As disappointing as Tuesday’s 3-0 thrashing by Sheffield Wednesday was for Gunner fans, it must be said that the youngsters featured in the match were not all of the teenage talent that this Arsenal team has. Alex Iwobi, Calum Chambers (20) and Glen Kamara (20) were all given spots in the starting XI on the night, while Krystian Bielik and Ismael Bennacer received their first senior appearances as substitutes.
While the aforementioned quintet are obviously highly-rated by Arsenal brass, they should not necessarily be considered the cream of the crop. Many of the club’s brightest future stars are either currently out on loan or involved in the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. Below are five Arsenal teenagers that could make the highest impact with the senior club in the years to come. (Note: Chuba Akpom, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Serge Gnabry, Isaac Hayden, Jon Toral and Wellington Silva are all over the age of 19 and have thus been excluded from contention for this particular list).
1. Ainsley Maitland-Niles
The 18-year-old midfielder has thoroughly impressed while out on loan at Ipswich this season. Manager Mick McCarthy raved about Maitland-Niles after watching him play and even suggested that he will be a future star. “Wow. The talent of him,” McCarthy stated on BBC Radio. “I think he’s going to play for Arsenal, there’s no doubt in my mind. We are just so lucky to have him.”
The Ipswich manager continued, “He’s such a lovely kid and all, he’s fitted in perfectly. I had the conversation with him ‘I know you can play, but if you don’t run around and don’t put a shift in you won’t play’ but he’s a workaholic.”
Maitland-Niles has started nine out of Ipswich’s 12 league matches so far (including a Man of the Match performance earlier in the campaign). The U-19 England international is a fleet-footed, skillful player (as seen here) with big potential. He is frequently utilized on the right side of the midfield, but can also be deployed in the middle of the pitch or as a winger.
2. Dan Crowley
Although Crowley’s loan deal with League One was reportedly cut short on Wednesday, the 18-year-old creative midfielder is as hyped as any other player on this list. Labeled the next Jack Wilshere, Crowley is an intelligent midfielder with distribution skills and vision much like his senior Arsenal teammate (as seen here).
Crowley netted one goal and added an assist during his spell with with Barnsley. The goal for the loanee was a Capital One Cup score against Premier League club Everton back in August. Last season with the U-21 Arsenal club, Crowley managed to score 10 total goals and tally four assists in both league and the UEFA Youth League matches.
The midfielder will hope to emulate Arsenal teammate Francis Coquelin, as the Frenchman also returned early from loan only to make an immediate impact on the senior Gunner club. Although that does not sound very likely due to Crowley’s age, there certainly appears to be a future for him with the north London outfit.
3. Chris Willock
Much like Crowley, Willock is an attack-minded player who always has his head up looking to thread a pass to a teammate. The winger was one of three Arsenal youngsters to be included in England’s U-17 World Cup squad; however, the Three Lions were eliminated from the tournament following a 0-0 draw to South Korea on October 23rd.
The 17-year-old Willock started all three of England’s group stage matches of the competition and even served has his team’s captain during their 1-0 defeat to Brazil on October 20th. Willock may be a little under the radar considering some of the names on this list are fairly well known, but it won’t take long for people to see just how talented he actually is. The pacey winger is unselfish, technically sound, and full of tricks (as seen here).
4. Jeff Reine-Adelaide
Relatively unknown until his superb performances in this summer’s Emirates Cup, Reine-Adelaide is perhaps a taller version of Willock. The teenager is also currently playing in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, but with the French team. France, however, recorded victories in all three of their group stage matches and have qualified for the round of 16, which began on Wednesday.
The 17-year-old was brought in over the summer from French club Lens (along with Yassin Fortune) and has made an immediate impact on Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger. Following his impressive debut for the Gunners, Wenger said, “Reine-Adelaide is something special you know. He is a great talent and when he came on you could see that – 17 years old let’s not forget that. In fact I don’t remember how I played at 17 but I didn’t play like that!”
Reine-Adelaide could be the most ready to break through with the senior Arsenal team (as well as the next player on the list). The lanky France youth international craves the ball at his feet, has solid footwork, and did not seem out of place when he featured against Wolfsburg during the Emirates Cup (as seen here).
5. Gedion Zelalem
Probably the most well-known of the listed players, Zelalem is currently on loan at the historic Scottish club Rangers. The American has already become a fan favorite at the Ibrox, as he has racked up five total assists and helped the club keep a 100% record in league play. Zelalem also featured for the Arsenal U-21 team once (he scored a goal in the match) before heading to Scotland on loan in August.
Zelalem is a central midfielder with a silky smooth skill set. While he may not be the fastest player in the world, the United States youth international is extremely calm on the ball and regularly plays intelligent through balls and short passes (as seen here).
Rangers want the youngster to continue with their club for the remainder of the current campaign, however, Arsenal will make the decision on whether or not to allow him to see out the season in Scotland or not in November.
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