood
Mon Dec 2- Sunderland- H- 7pm- Boreham Wood
Mon Dec 16- Leicester City- H- 7pm- Boreham Wood
Fri Dec 20- Manchester United- H- 7pm- Boreham Wood
U21 Premier League Cup
Tue Nov 19- Norwich City- A- 7pm- Carrow Road
UEFA Youth League
Wed Nov 6- Borussia Dortmund- A- 3pm
Mon Nov 25- Marseille- H- 7pm- Boreham Wood
Wed Dec 11- Napoli- A- 3pm
U18 Premier League
Sat Nov 9- Southampton- A- 11am
Sat Nov 16- Chelsea- H- 10.45am
Sat Nov 23- Tottenham Hotspur- A- 11am
Sat Nov 30- West Bromwich Albion- H- 10.45am
Sat Dec 7- West Ham United- A- 11am
Sat Dec 14- Leicester City- A- 11am
Sat Dec 21- Norwich City- H- 10.45am
FA Youth Cup
3rd round- tie must be played by December 21st.