It has been a somewhat mixed season so far for Dan Crowley.
The campaign started well enough for the prodigious youngster as, after featuring for the Arsenal first-team during pre-season, he was sent out on loan to Barnsley, where he scored his first professional goal in a Capital One Cup defeat to Everton.
As the weeks progressed, however, Crowley started to become less frequently involved for the League One side and Arsenal eventually utilised their option to recall the England youth international.
Tonight Crowley is in line to make his first appearance of the season for Arsenal’s U21 side when they take on their Stoke City counterparts, and the 18-year-old will certainly be eager to make an impression.
An excellent passer and sublime dribbler, Crowley has long since been earmarked for success, but his stint at Barnsley was an important learning curve in his development in that it demonstrated that not everything will always go his way.
Perhaps it would have been more beneficial to have sent him to a side with a penchant for free-flowing football, but for now the youngster will simply be happy to be playing regularly again, even if it is only at youth level.
Given the longstanding hype surrounding him, it is very easy to forget that Crowley is just 18 years old. He could, theoretically, still play at U21 level for another three seasons after this campaign, but such is his talent and determination, he is understandably eager to make the step up as quickly as possible.
There are certainly some aspects of his game that require fine-tuning. He does, for instance, have a tendency to keep hold of the ball for too long at times, whilst he occasionally becomes rattled when he finds himself on the receiving end of hefty challenges.
For all that, though, Crowley remains one of Arsenal’s standout prospects and certainly has a better chance of making the breakthrough at the club than several of his youth team colleagues.
Whether he will ultimately be able to succeed in that aim remains to be seen. It is a little frustrating that his loan spell dictated that he wasn’t able to feature for Arsenal in the Capital One Cup this season, but perhaps he will receive his opportunity in that competition next season.
Before then Crowley will seek to build up his sharpness in youth team fixtures before possibly heading out on loan again in the New Year. This time the club may be more wary with regards to where they send him in order to avoid a repeat of the situation that occurred at Barnsley, where he often acted as a deputy to more senior players.
It hasn’t exactly been plain sailing for Crowley so far this campaign, but, beginning tonight, he is eager to kick-start matters.