Ben Sheaf has signed a contract extension with Arsenal, and, given how highly the youngster is rated at the club and by Arsene Wenger in particular, the news comes as little surprise.
Sheaf joined Arsenal in 2014 from West Ham United’s renowned academy as a central midfielder, with his excellent passing ability in evidence straight away.
The prospect was initially involved with the U18 side and impressed in some fixtures while finding matters considerably more challenging in others.
Last season, however, Sheaf really came to the fore as he stepped up to the U23 side and was also named on the bench for the League Cup fixture away to Sheffield Wednesday – the first real indication of Wenger showing faith in him.
Sheaf didn’t get onto the pitch on that occasion but the experience appeared to provide him with a confidence boost and he went on to produce some stellar performances for the U23s, mainly as a defensive midfielder but also occasionally at right-back.
This campaign has seen Sheaf rise to an altogether different challenge. The England youth international went into the season seeking to continue featuring prominently for the U23s.
He has achieved that aim but, in an unexpected turn of events, has spent the majority of the season so far playing at centre-back.
What started as a temporary experient when Krystian Bielik was needed to provide back-up for the first-team has turned into a long-term project, with Sheaf having excelled in his new position.
The youngster is composed on the ball and can initiate attacks with his varied passing, while he is also an excellent reader of the game and makes precisely timed interceptions with regularity.
Sheaf has continued to be on the periphery of the first-team, training with the squad and making the bench for the EFL Cup fixtures against Nottingham Forest and Reading.
The next step for the set-piece specialist, inevitably, is to make his senior debut and that should come next season whether at Arsenal or out on loan.
Sheaf’s versatility is a major asset and the evidence suggests that he will certainly be given an opportunity to make the cut at Arsenal.