Tag Archives: Bukayo Saka.

The Arsenal youngsters who will break through in 2019/20

Only Fulham gave more minutes to teenagers this season than Arsenal.

This would be a surprise to some of Unai Emery’s critics who have moaned that he has not given youth enough of a chance this season.

The figures are misleading, however, as the majority of those minutes were played by a single play, Matteo Guendouzi.

The only other 3 teenagers to get game time this season played a grand total of 134 minutes between them.

Whilst Emery has not given academy graduates much game time in the league, there have been plenty of minutes handed out in the cups.

Against Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League, there were 9 academy graduates in the match day squad, many of whom were local lads.

Arsenal finished 2nd in the Premier League 2, following up from being champions last season. The U18 team topped the Southern Division, before losing the final to Derby.

The Arsenal Academy is certainly in good health, even if not too many got their chance this season. Against Burnley we saw Joe Willock get a start, and Eddie Nketiah come off the bench and score.

Here we analyise what to expect from some of the best and brightest youngsters next season.

Reiss Nelson – After an exciting start on loan at Hoffenheim, Reiss Nelson’s form dropped off after the Bundesliga winter break. Discipline problems led him to fall out of favour and he ended up spending most of the season coming off the bench.

Nelson is clearly a talented kid, and a few fans got a little too excited over his performances in Germany – even calling for him to return to Arsenal in January and be parachuted straight into the first team.

He is probably still some way from being a first team regular at Arsenal; remember he could not break into the Hoffenheim XI with just 5 starts.

His development will continue at Arsenal next season where he likely to play a similar role that he did at Hoffenheim. Cameo roles off the bench. As the season progresses, he will get more game time, especially if he put sin some solid performances in the League Cup.

Eddie Nketiah – With Danny Welbeck leaving, Nketiah will find himself as 3rd choice striker between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Alexandre Lacazette.

If Emery decides to play with a 2 up top, Nketiah will the sole striker on the bench.

He does not have much time to break in to the Arsenal first team squad as Tyreece John-Jules will be itching for game time.

The one to watch out for is Folarin Balogun. The 17-year-old striker scored 25 goals in 18 games in the U18 league and at some point, he will be pushing for the game time in the cups that Nketiah craves.

For next season, Nketiah will be 3rd choice striker with John-Jules likely to go on loan and Balogun to be promoted to the U23 team.

Emile Smith Rowe – Like Nelson, Smith Rowe has been on loan in Germany, joining RB Leipzig in January. Injury has restricted him to a couple of fleeting substitute appearances lasting barely a minute.

The feeling is that he is likely to remain at Leipzig next season.

He was injured prior to going to Germany, so the logical reason for him leaving Arsenal was to spend a few months acclimatizing to a new country and living on his own. Still just 18-years-old; a year playing in Germany will see him return for 2020/21 with real chances to break into the first team squad.

Joe Willock – A year ago Willock’s future at Arsenal looked bleak. He struggled to make an impact in his Europa League appearances and the feeling was that he would not make it.

This season he has kicked on and reinvented himself as a goal scoring central midfielder. He grabbed himself 3 senior goals in the cups.

Willock turns 20 in August so has missed the window for a season long loan deal. He will be promoted to the 1st team squad, where he will provide cover for all 3 positions behind the striker and give Emery a 5th central midfield option.

The feeling is he could be a contender to be Aaron Ramsey’s replacement in the long term.

Xavier Amaechi – Next in line after Reiss Nelson in Arsenal’s stable of young, fast wingers is Amaechi. The 18-year-old saw his progress restricted this season due to injury.

Due to the injury, he has lost about 6 months of development meaning he is probably not yet ready for first team football on loan. Expect him to be ripping up the U23 league next season.

Bukayo Saka – Amaechi’s loss was Saka’s gain as the talented youngster stepped up from the U18’s to the U23’s to replace his elder team mate. Performances at this level saw him get his chance in the first team, making 4 senior appearances in total.

Like with Nelson, some have gone a bit OTT with Saka, already calling him to make regular first team starts next season. One Tweeter went as far as to say that we did not need to sign a winger for next season such is his talent.

There is no doubt Saka is talented, but there is a huge step up from U18 & U23 to the senior side.

He is still just 17-years-old so it is important that we do not rush his development.

Saka has probably now jumped ahead of Amaechi in the pecking order and could well find himself as 5th choice winger next season (behind a new signing, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan and Nelson).

His star could shine the brightest of the lot.

Keenos

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Brazilian “wonderkid” signing sends negative message to Arsenal Academy

Arsenal ‘launch £5m offer’ for wonderkid Gabriel Martinelli after Man Utd trial is the headline news this morning in many of the click bait media outlets.

I for one do not agree with us targeting the Brazilian teenager.

