There was much intrigue when Arsenal, following protracted negotiations, eventually managed to sign midfielder Kelechi Nwakali last year.
The Nigerian youth international was, almost immediately, sent out on loan to Dutch second division club Maastricht, where he excelled with some superb performances.
Gifted technically and capable of bursting forwards to excellent effect, Nwakali quickly established himself as one of Maastricht’s standout players.
Most importantly, the 19-year-old gained valuable experience of playing first-team football as he amassed 34 appearances across all competitions, scoring three goals and providing four assists.
Now attention will begin to turn to what Nwakali’s next step will be, with the prospect set to return to Arsenal for pre-season training.
The likelihood will be that Nwakali will spend a couple of weeks training at London Colney, perhaps with the first-team as he looks to impress Arsene Wenger, before being sent out on loan again.
Nwakali’s next temporary transfer will most probably be to a team in one of Europe’s top divisions and, should such a scenario transpire, it will be interesting to see how the youngster copes with the step up in quality.
One thing that is for certain is that Nwakali certainly won’t be fazed, regardless of the opposition that he faces. He did, after all, enter last season with no prior experience of European football and turned out to be one of Arsenal’s best performing loanees.
Although he isn’t the strongest physically, there is plenty of time for Nwakali to improve in that regard as he looks to develop further so that he can eventually return to Arsenal and compete for a place in the first-team squad.
Wenger will be well aware of the progress that Nwakali has made on loan, although the Frenchman may feel that the starlet isn’t yet ready to be considered to make the step up for Arsenal.
The initial signs, though, appear very encouraging regarding Nwakali and it is hoped that he will continue to develop wherever he is playing next season.