The qualities that saw Donyell Malen earmarked as an extremely exciting prospect are extremely clear within an instant of watching him play – the Dutchman possesses pace, power and technical ability in abundance, with those attributes seeing him make a significant impact in his first season at Arsenal following his switch from Ajax.
Malen’s early performances suggested that he could well have a very bright future at Arsenal – the striker initially caught the eye in the U18s before stepping up to make an impact for what was then the U21 side, while he also trained with the first-team squad on several occasions.
This season, however, the prospect has had to endure his fair share of difficulties. With Stephy Mavididi having been installed as the first-choice striker for the U23s prior to his loan switch to Charlton Athletic and Eddie Nkeitah continuing to score with regularity for the U18s, Malen found himself somewhat overshadowed.
The youngster’ s difficult situation was reflected in his performances. When playing for the U18s, Malen’s touch was often heavy, he appeared to be lacking confidence and he certainly lacked ruthlessness in front of goal; problems which were also apparent on the rare occasions that he featured for the older age groups.
Any fears that Malen wouldn’t be able to emerge from this slump have quickly frittered away, however, as he has started 2017 with a spring in his step.
With three goals in three games for the U18s, Malen was certainly one of Arsenal’s best performing young players in January, while he also showcased his adaptability as he demonstrated that he is capable of having a significant impact on the left wing, where he can glide past players with ease.
After Mavididi went on loan and with Nketiah struggling with injury, Malen was given a starting berth as Arsenal U23s faced Everton this week. Although he failed to find the net, the 18-year-old will be delighted to finally be back in the second-string set-up and, having got his confidence back, will now be hoping to end the season very strongly.