It has been a week of change in the Arsenal youth department, with one long-serving player leaving and two promising youngsters set to arrive at the club in the next few days.
Benik Afobe’s association with Arsenal, which started as far back as 2001, came to an end this week as he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a permanent basis. The move was questioned by some, especially given Afobe’s performances whilst on loan at MK Dons this campaign, but his chances of making the grade at Arsenal were greatly reduced by the signings of Yaya Sanogo and Danny Welbeck.
The quest to produce more home-grown products who are capable of making a career at the club continues, but it is always a little disheartening when a player is let go after so many years of development. There is hope for the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Chris Willock and Isaac Hayden, but even they will face considerable challenges to establish themselves in the first-team set-up.
Hayden, especially in terms of him being afforded opportunities to play as a defensive-midfielder, could have his chances limited by the impending arrival of Krystian Bielik from Legia Warsaw. A deep-lying midfielder, who, like Hayden, is also capable of playing at centre-back, Bielik is set to go straight into the first-team squad and could even make his first-team debut this campaign, but will probably have to wait until next season before becoming fully involved with Arsene Wenger’s side.
Another youngster set to join Arsenal’s academy is Martin Graiciar, a 15-year-old Czech striker who previously spent time on trial with the club. During that trial period Graiciar (pictured above) scored a hat-trick for the U16s and he is set to feature again at that level over the next few weeks before officially becoming a scholar at the start of next season.