When Arsene Wenger left Arsenal last season, what Arsenal lost the most was a man who had a knack of spotting and bringing youngsters to the first team, accommodating and giving them game time, which helped them grow tremendously, making the team stronger in the process. Many of these players went on to become major stars in the latter stages of their careers. Cesc Fabregas, Francis Coquelin are few players that might ring a bell.
— Arsenal Academy (@ArsenalAcademy) March 10, 2019
When Wenger left and the Gunners were looking for a replacement, they were looking for someone who can play progressive, entertaining football, cherishes Arsenal values and had a reputation for developing players. And according to Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal Chief Executive, choosing Unai Emery was a unanimous decision as he fit all the criterion. And Emery is expected to carry forward this tradition of bringing in brightest prospects from Hale End to Emirates, should they prove their worth.
Arsenal usually does not spend high for player transfers in this era of crazy transfer fees. So the Gunners needs to apply a different strategy to stay relevant in the Premier League. And what better option than looking for prospects at their own backyard. Arsenal’s Academy is one of England’s most successful youth training academies, winning seven FA Youth Cups, six Premier Academy League titles altogether.
Emery can closely monitor development of certain players and promote them to the first team, saving huge in transfer fees.
Few players that can make it big if given a chance are-
1. Xavier Amaechi
Amaechi has been with Arsenal since he was 12. He is 18 now and his development has been phenomenal. So much so that it is reported that Bayern Munich are seriously considering to get him on board in Bavaria. The 18 year old winger scored 10 times in 15 appearances for Arsenal U18s in 2017/18 and he continued with his exceptional form this season as well.
He started last Monday night’s 2-2 Premier League 2 draw with Swansea City where many scouts from prominent clubs were present. He currently has 5 assists and 3 goals in 9 appearances for Arsenal U-23 team. These stats would sound even more interesting when considering the fact that Amaechi picked up a metatarsal injury earlier in the campaign which saw him sidelined for nearly three months. Despite this, he has impressive numbers for the season.
Amaechi can use both his left and right feet which keeps defenders guessing. He has good pace when bringing the ball forward. He can definitely feature in future midfield plans and flourish at Arsenal if given the chance.
Nketiah ➡️ Saka ➡️ Amaechi ➡️ Willock ➡️ GOAL ⚽️
— Arsenal Academy (@ArsenalAcademy) February 18, 2019
2. Eddie Nketiah
Nketiah is a centre forward whose stats for 18/19 season is nothing short of amazing. He has already scored 7 goals and assisted another 3 in just 9 Arsenal U-23 appearances this season. The 19 year old is one of the brightest prospects playing for the U-23 team and if given a chance can definitely give a healthy competition to Aubameyang and Lacazette for minutes on field.
He was supposed to leave on loan for Augsburg this January but the deal collapsed because of personal intervention by Unai Emery, as revealed by Freddie Ljungberg, Arsenal’s Under-23s head coach. Ljungberg further said,
“The main thing for Eddie is that he stayed because he’s so important to Unai that he wants to keep him. He should see that as a pat on his own back that he’s important to the club even if there were offers for him to go.”
This clearly suggests that Emery sees Nketiah as part of his plans at Arsenal. He should continue to work hard and rack up the numbers in front of the goals and prove his worth so that he can earn his place in the first team.
3. Bukayo Saka
Saka started his career with Arsenal’s Hale End academy and was promoted to the under-23 side earlier this season. The winger impressed manager Unai Emery to the point that he was soon included in squads for senior matches. He then made his competitive debut for Arsenal in the Europa League game against Vorskla Poltava in November 2018.
14 Bundesliga clubs will be scouting at Arsenal U23s match against Swansea tonight, while clubs from Spain, French & Italy are also expected to monitor not just Amaechi, but Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka & Julio Pleguezuelo. [@jamesbenge] #afc pic.twitter.com/9xibEQdTuu
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) March 4, 2019
And Ljungberg seems to know the reason that Saka rose the ranks so rapidly. In an interview with football.london, Ljungberg revealed what he thinks about Saka. As said by Ljungberg,
“He was supposed to play with the U18s this season and I think, sorry to say, he was better than that.”
He further added,
“What is good with him is everybody listens but he takes in information. For instance a lot of wingers will run straight up when you press instead of going in another direction, killing an angle so you can go again and have a better chance to intercept the ball because you have the full-back where you want him. Stuff like that is really difficult but he’s learning really quickly. It amazes me as a coach.”
Saka has already racked up 4 goals and 4 assists in 15 appearances this season for Arsenal U-23 side. If he continues to develop, his time will come and he will feature more for the first team giving Arsenal a decent option in the wide areas.
4. Joe Willock
Willock is not considered as the next big thing by many who follows the game closely. However, this Arsenal man keeps flashing his brilliance with every chance that he gets. It appears that Willock is determined to bring a positive change in his game and that is exactly what Arsenal needs.
All 11 of @JoeWillock goals in 2018/19 so far. He can’t stop scoring at every level this season.
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) February 20, 2019
For the U-23 side, he plays as a Central Midfielder. He has scored 5 goals and racked up 3 assists in 10 appearances for the Arsenal U-23 side this season. These stats are a testament for his incessant desire to improve and make a mark.
He has pace and has a knack to be at the right place at the right time. These qualities can help him become a valuable asset as a midfielder at Arsenal. He is definitely someone to look out for.
5. Emile Smith Rowe
Emile Smith Rowe is currently plying his trade in Bundesliga as an attacking midfielder for German club RB Leipzig, on loan from Arsenal. The 18 year made this switch on January this year to gain valuable first team experience.
“Emile is a promising young player. This move will get him valuable competitive action which is important as he continues his development.”
said head coach Unai Emery when asked about this loan move.
Smith-Rowe: "I’m delighted to be here, everyone’s been very welcoming. I think its going to be a great experience to get minutes in the Bundesliga & it will help me to become a better player & better person. Moving to a new country for 4 or 5 months is a good decision to me" pic.twitter.com/wJrmiYmG3L
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) March 7, 2019
Before the loan move, he made few appearances for Arsenal where he impressed the club hierarchy by scoring 3 goals in 6 appearances, in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup. Since Emery had no way of accommodating him regularly in the first team squad, he sent him out on loan. And it is obviously understood that Emery will closely monitor his development there. If he continues to impress, he would be a good option as a replacement for the departing Aaron Ramsey.