Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Toral makes emphatic return but faces much competition

In the summer of 2011 Arsenal completed deals for four promising foreign talents, with the hope being that at least one of them would go on to enjoy a lengthy career at the club.

Fast forward two years and Serge Gnabry already finds himself embedded into of the first-team squad, whilst Hector Bellerin and Kristoffer Olsson also made their first-team debuts earlier this season in the Capital One Cup. Jon Toral, who, like Bellerin, joined Arsenal from Barcelona, would doubtless also have gained senior recognition were he not sidelined for eleven months through injury.

Now fully recovered from that setback, Toral made his first competitive start in eleven months yesterday as Arsenal faced Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Youth League. The Spaniard showed no signs of rustiness as he opened the scoring himself before setting up the in-form Austin Lipman to double Arsenal’s advantage. Dortmund responded with a vengeance, cancelling out Arsenal’s lead just after the interval, and the game eventually ended 2-2, but the performance of Toral, who lasted 67 minutes on his return, was a huge positive.

Extremely adept in terms of his close-control and also possessing the vision to spot the runs of his team-mates, Toral, despite his injury problems, remains one of Arsenal’s brightest prospects, but the 18 year old will be well aware that he faces much competition in his quest to make the first-team, with Arsenal also able to call upon a whole range of other promising attacking midfielders.

Against Dortmund, for instance, Toral was forced to start on the left flank, with Gedion Zelalem, himself returning from a spell on the sidelines, deployed in the playmaker role. Zelalem is already part of the first-team squad at the age of 16, whilst Olsson has developed a greater understanding of the tactical side of the game to add to his undoubted technical ability.

Then there is the internally-produced talent that is Jack Jebb to consider, with the midfielder having established himself in the club’s U21 set-up this season, whilst Dan Crowley, despite missing almost two months through injury, has already demonstrated glimpses of his vast potential since his high-profile move from Aston Villa in the summer.

Toral, then, will certainly have his work cut out if he is to reach the first-team, but, for now, the midfielder will merely be happy just to be back playing again. The difficulty that he and the vast majority of the other youngsters at the club face at present is that, because each game that the first-team play in the Premier League and Champions League is of such high importance, it is extremely unlikely that Arsene Wenger will call upon any untried youngsters barring an injury crisis.

Toral will, though, be acutely aware that if he continues to turn in performances like he did yesterday on a regular basis, then it will not be too long until he joins Gnabry, Bellerin and Olsson in representing the first-team.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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born gunner

great article. keeps us in touch with our youth. i hope lads like toral, bellerin, jebb step up one day to take roles of wilshere, ramsey, gibbs.


considering that they are just 3-4 years younger than the likes of ramsey and wilshere, if they do make the first team, thay will play WITH the likes of ramsey and wilshere for most part of their careers…

remember the invincibles

Any news on how Chuks Aneke is doing? I remember 2 years ago in the pre-season he nearly destroyed Man City.


Good to have youngsters who are capable of stepping up if needed, push on.

Mach iii

Go Toral! Just ditch the Barca DNA

palace gunner

A few of the youngsters have impressed, in the 1st team these games are more tougher, injuries happen, gd ball reading is nice with formation.


Say what now?

Perry S.

Do what now?

Harish P

I was concerned about Toral’s development with Arsenal, but this makes me extremely happy to hear, for the boy and for Arsenal’s future.

I hope he can keep it up. A great set of players from 2011 to come through, as well as the likes of Zelalem, Akpom, and Crowley.

I don’t recognise any DM’s standing out so maybe one of those to complete the spine of the team.

Woolwich Peripatetic

The idea of a DM as a centre-back who can pass is dead, has been for a while. There is a need for physical midfielders who can read the game though. The guy who plays the pivot role has got to be capable of picking passes under intense pressure these days, not just tackling and intercepting.

with the left and the right

very true. the modern model nowadays is Sergio Busquets, great on the ball and defends tactically rather than aggressively. Olsson since he’s arrived has gradually moved further back. He started as an AM but he’s largely been playing alongside Kamara as a double pivot. Kamara btw is probably the closest thing we have to a DM at youth level but he too is less aggressive than he is technical. Also Hayden for large parts of last season played at DM but his long term future seems to be at CB. I could easily imagine Zelalem playing a pivot role or… Read more »


although it is true that DMs can cause much danger to the oppsition by precision passing, in the modern game, DMs have a lot less freedom to go higher up the pitch, and zalalem’s talents will not be copletely realised as a DM


Toral seems a bit like Ramsey for me. He has all the attributes to become a world class box-to-box midfielder. Technique ,Skill ,finishing and Vision. Hope he gets a run out soon.

Silent Symphony.

Appreciate your articles here Jeorge. If he’s played enough this season to gauge, how do you think Bellerin is performing compared to last season? Although Flamini would presumably be third choice RB, do you think Bellerin could do a job there in serious games?


This bunch of youngsters is the most promising we have produced in a long time.

oooh to be young

The quality in our youth ranks is giving me goosebumps.

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