Within the next couple of weeks, the Arsenal academy coaching staff will make some considerably difficult decisions regarding which youngsters should be offered scholarship deals for next season.
This year the task is perhaps harder than ever, with no fewer than 20 prospects hoping to be offered a chance to become a full-time Arsenal player.
First of all it is worth considering which positions in the U18 squad will need filling next season.
The current players will still be eligible for the U18s next campaign:
Osei-Tutu, T. Bola, McGuane, DaSilva, Dragomir, Fortune, Gilmour, Nketiah, Pileas, Tella, Malen, J. Willock.
Of that group, Donyell Malen is already an established U21 player so won’t feature much in the U18 league, while the likes of Marcus McGuane, Josh DaSilva and Yassin Fortune should also step up to the second-string.
That would leave eight players as U18 regulars, at least initially, so it seems clear that next season’s intake will be a sizeable one.
With regards to the players in contention for deals next season, there are some youngsters who are pretty much guaranteed an extended stay.
That is certainly the case for Reiss Nelson, with the winger having been a mainstay for the U18s this season while he has also featured for the U21s, played a prominent part in the UEFA Youth League and trained with the first-team.
Portuguese youth international goalkeeper Joao Virginia, who has been training at London Colney this season, will also be taken on, whilst winger Emile Smith-Rowe, who has reportedly been monitored by Barcelona, is also set to be offered terms.
Then comes the complicated part as the club have to decide which of the remaining Hale End products to take on.
There are two goalkeepers in the mix, with George Phillips and Jordan Perrin both having been on the cusp of the U18 squad this season. With Virginia being signed, it seems likely that one of the homegrown players will be offered a deal, with the other being released.
This season has been notable for the fact that there haven’t been as many schoolboys as usual featuring in the U18s.
A few have gained fleeting experience of that level of football, however. Midfielders Josh Benson and Robbie Burton (a Welsh youth international) are highly regarded, whilst centre-back Toby Omole made a couple of appearances for the U18s last season, as did right-back Rob Howard.
Earlier this campaign Nathan Tormey, a flying winger, featured as a substitute for the U18s against West Ham United, and he too is in contention for a scholarship contract.
Striker Jay Beckford joined Arsenal from Leyton Orient last year, but it remains to be seen whether he will be taken on.
Henry Wise, the son of former Chelsea player Dennis, is hopeful of earning a deal, with the midfielder having featured for the club at schoolboy level since joining from Queens Park Rangers.
Joseph Olowu, a centre-back who has risen through the ranks at the Hale End academy, has been a regular for the U16s this campaign, as has attacker Jaidon Anthony, who featured in an U17 game at London Colney last season.
Defenders Jordan Williams and Dominic Thompson are also in contention, along with Mohammed Diallo, Javaan Campbell, Danny Ballard and Max Sheaf, with the latter being the brother of U21 regular Ben Sheaf.
The coaching staff are expected to make their decisions on all of the above players by the end of January.
It is worth remembering, however, that until the players who have been offered terms officially put pen to paper on their contracts on July 1st, they are free to move elsewhere.
In addition, players who have been offered a scholarship deal can reject the contract, while the club themselves can still offer deals at a later date to players who have been overlooked.
Furthermore, as is often the case, there will probably be further additions to the scholarship intake from elsewhere, with at least one player usually signed from a foreign club.