Some youngsters take a considerable amount of time to adapt to English football, but, from the very moment that he arrived in London after joining Arsenal from Barcelona in the summer of 2013, Julio Pleguezuelo has looked very much at home.
The Spaniard quickly established himself as a regular at centre-back for Arsenal’s U21s during his first year at the club and, although his 2014/15 campaign was heavily disrupted by injury, he is now back to being a regular for Steve Gatting’s side.
In addition, Pleguezuelo has captained Arsenal’s youngsters as they have made an impressive start to the new season with victories over Fulham and Derby County. The 18-year-old was outstanding in both fixtures, but probably more so against Derby last night as he organised the defence and made several crucial interceptions.
It was clear in the few matches that he played there last season that Pleguezuelo is nowhere near as comfortable at right-back as he is at the heart of the defence. Quick and possessing good ball control, as you would expect from a La Masia graduate, the Spanish youth international has done very little wrong in an Arsenal shirt when deployed at centre-back.
The next logical step, inevitably, is for him to become increasingly involved in the first-team squad, but such a task would appear rather difficult at present when comparatively experienced players in his position, such as Gabriel and Calum Chambers, are yet to feature for the senior side this season.
Pleguezuelo, if he continues his stellar start to the season, may well find himself called upon in the Capital One Cup, but barring a considerable injury crisis, it is difficult to envisage him receiving many first-team minutes this season.
A loan spell, therefore, could be an option in the second half of the season and Pleguezuelo appears to be the sort of strong-minded character who wouldn’t be fazed by the physical nature of a division such as the Championship or League One, despite him being rather short in stature.
Pleguezuelo will also be aware that even if he did manage to rack up some first-team minutes in the near future, it wouldn’t be a guarantor of success in terms of carving out a long-term career at the club. His compatriot Ignasi Miquel, for example, made five Premier League appearances for Arsenal but now finds himself at Ponferradina, having failed to establish himself at Norwich City.
Pleguezuelo, though, appears a far more composed figure than the occasionally erratic Miquel. Breaking into the Arsenal first-team squad will be a very difficult challenge, with Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Chambers all ahead of him, but the youngster is certainly giving himself the very best chance of reaching the top with his recent performances.