Can these five starlets take Arsenal back to the top

Do Arsenal’s next generation have what it takes to step up?

In the Premier League era, few clubs have earned as impressive a reputation for bringing through young talent as Arsenal. The Gunners’ Academy has produced the likes of Jack Wilshere, Alex Iwobi and Ashley Cole, and continues to turn out some of the most gifted and technically accomplished young players in English football.

Of course, being on the books of one of the “Big Six” is no guarantee of progression to the first team, and with Arsenal usually pushing for multiple trophies every season, the opportunities for younger players to show what they can do in the first team are often limited.

One silver lining of participation in the Europa League this season has been the freedom that it has given to Arsène Wenger to use some of the club’s younger stars. The Gunners named a 42-man squad for the competition that featured some of the most exciting talent at the club.

Now that they are in the quarter-finals, the opportunities for the young Arsenal stars may be more limited. Arsenal are amongst the favourites with to lift the trophy in May, and winning the Europa League has now become the likeliest route back into the Champions League next season. The games from here on in – beginning with the last-eight tie against Milan – are likely to require Arsenal to be at full strength.

However, the opportunities given to these Arsenal stars of the future will be invaluable in helping them to develop. Here are five young Arsenal players who have shown the ability to step up to the next level and earn a regular place in the starting line-up.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Maitland-Niles is familiar to many Arsenal fans. The England Under-20 World Cup winner has occasionally featured in the early rounds of domestic cup competitions, but has been an ever-present throughout the Europa League campaign so far, and has also made five Premier League starts this season. A versatile, reliable player, he has mostly been used as a wide midfielder or wingback, though he was employed in the centre of midfield in both legs of the game against Östersunds. He struggled in the latter role in the home-leg defeat, but his solid performances in a wide position will have encouraged Wenger and Arsenal fans.

Eddie Nketiah

A speedy and versatile forward, Nketiah is capable of playing as a pure striker or in a deep-lying role, and after joining the Academy at the age of 14, he has developed rapidly to become one of Arsenal’s most promising talents. He impressed in the Arsenal U23s and in the summer pre-season matches, and although he hasn’t yet started a game in the Europa League, he showed flashes of brilliance in all five of his substitute appearances.

Reiss Nelson

Long touted as the most exiting young talent at the club, a first-team breakthrough seems imminent for Nelson, who played in the Emirates Cup. His pace and flair make him a stand-out performer and his tactical maturity has enabled him to play a variety of roles. He is yet to start in the Premier League this season, but has featured throughout the Europa League campaign, where he has operated as right wing-back, right-midfield and right-wing.

Joe Willock

Another versatile Academy product, Willock played for the under-18s last season but impressed enough to earn a spot in the Europa League squad. A stylish creative midfielder with a wide range of passing, he can also play a variety of roles and has done well in the current campaign, starting both matches against Red Star Belgrade in a central role, and playing on the right side of midfield against Borisov.

Ben Sheaf

A gifted midfielder, Sheaf joined the Academy in 2014 and played a key role in helping the Arsenal Under-19 team win the Durban International Tournament before establishing himself in the Under-21s last year. A hard-tackling, goal-scoring player, his accurate passing and crossing ability make him an asset to any squad, and he got his first taste of first-team action when he came on as a substitute for the game in Belgrade. He has since gone out on loan to Stevenage but will be an exciting addition to the first-team squad next season.

Arsenal’s reputation for playing progressive, attractive football is well-deserved, and if the evidence of their performances in the Europa League is anything to go, they will be proudly maintained by the next generation of players to pull on the famous red and white shirts.

Could all of these be the future of Arsenal?

Updated: February 27, 2018 — 3:56 pm


  1. When the New Manager takes over ( hopefully tomorrow morning) I cannot believe he will wish to start promising youngsters in League Games so it’s more of the same with Cup Competitions the only way for these youngsters to progress.The odd substitute appearance will encourage them but the priority is the here and now.We simply have to recruit quality reinforcements (or in some cases replacements) that will improve us straight away.
    Unfortunately the state Wenger has allowed our club to be reduced to will not allow his replacement the luxury of playing youngsters.Results for the new Manager must be positive from the start.Not too difficult to improve on our current form though.

    1. Phil, I am disappointed with you. “hopefully tomorrow morning” you say. It is 7.25 pm as I write. How about 8 pm tonight! Or better still 7.26 pm!

      1. Apologies Jon-the man has scrambled my brain

  2. Don’t understand how Welbeck starts ahead of Nketiah or Nelson. Welbeck has been found out to be average at best. And he cant get us forward.

    Wenger can’t even bring youth though anymore

  3. You create a top team with established, experienced quality players. And hope the youngsters you sign turn good but you can’t rely on the academy to build a champion side.

    Most of our starters are not top quality and wouldn’t make Chelsea’s, Liverpool, United, City or even Spurs starting lineup. That’s saying a lot. I mean Xhaka and Eleny wouldn’t even make Spurs Bench. I rate Wanyama, Dier, Sissoko, Dembele over them. My, How far we have fallen

    1. Never thouģht I’d see the day we’d rate the spuds over our own players!! Arghhhhh!!!!!

  4. The youngsters are impressive but wenger has lost his touch lately.

    as seen with the likes of thomas eisfield,serge gnabry,chamberlain,walcott,sczeny…all promising at one point but couldn’t progress.

    a good manager with all this youngsters can do something special.

    its sad because guardiola and arsenal was the perfect match.

