Ahead of the game against Burnley last month Krystian Bielik, who was watching the match with the rest of the youth players behind the away dugout, was asked by a member of Arsenal coaching staff about his latest injury.
Bielik replied that his shoulder was still causing him pain, and the defender seemed rather astonished that he was continuing to be quite so unfortunate in that regard, with the problem having meant that his loan spell with Walsall in the second half of last season was effectively a write off as he didn’t make a single appearance for his temporary club.
Last summer Bielik was set to go on loan but an injury suffered in an U23 game scuppered those hopes, meaning that he had to stay with Arsenal until December.
It was, overall, a season in which Bielik, through no fault of his own, was unable to take any significant strides forward in his development and instead ended up with his chances of making the breakthrough at Arsenal seemingly reduced by the arrival of Konstantinos Mavropanos.
Bielik, now hopefully fully free of his injury problems, is back training at Arsenal and will aim to make a positive first impression under new head coach Unai Emery.
It is questionable, though, whether Bielik will get much of a look in at all during pre-season training. Laurent Koscielny is injured, but Emery can still call upon Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Mavropanos, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos is likely to sign at some point.
Quite where that leaves Bielik is uncertain. He is, at the age of 20, still rather young, but it won’t be too long until he will be classed a senior player by Premier League and UEFA rules, and he will surely want clarification on his long-term future sooner rather than later.
The fact that Bielik has been left in this situation is especially frustrating considering how impressive he was during a loan spell at Birmingham City in the 2016/17 campaign, while in his performances for Arsenal at youth level he has frequently impressed at centre-back following his transition from a defensive-midfielder.
Time isn’t yet running out for Bielik, but he could certainly be forgiven if he is rather concerned about his chances of getting into the senior squad.
One or more of the current centre-backs could depart this summer, while there is also a possibility that injuries could strike, leading to Bielik being thrown into the side.
At present, though, that is a rather unlikely scenario and something would have to change significantly for Bielik to even be included in the travelling party for the pre-season trip to Singapore.
If he isn’t selected for that trip then another loan spell will probably beckon, but at some stage he will have to make the transition from prospect to starter, whether that is at Arsenal or somewhere else.