I think I speak for most people when I say I was glad to see the back of Project Youth. As much as it helped us through the stadium move, it was also massively frustrating to watch young talent that never quite reached its potential. The likes of Vela, Szczesny, Bartley, Djourou, Miyaichi, Merida, JET, Afobe, Frimpong, Eastmond, Bendtner and countless others have come and gone without quite being the answer. Thankfully though, the financial restrictions on the club are now lifted and we can afford to buy ready made superstars like Özil, Sanchez and Cech. But where does this leave our youngsters?
It’s been a while since we had a wave of talent coming through, with Bellerin and Coquelin the only real success stories in the last 5 seasons, but it does look as though we may have another group ready to burst onto the scene. There was a lot of talk during the transfer window about us needing to improve our forward players and today I wanted to have a look at some future stars and see if anyone thinks they could be good enough to break into the first team squad in the summer and give our current crop a run for their money.
Chuba Akpom (age 20) on loan at Hull
Whoscored rating 6.61
Born in Newham, Chuba came through Arsenal’s Hale End academy before making his debut along with Mesut Ozil in September 2013. He signed a new long-term contract with the club in 2015. An England youth international with a true goalscoring instinct, he scored a hat-trick against the Singapore Select XI during the pre-season Barclays Asia Trophy.
Jon Toral (age 21) on loan at Birmingham
An expert dribbler who can play on either flank or in the No 10 role, Jon (full named Jon Miquel Toral Harper) was involved with the first-team squad for last year’s pre-season tour to New York, and also played in the friendly against Borehamwood.
Wellington Silva (age 23) on loan at Bolton
Despite producing match-winning performances Wellington (full name Wellington Alves Da Silva) could not rescue Almeria from relegation, but his impressive individual performances were rewarded with a first call-up to Brazil’s under-21 side in November.
The tricky forward became very popular with the Spanish side’s fans for his inventiveness and ambition going forward.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (age 18) on loan at Ipswich
Immensely talented midfielder Ainsley was a key figure in Arsenal’s academy sides last season, and will spend this season on loan at Ipswich in the Championship.
Known for his tricky feet, sharpness and lung-busting runs, versatile Ainsley is nominally a midfielder, but can also play on either wing
Jeff Reine-Adelaide (age 18)
Possessing great pace and close ball control, the youngster has excelled in wide attacking midfield positions, but Arsene Wenger believes the teenager has all the attributes to become an all-round central midfielder.
Serge Gnabry (age 20)
The skilful winger did not feature for the Arsenal first team last term due to a knee injury, but made eight appearances for the under-21s, scoring three times.
Alex Iwobi (age 19)
With nine goals in the under-21s’ final nine games of the campaign, powerful forward Alex was the academy’s form player in the second half of last season.
Naturally a winger, the Lagos-born attacker – who is the nephew of former Bolton star Jay-Jay Okocha – was converted into a central striker and caught the eye with a hat-trick against Stoke City at Emirates Stadium.
As you can see we really do have an excellent crop of youngsters waiting in the wings. Personally, I believe these players have a better chance of making it than some of those that were used in Project Youth because they are being given the opportunity to learn their trade out on loan rather than having to play in front of 60,000 frustrated Arsenal fans every week.
It’s great to see new signings walk through the Arsenal door but I think there is nothing quite like seeing one of our own pulling on the red and white shirt. I reckon a few of these lads could be doing that on a regular basis next season, but what do you think?
Written by FatGingerGooner