    1. “lost his touch LATELY.”? Personally, I don’t call ten years ago “lately.”

  5. Is this article meant to make us forget? Nope, we know what they did last Sunday.. it was bullocks. Should change the manager first followed by his beloved average cheap by passers

  6. The lack of player development is also an argument to get rid of Wenger.
    Yes, we have technically gifted players with offensive qualities. But they all seem to lack:
    Defensive discipline
    Ball winning capability
    Winners attitude
    All the things that lack in Wenger players, and they will not become great players any of them, if they stay under Wenger.

    1. Totally agree!

  7. I have lost the taste to watch Arsenal matches. managed to watch the cup final, the thrashing was unbearable. how has the mighty fallen. we need a drastic change to change the fortune of the club. wenger has lost it , arsenal currently are on the same level with burnley and stock city

  8. With the current clubs politics, those youngstars have no future.

  9. Once Wenger is sacked(very soon now) we will then have a big name and proper experienced man in charge and he will not be much interested in young ” starlets” on the fringe of the first team, given the vast re-structuring he will need to do and very quickly too. Who knows whether any of these players will make the top; odds are always long against ANY youngster coming through the club to reach the very top, as long term stats show us. This is true at all top level teams , esp those with real ambition to reach the very top. Of course, under Wenger we have NOT had that ambition BUT things will be very different once the new man is running things. I CAN SCARCELY WAIT AND I BELIEVE WELL OVER 90% ON HERE AGREE WITH ME THAT WENGER WILL SOON BE TOAST.

    1. What makes you think he is going to be sacked?
      Have you heard anything from Arsenal?
      All it is is media speculation.
      Wenger will remain until the end of next season when he will be offered another deal.
      He makes money you see – results don’t matter when your assets value continues to rise…
      Nothing will change…

      1. Personally , I have heard and seen that Arenal have massive backroom restructuring this season, unlike all previous seasons under Wenger. These were made over Wengers head. Informed journos all tell of a short list of candidates being actively lined up. Also Josh Kroenke has taken a London home for three months to properly analyse the way our club is run, or rather misrun. THERE IS MASSIVE FAN DISCONTENT AND MANY THOUSANDS WALKED OUT WELL BEFORE THE END ON SUNDAY AGAINST CITY. Thousands of us Gooners have noticed all these pertinent signs. Shame that YOU seem not to have noticed!

        1. jon fox it seems you are on the arsenal board.
          you know when and if wenger will be fired.

          gooners like Me and myself would rather wait for the official announcement.

          wenger has survived 10 goal mauling by bayern,8-2 loss to man united,protests last season….
          hold onto your socks for a minute mate.
          don’t let the media hype you.

          the only way wenger goes is resigning not being fired.
          continue dreaming

          1. I suggest you read my reply to AndersS , below. As you are so dismissive , I will gladly strike a private bet with you too at the right odds. Just accept on here if you wish to make that bet. And as you know I am not on the board but have a brain , eyes and ears and that is all you need to have an informed opinion. BETTING IS ALL ABOUT THE BALANCE OF PROBABILITIES, and the relevant odds given.

          2. What are the odds you would accept exactly? What price did the bookies give you?
            I’m a bit of a gambler myself lol

          3. Ladbrokes are currently giving 5/6 that he will be sacked this summer. I got much better odds than that by seeing the likely debacle of the last month. What odds would you offer me? And what stake? Bear in mind that I have hedged my bet already to ensue a profit, whatever outcome. Who might be the stakeholder is the first question, if you are keen.

          4. Suggest you reply on the next topic as this is no already old.

          5. That is very interesting. I was thinking of evens lol.
            I think I may investigate this further….

          6. Let me know if you wish to bet with me. As you will know, event betting is all about being able to see which way the market will move and to get on while the price is high. I SAY THIS MAINLY FOR OTHERS WHO MAY READ IT, AS YOU WELL KNOW ALREADY, i ASSUME.

    2. I hope you are right regarding Wenger, but I am not so confident. He really should have been sacked a long time ago, so will it really happen now? Who knows.
      But one thing seems sure, he will not do the honourable thing himself.

      1. I am so sure he will be sacked by end of May , that I have placed a hefty bet with bookies almost a month ago now as to his sacking. I am a betting man and though I naturally lose some, I usually bet big on actual happenings, (not only in football events) rather than mere sports results. My back successes prove to me that I can GENERALLY read what to me at least, are clear signs, better than most. I don’t write this to appear clever and could not care less who disagrees with me. I have always been my own man and call it as I see it without fear or favour. And I respect the others who do the same, whether or not I agree with all they say. I am almost certain that the only possible way he could stave off the sack is to win the Europa. And with this “defence” only a fool would believe this can happen.

        1. Hope you win then 🙂

  10. This article (See link below) claims Wenger is rumoured to be “Facing the axe” and that “…there is a feeling among Arsenal’s squad that Wenger is no longer the man to take the team forward”

    About f’kin time! There is hope Gooners 🙂

    1. Ozziegunner@Newcastle upon Hunter

      Does anybody know Josh Kroenke’s email address, so we can provide him the fan’s opinions about the last 10 years?

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