It was all going so well for Dan Crowley, with the technically-talented central-midfielder earning praise from all quarters following his scintillating performance against Peterborough United in the FA Youth Cup.
That display saw Crowley, who does not turn 17 until the start of next season, propelled into Arsenal’s U21 set-up, with the youngster handed his debut at that level against Middlesbrough this week. Then, midway through the second-half of a disappointing 3-1 defeat, disaster struck, with Crowley the victim of an over-zealous challenge from an opponent which forced him to be stretchered off and replaced by Alex Iwobi.
The prognosis for Crowley’s injury is yet to be revealed, but it is hoped that the former Aston Villa player will not spend too long on the sidelines given that he has already missed over a month of the current campaign as a result of an ankle problem sustained whilst playing for the U18s in August.
At present it would appear that injuries are the only obstacle to Crowley’s development, with the midfielder excelling in terms of ball retention and passing ability, whilst also, as he demonstrated against Peterborough, being capable of scoring goals himself.
His slight frame does generate some concerns, however, particularly against more physical opponents, and it is perhaps for that reason that the club held back on calling upon him at U21 level until now. Just last month, in another comfortable Youth Cup victory, this time against Torquay United, Crowley, given his technical wizardry, was evidently targeted by the opposition on every occasion he seized possession. Thankfully he did not pick up an injury that day, but now he will be hoping to return as quickly as possible from the setback sustained against Middlesbrough.
In more positive news, several of the club’s youngsters will be hopeful of being involved against Coventry City in the FA Cup a week today. It is unclear exactly what type of side Arsene Wenger will deploy in this fixture, but this could well be the game in which Gedion Zelalem finally makes his competitive debut for the club.
Benik Afobe, Thomas Eisfeld and Nico Yennaris will also be hopeful of inclusion and the trio are also candidates to depart the club on loan later this month. Afobe now seems to be fully over the injury problems that have plagued him in the recent past, with the striker having scored in the aforementioned defeat to Middlesbrough.
Yennaris, meanwhile, has impressed for the U21s since returning from a rather frustrating loan spell at Bournemouth during which he didn’t receive a single minute of game time. Eisfeld has scored frequently for the second-string since joining from Borussia Dortmund two years ago, but, given that he turns 21 tomorrow, is now at the stage of his development where he needs regular competitive action.