Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Who will be the next Arsenal youngster to break through?

Just over a month ago the promising trio of Hector Bellerin, Issac Hayden and Chuba Akpom all became first-team players, taking the number of academy graduates in the senior squad to eight, but who will be the next to join them in breaking into Arsene Wenger’s plans?

The name that jumps out immediately is that of Dan Crowley. The diminutive young playmaker arrived at Arsenal with a reputation for being one of the country’s stellar talents and, if anything, he has enhanced his status since joining the club.

Despite being a midfielder, Crowley has been potent in front of goal for the youth teams this season, this week’s penalty miss against Borussia Dortmund aside. He has scored eight goals in 14 matches in all competitions and, on some occasions, has almost single-handedly dragged his side through matches.

For all his heroics, Crowley still needs to improve some aspects of his game, such as knowing when to release the ball earlier, but he is about as safe a bet you can get with regards to being in line for a promotion to the first-team in the future.

There are others with the same aim, however, and the case of Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a particularly interesting one. The 17 year old impressed last season as a right-winger, but has almost exclusively been deployed as a central-midfielder this year and has thrived in his new position.

Having regularly invited him to train with the first-team squad in recent weeks, Wenger certainly seems to be taking a keen interest in Maitland-Niles’ development and, like Crowley, the Hale End product could feature in the Capital One Cup next season.

Julio Pleguezuelo, like many Arsenal players, has struggled with injuries during his time at the club, but the Spaniard is back to full fitness now and is playing with confidence. A good reader of the game and a fine distributor of the ball, the centre-back also appears to have become stronger physically during his rehabilitation from injury.

Chris Willock, an exciting player who featured for the first-team in pre-season, is another candidate to make the breakthrough, although he will have to be patient for his chance. Confident in possession, Willock should be drafted into the Arsenal U21 side in the near future.

Goalkeeper Ryan Huddart has hit the headlines in recent weeks both for his height and the fact that he was twice named on the bench for the first-team in the Champions League. Huddart is a good shot-stopper but, with third-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez only 22 years old, he will have to wait his turn. Matt Macey, a 20 year old goalkeeper who was signed from Bristol Rovers early last season, is set to be on the bench for the first-team’s Premier League game away to West Bromwich Albion tomorrow.

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


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Watched Crowley play the other night, pure class.


Stefan O’Connor has had a very good season so far.


Really hoping Crowley makes the grade. Surprising to see that Zelalem hasn’t been mentioned here. Though officially he’s in the first team (like Akpom, Bellerin and Hayden), he’s been with the youth teams this entire season. Let’s see if he and anyone else get to play in the earlier rounds of the FA cup at least.


my hope is that the mainstream media dont pick up on our youth prospects. Especially Crowley, who has been brilliant for a while now.

I dont want to see another british talent destroyed by media hype.


I still never really understood why and how afobe didn’t make the grade. I know he’s been hampered by injury but that hasn’t prevented others in the past ( thinking about the aliadiares and such ).


For the record, i live in Milton Keynes and follow mk dons, occasionally go and Benik Afobe is smashing it up. Got another hat trick today. Think he has like 15 goals in 12 games. Can only be good for his development. And hes not guaranteed to start either with occasionally Grigg getting in front. So hes got competition. Also, Arsene, sign up Deli Ali from Mk dons. Hes wicked. And plays DM too. Next big thing from lower leagues guaranteed

Andy Mack

I don’t think it’s quite a case of ‘didn’t make the grade’. He still could ‘make it’ if we keep him next year but I suspect he’ll move on in the summer as he really needs 1st team game time. I have a nasty feeling he’ll be with one of our competitors in 2 or 3 years.
He and Aneke were an awesome combination at youth level and splitting them up for their initial loans helped neither but when they found their individual ‘stride’ Benik has been badly held back by injuries.

Eternal Titi Berg Pat Nostalgia

This is very difficult to predict. We can only guess. So many extremely gifted boys did not break through or if they do they do sustain the highest level. My guess ? Crowley.


Another very interesting article from from Joerge Bird.
I love having updates from all the Arsenal Teams.
Let hope they make it to the first team as so many players before them


Where is Zalelam (?) in all this ? I thought he was supposed to be the next big thing.


He’s listed as part of the official first team squad, so he’s already made it.

Andy Mack

It does appear that he’s rather underperforming this year but as mentioned; he’s already ‘made it’.

Tuan Nguyen

Maitlan Niles is very interesting to watch. Hope he can make the break through to the first team

Man Manny

Is that all?


These are only the players who are most likely to break through to the first team in the next year or so…we have a whole bunch of other talented youngsters like O’Connor (very mature Cback), Taf Moore (energetic Right/Leftback), Mavididi (young Striker in the Mould of Afobe/Akpom who scored when he wanted in the U18s this season, plays U21 and U19 youth league now and scored against Dortmund last time out) and so on


For the love of Mike, where is Seyi Ajayi, who was on the bench in our ucl game to Anderlecht? I am a Nigerian and I am interested in seen the chap develop his talent fully at Arsenal. And I have not been hearing of Akpom’s exploits on the field of late. I hope he is okay?


Whilst I would personally love to see academy talent make up at least the second and third choice options in the first team, I actually think its a myth that Arsenal regularly promote from within. With the exceptions of Wilshere and Gibbs, how many of Arsenal’s academy products actually play regularly in the first team? None that I can think of. The facts seem to be that Arsenal by and large recruit already established player for the top 22 players in the squad. Given that Arsene seems to preference rotating only about 15 of those players, it makes it a… Read more »

Andy Mack

Very very few top clubs can boast even 1 product of their own academy in their first team, so having 2 is quite impressive. It’s just the way it goes, but the saving on just 1 1st team player pays for most of the youth system and add in that most that don’t get into the 1st team go onto play at some level, in many cases involving a small transfer fee (it’s amazing how many players in the PL and Championship have been at AFC at some time/age). Southampton seem to be doing very well from their academy but… Read more »

Az Ahmed

Gedion Zelalem?




I hope Crowley makes the grade – the prospect of hearing some Ozzy Osbourne blaring across the Emirates alone is exciting!


A lot of these players seem to be attacking minded midfielders (or at least can play in midfield) but it’s the most popular position in the senior squad so I don’t see most of them coming through. Saying that, I don’t think Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini or even Cazorla will be around for long so they’ll be some space for sure

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