Arsenal initially decided to release Daniel Ballard last summer before a late change of heart saw them offer the youngster a scholarship deal.
Having been given a surprise reprieve, Ballard went on to feature frequently for Arsenal U18s last season, receiving much game time at centre-back.
His performances were decidedly mixed, with some impressive interventions counteracted by costly lapses in concentration.
This season, however, has seen a rather significant change for the 17-year-old. With Joseph Olowu and captain Zech Medley firmly established as the first-choice central-defensive partnership for the U18s, Ballard has been moved into midfield so that he can continue to play regularly for Kwame Ampadu’s team.
As has to be expected, there were some initial teething problems, with Ballard amongst the many Arsenal players who struggled during the disappointing 4-1 defeat away to Fulham on the opening day of the season.
Last weekend against Aston Villa, however, Ballard produced an excellent display as the young Gunners prevailed with a 1-0 victory, suggesting that he could have a future as a midfielder.
Ballard snapped into challenges with regularity, breaking up play effectively, while he demonstrated his composure on the ball and ability to play incisive passes.
On one occasion Ballard pushed forwards into the opposing penalty area and came close to scoring.
Ballard can be guilty of making some over-zealous challenges at times – he has been booked in each of his last three U18 games – but he is adapting well to his new position.
If Olowu and Medley step up to the U23s at some stage this season then Ballard may well be required to revert to playing in defence, but his versatility is certainly doing him no harm in his quest to earn a professional contract at Arsenal.