Arsenal have been known for giving young players a chance for some time now. Under Arsene Wenger, the Gunners regularly opted for youth, both because of financial reasons and a great stellar U23 system. Though things may not necessarily be going swimmingly at the moment for Arsenal, they do have a quality base to build on for the future.
Below are eight players under the age of 21 that are already making a difference at the senior level and should continue doing so for the Gunners in the years to come.
Martinelli’s adaptation from the Brazilian fourth tier to a significant European club has been unbelievably impressive. Though his Premier League time has been monitored so far (just 186 minutes), the forward has racked up eight total goals on the season. All of these goals with the Gunners have come in just seven combined starts across three different competitions. At just 18, Martinelli has the abilities to become a future star.
If it wasn’t for Martinelli’s outstanding display, the buzz surrounding the young Gunners would be about Saka. Celebrating his 18th birthday just a couple of months ago, the creative winger has delivered in key moments so far this season. In fact, all seven of his goals and assists during the current campaign have come on the road. These goal contributions have been against Liverpool, Manchester United, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Standard Liege.
One of the biggest steals in recent transfer windows, Arsenal managed to grab Guendouzi from Lorient for around £7 million in 2018. According to Transfermarkt, the midfielder’s value is now pushing £50 million. The youngster was put straight into the fray upon his arrival from the French second tier. In just under a year and-a-half, Guendouzi has been given 69 total appearances in all competitions. Though he does need to work out some kinks defensively, the Frenchman should develop into an outstanding central midfielder.
Emile Smith Rowe
Previously compared to Kevin De Bruyne, Smith Rowe is a dynamic midfielder that makes intelligent forward runs and has fantastic vision. Highly rated at the club for a few years now, the England youth international’s development has been hindered by minor injuries. This was evident during his loan spell at RB Leipzig in which the midfielder spent just 28 total minutes on the pitch for the Bundesliga club. Nevertheless, Smith Rowe has all of the capabilities to make it at Arsenal.
Once seen as the club’s brightest prospect, Nelson has stumbled just a bit since returning from a successful season on loan at Hoffenheim last season. Perhaps out of favor under former boss Unai Emery, Nelson is clearly rated by interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg. In fact, the former Gunner great recently labeled Nelson “the future of [Arsenal].” Having just turned 20, the pacy winger has plenty of time to settle and develop even further. Talent is certainly no issue for Nelson.
Another 20 year old, Willock is a versatile midfielder that can play a little deeper in the number eight role, as well as further up the pitch as a number 10. While he can play in different places, his best position is more of a box-to-box central midfielder. Somewhat similar to how Aaron Ramsey was previously deployed at times, Willock possesses the ability to turn defense into offense and make lethal runs into the box. His strike against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season will surely be up for goal of the season come May.
Currently on loan at Leeds United, Nketiah is a prolific goalscorer. Although head coach Marcelo Bielsa has mostly opted to utilize the Arsenal striker from the bench, Nketiah has scored five goals in 454 total minutes with the Championship club. Scoring for Arsenal, Leeds, and along the England youth international ranks, it doesn’t seem to matter which team the forward plays for. It remains to be seen if he can do it at the Premier League level, but the 20-year-old striker has the track record to suggest he can.
Another loanee, Saliba was just bought from St. Etienne in the summer. A highly-rated, young center back, Saliba is seemingly the total package. Just 18, the France youth international is tall, strong, and a solid passer of the ball. The current campaign was supposed to be a chance to further develop his game prior to making the switch to north London; however, injuries have forced Saliba to miss much of the season so far. Nevertheless, he is one of the most prized young center backs in all of Europe.