The previous season may have only finished last month, but some of Arsenal’s youngsters are already back in training ahead of the new campaign.
Significantly, goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo is amongst them, with the 16-year-old having ended speculation surrounding his future by accepting Arsenal’s offer of a scholarship contract.
There had been some concern that Okonkwo, who is very highly related, could elect to leave the club, and his situation was being monitored by RB Leipzig and Celtic amongst others.
However, Okonkwo is now staying at Arsenal and will hope to establish himself as the first-choice goalkeeper for the U18s this season as he looks to build upon the experience that he gained last campaign.
An England U17 international, the Hale End product trained with the first-team last season while he was still a schoolboy and he also featured in the FA Youth Cup.
It was during the Dallas Cup, though, that he really underlined his potential with some terrific reaction stops, and the expectation is that he could eventually go on to at least challenge for a place in the first-team squad.
For now, however, Okonkwo faces a considerable amount of competition just at U18 level, with Arsenal having a host of young goalkeepers on their books.
Joao Virginia can still play for the U18s as an overage goalkeeper but is instead more likely to feature at U23 level.
Okonkwo must still battle for a place in the starting line-up with Daniel Barden, Tom Smith and Karl Jakob Hein, with the latter, an Estonian youth international, having arrived at the club from Nomme United.
At this stage Okonkwo seems to possess more potential than both Barden and Smith, although it will be intriguing to see how Hein settles in to his new surroundings.
Okonkwo is very highly thought of at Arsenal and, although he, inevitably, made some mistakes last season, many of his overall performances were hugely impressive, especially with regards to the way in which he commands his penalty area.
One target that Okonkwo will surely have in mind this season is to play at least one game at U23 level, and he may also have an opportunity to feature in the Checkatrade Trophy if one of the other goalkeepers are unavailable.
Arsenal have lost some talented prospects in recent years and it is a major boost that Okonkwo won’t be joining that list. Now it is time for him to continue his development at Arsenal and, hopefully, fulfil his vast potential.
Jeorge Bird is the author of www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird
The club are really determined to make me stop with the damn limericks.
Jorge do you know if Nwakali will be eligible to play in the PL next season? Or will he have to go on loan again?
**Jeorge – Apologies, my phone autocorected your name.
which prospects that we have lost in the past years have actually turned out good players? curiously.
Gnabry,Walcott and now Wilshere! Oh yea and Oxy boi.
Who is he highly related to?
Highly ‘related’ you say… Got more fam than a Troopz interview on AFTV!
could also be highly rated? maybe highly elated? perhaps highly correlated? damn, it’s a slow arsenal news day.