The 2014/15 campaign was hugely eventful for Krystian Bielik with the tall youngster featuring for Legia Warsaw’s first-team at the age of 16 before earning a high-profile move to Arsenal in the Winter transfer window.
Upon his arrival in North London there had been suggestions in some quarters that Bielik, given the levels of hype surrounding him, may be afforded some first-team minutes in the remainder of the campaign. That ultimately didn’t transpire, with a delay with his paperwork meaning that the Poland U17 international wasn’t named in Arsenal’s Premier League squad.
Given his lack of experience, though, it is unlikely that he would have featured for Arsene Wenger’s side even if he had been eligible. Instead, after a couple of outings for the U18s, Bielik soon established himself in the Arsenal U21 side. The initial signs were very promising indeed as he caught the eye playing at centre-back in the victory over Stoke City at Emirates Stadium.
In the final couple of months of the season Bielik moved into his more regular defensive-midfield position and, despite a couple of teething problems (he lost the ball a little too often in some matches) he continued to perform well overall as he regularly demonstrated his key attribute of being able to break up attacks with precise challenges.
Possessing good ball control and a confident manner on the pitch, Bielik will hope to make in-roads, tentatively at least, into Wenger’s squad next season. He has already trained with the first-team on several occasions, meaning he is familiar with many members of the squad, but Bielik will hope that he will be given a chance to prove his worth in some capacity.
Quite how much he will be involved could well depend on what happens this summer with regards to Arsenal’s existing players. Francis Coquelin, having signed a new long-term contract, will certainly be at the club next season, whilst Mikel Arteta may also stay. If Mathieu Flamini departs then Bielik may be more likely to feature for the first-team, but, of course, it isn’t out of the question that Arsenal will sign a new defensive-midfielder in the transfer window.
If that scenario occurs then Bielik could still be able to get some minutes in the Capital One Cup at centre-back, a position he appears comfortable in. Isaac Hayden, Julio Pleguezuelo and Stefan O’Connor will provide him with stern competition in that regard, but Wenger may well be keen to see how Bielik performs on the senior stage.
Bielik, despite his considerable talent, will most probably have to remain patient for opportunities next season. It is difficult at present to envisage him becoming a key part of the squad for some time, barring an injury crisis. For now, though, he simply seems happy to be an Arsenal player and, with some valuable experience of English football already under his belt, the 17-year-old will be looking to push on further next season.