There has been considerable criticism of Arsenal’s scouting network at youth level in recent years, with several players from abroad failing to impress.
Admittedly there have been some major success stories, with Hector Bellerin and Serge Gnabry breaking into the first-team squad, whilst Julio Pleguezuelo seems set for a future at a very high level.
There are, though, numerous examples of players recruited from elsewhere who have struggled greatly before fading into insignificance. One player who will be hoping to avoid such a fate is defender Kristopher Da Graca, who endured a difficult first campaign at the club following his arrival from Hisingsbacka.
The Swedish youth international, who is also eligible to represent Bosnia & Herzegovina, is a player who had been on Arsenal’s radar for some time; indeed his transfer to Arsenal was agreed in August 2013, just under a year before he officially linked up with the club.
Da Graca had to be patient to make his debut, with registration problems and injuries taking their toll, but when opportunities finally did arrive for the youngster he failed to seize them, with the centre-back frequently being caught out of position and making costly errors whilst representing Arsenal’s U18 team.
Da Graca made a total of 12 appearances for Frans De Kat’s side last season, but, despite his difficult campaign, he has featured prominently for Arsenal’s U21 side during pre-season and will be hopeful of stepping up to represent the second-string when the competitive action gets back underway.
A tall player who is capable of bringing the ball out from defence, one of the most prominent concerns regarding Da Graca is his apparent lack of awareness and decisiveness. It is hoped that, with a year’s experience of English youth football now under his belt, he will be better equipped to tackle the challenges that lie in wait.
At just 17, it is perhaps a little harsh to judge Da Graca in such a light, and it is certainly possible that he could develop considerably this season. So far, though, the signs don’t seem to be positive at all, with the youngster’s performances calling to mind those of Elton Monteiro, who is now representing Lausanne in the Swiss second tier.
Da Graca, who signed his first professional contract last season, will hope to instead push on and will be aiming to put his challenging start to his Arsenal career behind him.