When Arsenal released a host of players last week, it left Benik Afobe and Ignasi Miquel as Arsenal’s longest serving youngsters who signed scholarships at the age of 16 but are still not officially part of the first-team squad.
For both players, who have a year remaining on their contracts, this pre-season could be pivotal in deciding their long-term futures at the club. Afobe certainly seems to have the toughest battle on his hands, with the England U21 international facing stern competition from Yaya Sanogo and Chuba Akpom with regards to first-team opportunities.
The 21 year old recently returned from a loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday, where he didn’t receive as much game time as he would have anticipated. It was his fifth temporary transfer away from the club and, like Chuks Aneke, who was let go last week, he is approaching the stage of his career where he needs to settle down and establish himself as a regular. He is most probably going to have to drop into the Championship in order to fulfil that aim, especially if Arsenal finally spend money on a world class striker this summer.
Miquel’s chance, contrary to what some believe, may not quite have vanished yet. The centre-back also endured a difficult loan spell as he failed to feature regularly at Leicester City last season. With 14 senior appearances for Arsenal to his name, however, he already has considerable experience of senior football and, perhaps depending on whether Thomas Vermaelen leaves during this transfer window, the Spaniard may well be installed as the club’s fourth choice centre-back.
There are many aspects of his game that require improvement, and his decision making is still a little rash at times, but a lack of alternative options could present him with a chance of being a squad player. He will certainly be looking to fare better than he did last pre-season, when he struggled greatly when deployed at left-back. A long-term future at the club still seems unlikely but Miquel could still see out the final year of his contract with some first-team involvement.