Such are the greater options available to Arsene Wenger this season in terms of numbers, there were fewer youngsters on show than usual as Arsenal commenced their Capital One Cup campaign with a comprehensive 6-1 victory over Coventry City on Wednesday night.
The Frenchman did hand out three debuts, though, with Argentinian Damian Martinez impressing in goal, Martin Angha struggling a little at right-back and Serge Gnabry catching the eye as a late substitute.
It is the young German who has generated the most excitement among followers of the Arsenal youth system in the past 12 months or so, and, having been off-colour in the friendly against Cologne, he seemed instantly at ease in a first-team environment here, making a couple of dangerous runs down the left flank.
Before the game, Wenger stated his belief that, should the 17 year old continue his development apace, he could find himself playing Premier League football by the end of the campaign. Such a notion may seem fanciful to some but, whilst there have admittedly been some games during his brief Arsenal career where Gnabry has been rather anonymous, on most occasions he has excelled, displaying his superb close-control skills and a penchant for delivering swift, direct attacks on goal.
It is not often that Wenger, despite his reputation for developing youngsters, provides playing opportunities in the top flight for 17-year-olds. Jack Wilshere only featured briefly at that level when he was that age, whilst Cesc Fabregas slotted into central-midfield with ease. Gnabry, though, will be hopeful of making a quick breakthrough, even if it seems somewhat difficult to envisage exactly where senior minutes would come from at present.
From one youngster with designs on the first-team squad to two more who, it seems, will not make the breakthrough. Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt, who possess 13 senior outings for the club between them, have both joined Colchester United on a three-month loan deal, which will, in all likelihood, be their final temporary transfers before departing next summer.
Both players see their contracts expire at the end of the season and Eastmond is already considered a senior player in Premier League terms, with Watt to be added to that category next season. They have both amassed considerable experience out on loan already, with Eastmond spending time with Milwall and Wycombe Wanderers, whilst Watt has been out on temporary transfer on no fewer than five occasions, most recently struggling to command a starting spot at Crawley Town.
Two members of the FA Youth Cup and Premier Academy League double-winning side of four seasons ago, this latest loan is seemingly the death knell as far as their respective Arsenal careers are concerned. Eastmond is a much better player than many give him credit for, having greatly increased his tactical awareness during his time with Wycombe, whilst Watt’s irrepressible work ethic is endearing, but, it seems, their long associations with the club will soon be coming to an end.