Arsenal seem to have a plethora of young talent at the moment, something that they haven’t had the luxury of having over the last few years. Nevertheless, both the club’s U-18s and U-23s are inside the top five of their respective tables. Although there are quite a few highly-rated players in the team’s youth system, let’s take a look at Arsenal’s top five prospects. (Note: any player that has featured in fewer than 10 senior matches with the club has been under consideration).
5 – Eddie Nketiah
The former Chelsea youth product has absolutely lit it up since making the crosstown switch in the summer of 2015. In 48 matches with both the Arsenal U-18s and U-23s, the 17-year-old has scored an astounding 41 total goals. The striker has been so impressive during his short time in north London that the Gunners awarded Nketiah with a professional contract back in September of 2016.
Nketiah’s movement off of the ball and his finishing ability is what makes him a special player. He finds space between the center backs in defense and can score goals from tight corners as well. The Gunners currently have a ton of firepower with forwards Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, and Lucas Perez all in the senior team, but the teenager has plenty of time to develop even further and make an impact in the future.
4 – Chris Willock
Willock is a player that has somehow flown under the radar as far as youth Arsenal players go. The England youth international has registered seven assists and three goals during league play with the U-23s this season. A pacy winger, Willock possesses a skill set similar to that of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s when he was a youth player at Southampton.
While the aforementioned Nketiah is very clinical and straight forward, Willock is conversely more flashy and flamboyant on the pitch. He’s the type of player you want on your team 1v1 out wide on a counterattack. The now 19-year-old Willock regularly trains with the senior squad during the week, so manager Arsene Wenger clearly rates the youngster highly. A loan move for the 2017/18 campaign could help Willock be ready to contribute with the big boys in the following season.
3 – Kelechi Nwakali
Arsenal were chasing Nwakali for months before they finally sealed the deal for the Nigeria youth international in August of 2016. A highly-rated player, Nwakali was awarded the Golden Ball (player of the tournament) in the 2015 U-17 World Cup, in which he won with Nigeria. Soon after his arrival in north London, the 18-year-old was loaned to Dutch side MVV Maastricht for the current campaign.
Nwakali has impressed during his stay in the Netherlands, scoring one goal and adding two assists so far on the season. The attacking midfielder is normally deployed in the number 10 role, and rightfully so. His vision, footwork, and passing abilities are extremely advanced for a player that is just 18. After a successful season overseas, a potential loan move to a Championship club, or maybe even a newly-promoted Premier League team for the 2017/18 campaign could be in the cards for Nwakali.
2 – Rob Holding
There wasn’t too much buzz surrounding Holding’s £2 million move to Arsenal during the summer of 2016; however, the England U-21 defender quickly showed why he could be a potential long-term replacement of Per Mertesacker. Prior to his switch to north London, Holding was a standout player for Bolton Wanderers. In fact, he was even awarded as the club’s top player following the 2015/16 season.
With the England U-21s, Holding helped the team (along with another Arsenal defender, Calum Chambers) win the 2016 Toulon Tournament in May. The 21-year-old center back is very mature on the pitch, and has not looked out of place with the senior Arsenal squad so far this season. It seems as if Wenger has secured yet another fantastic bargain buy with Holding.
1 – Jeff Reine-Adelaide
No real surprise here. Reine-Adelaide, or simply just “the Jeff,” is on pace to do great things with the Gunners. Bought from Lens (along with Yassin Fortune) in 2015, Reine-Adelaide made a wonderful first impression with his performances against Lyon and Wolfsburg in the 2015 Emirates Cup. While he hasn’t made his Premier League debut just yet, it certainly seems as if he will be a mainstay in north London for the future.
Reine-Adelaide’s strong suit is his composure, creativity, and vision. On the ball, the teenager is a bit of a mix between a fully fit Abou Diaby and Mesut Özil. The confidence and poise in which Reine-Adelaide shows on the pitch is something special. In fact, Wenger recently said that the midfielder “has it all in his locker.” Arsenal have quite a few highly-rated youngsters currently in their system, and Reine-Adelaide is at the top of the list.
Just missed the cut: Gedion Zelalem, Takuma Asano, Stephy Mavididi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Krystian Bielik.
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