“I don’t think I played well enough. I wasn’t very good but it’s always nice to get a hat-trick. I thought I should have kept the ball better.”
Most players would be satisfied at scoring a hat-trick, but Dan Crowley, speaking after Arsenal’s 4-3 defeat against Anderlecht in the UEFA Youth League this week, was adamant that there is room for improvement in his game.
That is the very nature of Crowley. The diminutive midfielder, despite being one of the club’s most promising players, is always looking to develop further.
Just four days prior to the Anderlecht game, Crowley had delivered a virtuoso performance, particularly in the second-half, as Arsenal U21s were held to a goalless draw by Blackburn Rovers. Crowley did everything in his power to attempt to score and came perilously close to making the breakthrough on several occasions.
Unlike some of his team-mates at youth level, Crowley is yet to be called up for the first-team, even for a friendly, and doesn’t regularly train with Arsene Wenger’s squad.
However, particularly if he keeps his humble attitude intact, he will get to the top eventually. His game intelligence and ability to pick a pass is far superior to many of the other players playing at U21 level, for Arsenal or other clubs.
Most at home as a playmaker in the number ten position, Crowley has tended to be deployed on the left flank for Arsenal U21s this season. Although it is not his best position, the 17-year-old has still delivered some excellent performances, frequently roaming inside to devastating effect.
Crowley enjoyed a stellar pre-season that was saw him score several goals. That proved to be a pre-cursor for when the real action got underway, with the former Aston Villa player having scored five times so far this campaign.
One element of concern regarding Crowley is the regularity with which opponents are quick to lunge in on him with rather dangerous challenges when they are unable to rob him of possession.
Crowley has drawn comparisons to Jack Wilshere owing to his style of play, but the similarities do not end there. As Wilshere has a tendency to do, Crowley is also unafraid to offer his opinions on matters to team-mates and referees alike and is certainly one of the more vocal Arsenal youngsters on the pitch.
Off the pitch, however, to judge from the aforementioned quote, Crowley is very much aware that hard work and dedication are needed to achieve success. At Crowley’s age, Wilshere was already a regular fixture in the first-team. There is no rush, though, for Crowley to follow in Wilshere’s footsteps. He will get there eventually and, to judge from his performances in the opening months of the campaign, it would be preferable to allow him to develop and learn in the youth teams this season rather than rushing him into the senior squad.