Arsenal are enjoying a bright season in the Premier League. The major share of the credit goes to some youngsters for what Arsenal has achieved this season so far. The Gunners currently sit 4th in the table after 25 games. Mikel Arteta’s men look well on track to secure Champions League football for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
Two Hale End youngsters – Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe – have played a large part in the good fortune for Arsenal. The duo have scored 19 times and assisted 7 more goals so far this season. Saka has been a mainstay on the right flank, while Smith Rowe has been excellent in central midfield or on the left-flank.
The talented duo aren’t an anomaly either. Few clubs across the world could boast of having a youth academy as good as the Gunners. The Arsenal U-23 team has provided an ideal platform for several youngsters to showcase their talent. Here, we have picked out 5 youth players who could contribute to Mikel Arteta’s side in the near future:
1. Charlie Patino
Patino caught the attention of football fans across the globe with a goal against Sunderland on his debut. However, most Arsenal fans were aware of what talent the 18-year-old possesses well before the game. Patino also has 12 appearances for the U-23 side.
The Englishman can function either in the 8 or 10-role. This makes Patino an excellent backup to Martin Odegaard or Smith Rowe in Arteta’s current system, and he could add some quality depth to the midfield. He has received high praise, and been touted as “the brightest talent since Jack Wilshere”.
However, Mikel Arteta has rightly displayed caution in exposing the youngster to the limelight at such a tender age. After the Sunderland game, the Spaniard noted:
“I think that is very positive [that the fans were singing his name]. They heard about him and know what he can become and now we have to cook him slowly. Today was a good start, I think.”
“[Too much hype around him] is what we have to avoid. He still has a lot of competition in front of him. He is really young. And he needs to go step by step. Today he was lucky, he got the opportunity and he took it really well.”
2. Omari Hutchinson
Another well-known name for Gooners, the Englishman signed for Arsenal at the age of 10. Hutchinson has been a part of Arteta’s matchday squads in recent weeks. He has also been training with the first team regularly. The 18-year-old is yet to make his senior debut but has been ever-present for the U-23 team.
The 18-year-old has 6 goals and 4 assists in 16 games. The Englishman has largely been used in the attacking midfield or wide midfield role. Hutchinson, like Saka, began his career as a full-back but was pushed forward to maximize his attacking talent.
The youngster also left Pele awed in a chance meeting. Hutchinson could be another excellent option to add depth to the midfield and reinforce Arteta’s options in the frontline for next season.
3. Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand
The Dutchman was unlucky not to make his first-team debut in the absence of Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka in January. M’Hand signed for the Gunners as a free agent from Feyenoord in 2020. The 18-year-old is an excellent player in deeper midfield.
In fact, he has 5 goals and 2 assists for the U-23 side this season. Arteta has taken notice of the youngster too. Justifying his inclusion in the squad against Leeds United for the FA Cup, Arteta said,
“[We are] rewarding him – for what he does every day in training and the games that he’s playing, for his attitude and the quality he has – he totally deserves to be with us”.
4. Marcelo Flores
The 18-year-old joined Arsenal’s U-18 side on a free transfer from Ipswich Town. Marcelo Flores has represented England and Canada in the U-16 and U-21 levels respectively. He also has an appearance for Mexico’s senior national team.
Flores is an attacking midfielder who can also play on either wing. He is a regular with the U-18s, and also has 2 goals and an assist in 6 games for the U-23 side so far. An impressive showing with the national team helped him guide Mexico to the Revelations Cup with 2 goals and an assist.
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5. Mika Biereth
The Danish centre-forward was signed by Arsenal from Fulham in 2021. The 19-year-old has 7 goals and 4 assists to his name in 18 games for the U-23 side. He has effectively slotted into the void created by Balogun’s departure.
At 187 centimetres, Biereth offers great presence in the box. He can also function on the flank if necessary. Arsenal have no shortage of youngsters for the centre-forward role, with Tyreece John-Jules and Folarin Balogun also in contention for a place in the squad.