So far this season has been rather frustrating for Dan Crowley, with the midfielder’s loan spell at Barnsley having fizzled out after an encouraging start.
The prospect struggled for consistency upon returning to U21 football with Arsenal, but against Stoke City last weekend there were some surefire signs that Crowley is returning to something approaching his best form.
Crowley’s display in the enthralling 3-1 win was overshadowed by the fact that he was sent off for dissent after saying something untoward to the referee in the wake of Marcus McGuane’s goal. That incident means that Crowley will miss the U21 matches away to Swansea City and Blackburn Rovers.
He will, though, be able to participate in the game at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Friday and Crowley will be seeking to build upon the more positive elements of his display against Stoke.
Wearing the number seven shirt, he was initially deployed as a right winger, but the England youth international roamed across the field to excellent effect and linked play superbly as Arsenal dominated the early exchanges.
As one of the more experienced players in the U21 set-up, Crowley’s game understanding and ability to unlock defences stands out, although he does still have some improvements to make in order to make the step up.
The 18-year-old can still lose possession unnecessarily at times, whilst he also needs to improve physically. For the most part, though, Crowley remains an encouraging talent, albeit one who hasn’t progressed quite as quickly as many would have expected.
There is still much time on Crowley’s side and next season it is hoped that he will be able to enjoy a more fruitful loan spell elsewhere, perhaps after receiving some run-outs for Arsenal in the Capital One Cup.
The talent and dedication is certainly there with Crowley, but he is a little raw in some aspects of his game. With Gedion Zelalem catching the eye at Rangers and Nigerian starlet Kelechi Nwakali poised to join the club, Crowley can’t afford to rest on his laurels in the quest to make the breakthrough.
Although he featured for the first-team in pre-season, Crowley has yet to make his competitive debut for Arsenal and has only trained with the first-team occasionally since his return.
His performance against Stoke, however, suggested that his confidence hasn’t suffered, and indicated that the best may be yet to come from this much-hyped youngster.