From the first class coaching on offer at Hale End, to the pristine training pitches at London Colney, Arsenal’s youngsters enjoy rather luxurious resources as they progress through the ranks at the club. A loan spell, particularly to a lower league side, comes as something of a shock to the system, then, for individuals who have been used to high-class facilities hitherto in their young careers.
Different coaches, different training grounds, different equipment, different supporters and, in many cases, a different style of football can prove somewhat bewildering for promising young Gunners at first, but, in the long run, temporary stints can prove to be of great benefit.
A glance around the first-team squad compounds the benefit of such spells. Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and Jack Wilshere have all progressed as a result of game time elsewhere, and the current batch of loanees will be hoping to replicate the success of those players.
In the past week three promising Hale End-educated players have been sent on their travels, with Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke and Nico Yennaris all finding temporary clubs prior to the closure of the loan transfer window last week. Afobe, who enjoyed a prosperous spell with Huddersfield Town last season, joined Reading, Aneke is settling in at Preston, whilst Yennaris will remain with Notts County until the end of the season.
The case of Afobe is particularly intriguing, with several prominent figures including Arsene Wenger and Robin van Persie having expressed faith in the striker’s abilities recently. Afobe featured for the first-team in pre-season and would surely have been handed his competitive debut had it not been for a debilitating injury that has kept him sidelined for much of the campaign. A good couple of months at Reading could well propel him into the picture for next season’s squad, with doubts persisting over Marouane Chamakh and Ju Young Park.
Aneke is also in his second loan spell, although the promising midfield player will be hoping to enjoy a more fruitful spell than his time at Stevenage, where he struggled to adapt to the League One side’s style of play. Now back in that division with Preston, he will look to build on a promising start having scored on his debut last weekend. Yennaris, meanwhile, is with Notts County, where he will hope to round off what has been an impressive season with some further good performances.
The trio will return to North London in the summer, hopeful of replicating that now well-trodden path from loan spells to the first-team, with the eye-opening experience that they will garner in the interim likely to do them the world of good.