Arsene Wenger confirmed for the first time today that Arsenal are hopeful of completing the signings of Nigerian prospects Kelechi Nwakali and Samuel Chukwueze. The pair, who played a pivotal part as their country won the U17 World Cup last year, have been heavily linked with a switch to North London and it now seems highly likely that the deals will go ahead.
There have been some suggestions that the starlets won’t be able to play for Arsenal until they turn 18, but, even if that proves to be the case, they will still be able to train with the club and familiarise themselves with their new surroundings.
Any new youth signing tends to be met with a considerable level of fanfare, and these potential acquisitions are certainly no different, especially when it is taken into consideration how highly the players are rated in their homeland. With that in mind, it seems appropriate to assess which prospects they will be competing with as they attempt to break into the Arsenal first-team squad.
Nwakali, who was identified as the standout player at the aforementioned U17 World Cup, is an attacking midfielder with much flair. The captain of his country at youth level, he is capable of making surging runs and initiating attacks.
Arsenal are certainly well stocked for prospects in that position, with Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley the two most notable youngsters who operate in that area of the field.
Zelalem has been rather impressive on loan for Rangers this season and has weighed in with several assists for the Scottish giants. The United States youth international is still seen as one of Arsenal’s brightest young talents, even though he has some aspects of his game to improve upon, such as his tactical awareness and physicality.
Crowley arrived at Arsenal from Aston Villa with quite a reputation intact and has delivered some tremendous performances at youth level, but he struggled to make an impact whilst on loan with Barnsley earlier in the campaign and will be hoping to enjoy a more productive temporary transfer at some point in the near future.
With so many midfielders on the club’s books both at senior level and in the youth section, it is testament to Arsenal’s belief in Nwakali’s ability that they are so intent on signing him. If the deal goes ahead, it will be intriguing to see who the winner is in the battle to make the breakthrough.
Chukwueze, at 16, is slightly youngster than Nwakali, but he is still seen as an excellent prospect and has scored three goals in seven games for Nigeria at U17 level. There are some talented young wingers on Arsenal’s books, such as Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Chris Willock, Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith-Rowe, so Chukwueze would certainly face a difficult task to edge out his competitors as he attempts to make the breakthrough.
In both cases it will be interesting to see how the new recruits fare and the added level of competition for places at academy level will bring out the best in all of the individuals concerned.