Last season, having featured, albeit fleetingly, in the Europa League and the League Cup and signed a new contract, Ben Sheaf’s progress at Arsenal could be said to be going very well indeed.
Now, however, the youngster finds himself in a rather different situation. Due to the club having many first-team centre-backs available, Sheaf wasn’t selected for the pre-season trip to Singapore and, should he remain at the club, it is difficult to envisage him getting much of a look in with regards to playing time with the senior squad.
Signed as a midfielder but now a ball-playing centre-back, Sheaf is a very talented player but the 20-year-old could be forgiven for feeling a little concerned regarding his current predicament.
Last season he gained experience on loan at Stevenage in League Two as he made ten appearances, mostly in midfield, but he is still very much seen as a centre-back at Arsenal.
With the chances of making the breakthrough into the Arsenal first-team this season rather slim to say the least, it seems that the best and perhaps only real option for Sheaf at present is to go out on loan again, especially as it doesn’t seem as if he will consider a permanent departure at this point.
Heading out on temporary transfer for six months, perhaps to a League One club, could prove to be beneficial for Sheaf, and it could give the erstwhile England youth international a platform to prove to Unai Emery that he is a player who is worth considering.
However, even if he was to impress out on loan again, Sheaf still faces a major task in terms of getting into the first-team.
The arrival of Konstantinos Mavropanos pushed Sheaf further down the pecking order and with Calum Chambers and Rob Holding unlikely to leave anytime soon, chances are likely to be either very limited or non-existent.
Sheaf’s situation is evidence of just how quickly things can change in football but he is now at an important stage in his development where he must be playing regularly at some level.
Having played almost half a century of games for the U23s, it is clear that he wouldn’t benefit much from playing for the second string any longer. Yes, there is a chance for him to play in the Checkatrade Trophy if he stays at Arsenal, but Sheaf needs to be playing against such sides on a more regular basis as he looks to still somehow succeed at Arsenal.