When assessing Arsenal’s young midfielders it seems appropriate to commence by focusing on a player who is already part of the first-team squad. Gedion Zelalem has just one senior appearance for the club to his name, and the Germany U17 international has experienced some complications during his first full season in North London, but he remains an incredibly talented prospect for the future.
At times Zelalem has struggled to adapt to being deployed in a deeper-lying midfield position than he was previously used to. Games have passed him by, with his lack of strength and, at times, tactical understanding causing problems for both himself and his team. Towards the end of the season, however, the 17 year old appeared to return to something approaching his normal self, playing killer passes, the kind of which so captured the attention during the pre-season tour of Asia, with increasing regularity.
Although officially a first-team squad member, Zelalem is still some way off becoming regularly involved in the senior side. Next season he will seek to make his Premier League and, hopefully, Champions League debuts whilst continuing to develop for the U21s. Patience will be needed, but a bright future still appears to be on the cards for the youngster.
Chuks Aneke is another player who possesses much potential, which he demonstrated during an exceptional season on loan at Crewe Alexandra in League One. Whether the powerful midfielder is capable of performing to the same standards at Premier League level remains open to debate, as does Aneke’s immediate future as it is still unclear whether he will still be at the club next season. The best solution for all parties would probably be for Aneke to sign a new deal and then spend the season with a Championship side in order to gauge just how far he can take his considerable talent.
Thomas Eisfeld, meanwhile, has not received anywhere near as much first-team game time as he would have expected in his two and a half years as an Arsenal player. The German scored in the Capital One Cup win over West Bromwich Albion, but, despite impressing at times for the U21s, he has struggled to break into Arsene Wenger’s team. Already 21, it is something of a mystery as to why Eisfeld hasn’t yet been loaned out, but that is likely to change next season, with such a spell hopefully providing an indication as to whether he can make the breakthrough.
Jack Jebb has had to be incredibly patient for opportunities at U21 level, but he should receive plenty of opportunities to impress at that level next season. A renowned free-kick specialist, Jebb will be aware that, given the amount of talented young midfielders at the club, he will have to take every chance that he is afforded.
Jon Toral showed signs that he is returning to his best having endured an injury nightmare for most of his Arsenal career to date. The former Barcelona player has usually been deployed on the left flank for the Gunners, but is a prime source of inventiveness for the U21 team, and is also a clinical goalscorer at that level. Toral will hope to follow in the footsteps of his close friend Hector Bellerin by featuring in the Capital One Cup next season.
Kristoffer Olsson has continued to develop well and is now much improved tactically in comparison to when he joined the club. Possessing excellent technique, the Swedish midfielder does have a tendency to hold onto the ball for too long at times. Having already made his senior Arsenal debut, Olsson will be seeking to gain more experience of first-team football next season, and he is another candidate for a loan spell in the Championship.
Samuel Galindo is the forgotten man at Arsenal, with the Bolivian international having not represented the club at any level since 2011. A potential loan move to Colorado Rapids fell through, with the 22 year old having not played a single minute of competitive football this season. He still has a year left to go on his contract at the club.
Glen Kamara was a regular at all youth levels for Arsenal this season, with the defensive-midfielder continuing to develop well. The Finland youth international should become a key player for the U21 side during 2014/15. The same cannot be said for the injury-prone Alfred Mugabo, who has struggled in numerous positions and is likely to be let go this summer.
Dan Crowley, despite suffering some injury problems, performed well during his maiden campaign at Arsenal, and the former Aston Villa youngster will look to become a regular for the U21s next season. An excellent passer of the ball, Crowley does have some improvements to make on the physical side, but all the signs are there for a promising future.
You can read more about the development of Renny Smith here.
Isaac Hayden has impressed greatly, even if he still prone to making reckless challenges at times. The midfielder made the bench for Arsenal in the Premier League and started in the Capital One Cup. He is another player who should go on loan at some point next season.