Gabriel Martinelli is a 17-year-old Brazilian forward who reportedly had a trial with Manchester United 2 years ago. In June he will gain his Italian citizenship meaning that a work permit will not be a problem.

He has reportedly been courted by a whole host of clubs in South America and Europe. The likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Crystal Palace have been monitoring him, with Arsenal leading the pack.

I do not want to see Arsenal sign the Brazilian teenager.

At the moment we have a lot of exciting young talent in the academy. It is in good health.

Eddie Nketiah deserves his chance next season to replace Danny Welbeck, backing up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

Another who also deserves his chance next season is Reiss Nelson who has developed well in Germany. I expect both Nketiah and Nelson to be part of Arsenal’s first team squad next season, and regularly take a place on the bench.

Xavier Amaechi is barely 18-years-old. Some have claimed that he is the quickest player at the club and he potentially has a big future. A year younger is Bukayo Saka.

Would it be right to sign Martinelli instead of continuing these two’s development?

Martinelli can also play up top.

In Dubai, Tyreece John-Jules announced himself. Another 18-year-old, it seems a poitnless task to sign someone ahead of him before he has even had his chance.

Finally we have Folarin Balogun, who recently signed his first professional contract with he club.

Another who is just 17-years-old, there is a lot of excitement surrounding him.

With Amaechi, Saka, John-Jules & Balogun all at the club, all 18-years-old or younger, all local lads who have been at the club since children, it is illogical to sign a Brazilian who will then come in and compete with them.

And i have not even mentioned Joe Willock or Emile Smith Rowe yet…

I would rather give the young, local lads a chance.

If the club considered Martinelli as already better than Nketiah and Nelson, I would understand it more. He would be coming in to the 1st squad, able to contribute straight away.

A bit like Matteo Guendouzi last season, it did not matter that he came in ahead of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Ben Sheaf or Joe Willock, he was ready for first team action and they were not.

I very much doubt that Martinelli is ready for the 1st team. As it stands, he is a YouTube player – with most fans having never seen him play and just getting excited by the “Welcome to Arsenal” videos of him doing a few step overs.

If the local lads were not good enough, I would understand us buying someone ahead of him – like what happened a lot during the 00s. Likewise if he was a special talent – like Cesc Fabregas or Guendouzi – he would be joining up with the first team squad rather than the academy.

If Arsenal do sign him and he joins the academy, it will send out a poor message to youngsters and their families. “Do not join Arsenal as when you reach 17 they will sign someone from abroad to replace you.”

Let’s give the local lads a chance. Give Saka, Amaechi, John-Jules, Balogun tne opportunity to continue getting time in the U23’s and League Cup games next signing.

Signing Martinelli is a poor move.

Keenos

Should Unai Emery put more trust in talented youngsters?

Last night Arsenal beat Spurs 5-2 after extra time in the FA Youth Cup. A write up of the game can be found over on Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Youth Blog. The win saw Arsenal progress to the fifth round of the competition – in which Arsenal made the final last year.

Arsenal’s victory in the competition over their North London rivals is even more impressive considering the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Zech Medley were not involved despite being eligible.

For some time I have been thinking that during the sticky period, where Arsenal have struggled for a consistent line up and tactics, should Unai Emery have had faith in some of the youngsters, rather than swapping and changing his tactics to fit in whatever first teamers he had available.

We have struggled with width this season, due to a lack of natural wide man. In Xavier Amaechi and Bukayo Saka Arsenal have two teenagers with pace to burn and talent in abundance.

Amaechi was out injured until November, and Saka is just 17-years-old, but both could have contributed in recent weeks.

If the talent is there, age is nothing but a number, just like Matteo Gunedouzi has shown.

Could both have offered something out wide? Or at least been an option coming off the bench? I look at the West Ham game when we were crying out for width and pace. Had we bought the pair on in the 70th minute, I am sure they would have contributed.

Moving up a little older, Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have both spent a lot of their youth careers playing out wide. Could they not have been an option to offer us width on the wings?

And with emery struggling to play either Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey for whatever reasons, could Willock have been given a shot in behind the striker? He offers the running from deep and goals that we have missed this season.

At the back we have seen Grant Xhaka and Stephan Lichsteiner both fill in at centre back. Why were they selected over Zech Medley?

Medley is raw at 18-years-old, but he is 6 4, quick and good on the ball. Alongside a senior partner (either Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi or Sokratis has always been available), Medley could have been guided through the game.

Would it have been a better option to play a proper central defender at centre back even if he is raw? I think yes.

With Arsenal set not to buy anyone in January, Emery surely has to consider playing some of the youngsters who are natural in their positions, rather than continuing to chop and change and put square pegs in round holes?

Keenos