At a club that boasts two of the most promising 16 year olds in the country in Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley, it would, on the face of things, appear to be very difficult for any other central-midfielders to make a sustained breakthrough at Arsenal, particularly with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla already established in the first-team squad.
Jack Jebb, however, is determined to carry on fighting in adversity. The form and potential of others has limited Jebb, who made his debut for Arsenal U18s as a highly-rated schoolboy, to just three competitive appearances for the U21 side since signing his scholarship at the start of last season, with the youngster often struggling to even make the bench at that level.
After what was, by his lofty standards, a rather slow start to the campaign, Jebb’s performances have picked up considerably at U18 level in recent weeks, with his display during the 2-0 victory over Aston Villa last weekend a case in point. Jebb opened the scoring with an emphatic penalty to set Arsenal on their way to their first league victory since August, but his overall performance was mightily impressive as he frequently found his team-mates with precise passes whilst also taking care not to neglect his defensive duties.
The erstwhile England U17 international will be hopeful that his recent performances for Carl Laraman’s side will be sufficient to see him elevated to the second-string in the coming weeks, although a measure of just how difficult that task will be was provided by the fact that he hasn’t even been named in the squad at U21 level since Crowley was ruled out for several weeks through injury.
If Jebb continues to perform as he did against Villa, though, then he won’t be ignored for long. Now 18, he emerged as a prospective talent around the same time as Chuba Akpom, but, whilst Akpom has shone consistently for the U21s, made his first-team debut and is currently enjoying a loan spell in League One with Brentford, Jebb has had to be sated with U18 football for the time being.
The likes of Kristoffer Olsson, Thomas Eisfeld and Jon Toral, all slightly older players, are also providing something of a barrier to his progress at present, but there has been an extra sense of determination about Jebb in recent weeks as he attempts to prove that he is capable of making the step up from Academy football.
An excellent passer of the ball and a renowned free-kick taker, Jebb signed his first professional contract shortly after turning 17, providing an indication of how highly the club regarded him at the time. He has had to be rather patient since then, with Zelalem and Crowley justifiably earning the plaudits, but Jebb’s time to shine may be just around the corner.