Arsenal U18s have struggled in the league this season, leading to suggestions that the most recent intake of scholars isn’t quite a vintage crop.
However, several of those players have signed professional terms recently, indicating that the club does at least have some faith in their development.
Chris Willock, for instance, has already featured for the first-team in a friendly and has long been regarded as one of the best talents to be produced by the club’s Hale End academy in recent years. Willock, who usually operates on the left flank, has given some tantalising glimpses of his ability this season, not least during the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar, where he scored an excellent goal against the Aspire Academy.
Another player whose development is certainly worth keeping an eye on is Kaylen Hinds. An England youth international who tends to play just off the striker, Hinds is adept at linking play and can also finish well himself.
Ben Sheaf (pictured) has also put pen to paper on professional terms. A central-midfielder signed from West Ham United’s famed academy last summer, Sheaf has adapted well since moving to North London. An excellent free-kick taker, he is a good passer of the ball but is still rather raw overall and isn’t the most efficient at breaking up play.
Willock, Hinds and Sheaf join the other youngsters from this intake who have already signed professional terms- George Dobson, Chiori Johnson, Tyrell Robinson and Kristopher Da Graca.
Others seem set to follow suit, too. Finnish goalkeeper Hugo Keto has enhanced his reputation at the tournament in Qatar, whilst striker Stephy Mavididi has found the net with regularity and has also impressed with his work ethic.
Midfielder Harry Donovan, meanwhile, has also developed well, with all of those players listed above likely to be heavily involved in the U21 side next season.
Defender Marc Bola and winger Aaron Eyoma have already featured for the U21 team, but there are some players who require improvement, including Ilias Chatzitheodoridis, Savvas Mourgos and Jonatas Centeno.
In all, though, this intake could prove to be a good one, despite the frustrating results on the pitch this season.