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.