2014 was not exactly kind to Isaac Hayden. The promising youngster, who can be deployed either at centre-back or as a defensive-midfielder, impressed against Southampton in the Capital One Cup, but missed the majority of the last few months of the year through injury.
The injury itself was frustrating enough, but what compounded Hayden’s agony was that it occurred at a time when the first-team were without several defenders, and the 19-year-old would almost certainly have added to his two senior appearances were he available at the time.
There is little time for Hayden to dwell on the past, however, as the new year is likely to bring with it new opportunities, and there is a strong possibility that the England U20 international will go out on loan at some point during this calendar year, although probably not until next season.
Hayden achieved a longstanding ambition of his by being officially promoted to the first-team squad, but he will still have to be patient before he is afforded opportunities to impress on a regular basis.
It may not seem an immediate priority at this stage of his career, but he would be helped by the club identifying his best position and deploying him there as often as possible. His performance in the aforementioned game against Southampton showed that he is more than capable of performing at centre-back, but it is in a deep-lying midfield position that he tends to thrive, as he can use his much-improved passing to good effect.
Hayden’s leadership qualities are also hugely impressive and his committed and determined approach has helped to convince Arsene Wenger that he could be an option for the future. The next few U21 fixtures will be used to help him work his way back towards full sharpness, whilst Hayden will continue to be on the periphery of the first-team squad and could feature in the latter rounds of the FA Cup should Arsenal progress.
In the event of another first-team injury crisis in defence, this time Hayden would be available to provide cover, but the likelihood is that he will have to wait until next season at least before being afforded a sustained opportunity to prove his worth in the first-team.