Deprived of the services, for various reasons, of Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Cohen Bramall, Charlie Gilmour, Ben Sheaf, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Gedion Zelalem and Xavier Amaechi, you could have been forgiven for expecting Arsenal U23s to struggle away to Leicester City last night.
As it transpired, Arsenal managed to prevail with a 2-1 victory, emphasising that Freddie Ljungberg’s squad may be deeper than was initially anticipated.
Robbie Burton was at the forefront of proceedings as he scored and provided an assist and the Welsh youth international has had to be very patient for opportunities to impress at this level.
Burton is far from the finished article but he demonstrated against Leicester that he is capable of making an impact for the U23s with his precise passing.
Tobi Omole is another Hale End product who is no longer eligible for the U18s but hasn’t yet fully established himself in the U23s. The youngster’s versatility should aid his chances of further game time – he can play at centre-back, left-back, or, as was the case last night, in midfield.
Omole scored the opening goal against Leicester and, while he may find himself back on the bench when key players return, his display will certainly have impressed Ljungberg.
There are others who fall into the category of starting to establish themselves in the U23s, with Danny Ballard and Zech Medley seeking to become the regular central-defensive partnership for the U23s, while James Olayinka has quietly been an important part of Ljungberg’s team in recent weeks.
Trae Coyle, too, received a run out against Leicester, with the youngster, who can play as a winger or an attacking midfielder, looking to fulfil his vast potential after his development stagnated a little last season.
On the left flank, Bukayo Saka has already made quite an impact for the U23s, scoring against Liverpool and creating countless chances, despite still technically being a first-year.
There are more youngsters on the periphery of proceedings. Midfielder Matt Smith is efficient at retaining possession, while striker Folarin Balogun has impressed consistently at U18 level and left-back Dominic Thompson has trained with the first-team this season.
Soon, other second-years, including right-back Vontae Daley-Campbell and the versatile Harry Clarke and Zak Swanson, could also step up.
They may not have been hyped up quite as much as their immediate predecessors, but there is a talented new crop of players emerging for Arsenal U23s and many of them could well be regulars at that level by the end of the campaign if some of the older players head out on loan in January.