On Sunday Arsenal will be tasked with attempting to stop one of their own from inflicting damage upon them, as Bournemouth’s Benik Afobe seeks to prove that the decision to allow him to leave the Gunners was an ill advised one.
Afobe, who has hit the ground running since working his way back up to the Premier League, is perhaps the most prominent example of Arsenal’s ability to produce impressive strikers.
The club haven’t yet produced a forward capable of leading the line for Arsenal since the academy’s reformation, but there is evidence to suggest that matters are moving in the right direction in that regard.
Almost every season there is a talented young forward who makes the sizeable leap from schoolboy football to the U18 squad. Zak Ansah may not quite have fulfilled the immense potential he demonstrated when he was emerging through the ranks at Arsenal, but he still seems set to carve out a career for himself in the lower leagues.
With regards to Arsenal’s current young forwards, Chuba Akpom hit the headlines by scoring a hat-trick for his loan side Hull City against Bury in the FA Cup last week, with the England youth international eager to prove that he is capable of making the grade with his parent club.
There is much work for Akpom to do in order to achieve that aim, but he certainly possesses much raw talent.
Meanwhile, another prodigious striker, Stephy Mavididi, is continuing to score with regularity for Arsenal at U21 level. Mavididi has hit eight goals in 13 appearances for the second string this campaign and at present is fending off competition from the highly regarded Donyell Malen to hold down a place in the starting line-up.
A little further down the ladder Edward Nketiah has hit double figures in terms of goals for Arsenal U18s this season, with the forward impressing with his quick movement and nimble footwork.
The production line is continuing, but it remains to be seen whether any of Arsenal’s homegrown forwards will be able to succeed in the long term at the club, but it can at least be said that attackers are being produced who are capable of thriving at youth level. Afobe, meanwhile, has demonstrated that it is still possible to thrive even after leaving Arsenal.
That certainly isn’t the case with regards to defenders, with many of the centre-backs that emerge from the club’s Hale End system often lack positional nous and struggle to get much further than the U21 team.
Steps are being taken to improve the quality of players coming through the club’s academy, but at the moment it seems as if it is attacking talents, as opposed to defenders, that are the order of the day.