Last season Marcus Agyei-Tabi was training with Arsenal’s U16 squad, with some members of that group being unable to earn a scholarship deal at Arsenal. Already this campaign he has trained with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil on several occasions, with Arsene Wenger fully aware of the myriad of qualities that the young Irishman possesses.
The 16-year-old’s progress has been rapid in recent months, but those who nurtured him at Hale End have been fully aware of the youngster’s considerable potential for quite some time. Some eyebrows were raised when The Guardian named Agyei-Tabi as Arsenal’s first-year scholar to keep an eye on this season ahead of the likes of Donyell Malen, Yassin Fortune and Vlad Dragomir, but their choice was a well informed one, especially when the youngster’s expert reading of the game is taken into account.
Predominantly a deep-lying midfielder but also capable of playing out wide on occasion, Agyei-Tabi ended last season by representing the Republic of Ireland at the U17 European Championships. That he was starting in that competition whilst still a schoolboy was testament to his potential and there have been further signs this season of just how highly the youngster is regarded.
As alluded to, he has been drafted in for first-team training sessions on several occasions, often when the U21 players are unavailable because of matches. Training with the senior squad as a youngster isn’t always a precursor to success (many players have done so in the past only to fail to make the grade at Arsenal) but the fact that Agyei-Tabi has been selected so frequently at his age is indicative of the fact that he is deemed to be amongst those to have the highest chance of succeeding in the long-term out of the current first-year scholars.
Agyei-Tabi has also made his debut in the UEFA Youth League this season, featuring as a substitute during the chaotic victory at home to Olympiacos. His display in that fixture provided a microcosm of his qualities. His ability to win the ball back and, almost immediately, set the team on the front foot again, is tremendous, whilst his decision making under pressure is also highly commendable.
Should he progress as expected this season then further opportunities will open up for Agyei-Tabi, with a debut at U21 level surely not out of the question. The first-team is still a long way off and he isn’t eligible to sign a professional contract until February, but for now he can be very happy with his progress.
The grind mustn’t stop, though. It can be all too easy for youngsters to, for example, feel that they are above playing at U18 level when they have already experienced loftier heights. Agyei-Tabi, though, seems like the type of level-headed and determined character that won’t be overwhelmed by the surprisingly rapid nature of his development, and, rather than seeing it as a millstone, will simply view it as another milestone on his route to success.