When Trae Coyle was a schoolboy, there was a feeling within the Arsenal setup that he could follow the same trajectory as Reiss Nelson, who was in the age group above him.
Now, however, Nelson is part of the first-team squad, whereas Coyle is still in the U23 side. For context, this time last season Nelson was making an impact on loan at Hoffenheim, with Coyle currently still waiting to make a senior appearance of any description.
Injuries haven’t helped Coyle’s cause, but there has evidently been something missing from his game over the past couple of years, with the winger often lacking the dynamism that made him such a standout prospect in the first place.
This was a player who was featuring for Arsenal in the UEFA Youth League as a schoolboy, yet now he has barely even trained with the first-team.
Of late, however, there have been some significant signs of improvement for Coyle, who is now one of the first names of the teamsheet for Steve Bould’s U23 side.
Coyle has appeared to be playing with greater confidence as he has taken on opponents with increased regularity and he is also having more efforts on goal.
In the victory away to rivals Tottenham Hotspur last week, Coyle was especially impressive and he marked the occasion by scoring his first goal of the season.
The hope now is that Coyle will continue to push on further and start to demonstrate that he can be a real star at U23 level.
That goal against Tottenham was Coyle’s first ever strike for the U23s in his 23rd appearance, which is rather surprising as he mustered 18 goals in 47 games for the U18s.
In tonight’s Leasing.com Trophy clash against Cambridge United, Coyle will be presented with another opportunity to prove his worth, and the switch to deploy him primarily on the right flank as opposed to the left has also benefitted his game.
If he continues to progress then Coyle may still have a chance of making the grade at Arsenal, despite having not developed as quickly as had been hoped.
Coyle is still only 18 years old and helped Arsenal U18s to win the southern section title last season. His familiarity with playing with right-back Zak Swanson has also been very useful for the U23s this campaign.
At present chances are few and far between for members of the U23 side to get into the first-team, but that could well change in the near future, especially if Arsenal secure early qualification for the Europa League knockout stages and get a favourable draw in the third round of the FA Cup.
Coyle is eager to not get carried away, but after a period of stagnation, he is now heading in the right direction again.