2012 will doubtless provide the opportunity for several further youngsters to edge closer to the first-team picture, through training sessions and Carling Cup cameos, but, for the more established contingent in Neil Banfield’s Reserve squad, the year could bring an end to their association with the club.
The cycle that sees players progress from the under-18s to the Reserves and then, hopefully, into the first-team reckoning, means that, somewhere along the line, difficult decisions have to be made concerning particular individuals. The players listed below are likely to fall into that category during the next calendar year.
Bartley, who was signed as a 16 year old from Bolton in 2007, is currently in his second loan spell at Scottish Champions Rangers, for whom he is now featuring regularly after returning from injury. The uncompromising centre-back, who has also featured in defensive-midfield in the past, has just a solitary first-team appearance to his name for the Gunners and was unfortunate to score an own goal in the Emirates Cup in pre-season, but, with Ignasi Miquel likely to go out on loan next campaign and Sebastien Squillaci evidently not in Arsene Wenger’s long-term plans, Bartley could get his chance next season.
With ten first-team appearances to his name, including several in the Premier League, Eastmond is a familiar face to most Arsenal fans, but he has found his chances restricted this campaign due to the continued progress of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin. His hopes of making a breakthrough have wavered somewhat as a result, and, unless he enjoys a loan spell somewhat more fruitful than his one at Millwall last season, then a Summer departure would not appear unlikely.
Like Eastmond, Hoyte returned this season from a long-term injury, but, after playing two games for the Reserves, he picked up another problem that ruled him out until the New Year. Justin’s younger brother, who can play at right-back or centre-back, has a wealth of experience accumulated from loan spells in the Football League, but has not featured for the Arsenal first-team since the 2008/09 season. Once he has recovered from his latest set-back, a loan spell followed by a permanent departure looks on the cards.
Another who is well-known to Arsenal fans, midfielder Lansbury featured in the Premier League defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United this season before joining West Ham on loan, where he has recently returned from injury. The 21 year old has previously had fruitful spells at Scunthorpe, Watford and Norwich, and has long been tipped by Arsene Wenger for a breakthrough, but with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey ahead of him, he has a massive fight on his hands. Lansbury signed a new contract earlier this season, but it remains to be seen whether he will be afforded first-team game time next campaign.
Once a clinical goalscorer for the under-18s, Murphy has seen his knack of goal-getting somewhat hampered by persistent injuries that have plagued him throughout his short career. A loan spell at Brenford didn’t prove beneficial, and the striker seems as far away from the first-team set up as ever.
Watt was all set to leave the club last summer before a purple patch at the start of the new campaign for the Reserves prompted the offer of a new contract. Currently on loan at League One side Sheffield Wednesday, having previously spent time with Leeds, Watt scored on his Arsenal debut in the Carling Cup, but has found opportunities hard to come by since. The presence of Joel Campbell and Benik Afobe may block his path in the long term.