Going into this season it seemed clear that at least one of Arsenal’s young centre-backs would be frustrated regarding their playing time, with the club possessing several options in that department at U23 level this season.
Julio Pleguezuelo, as captain, is an almost guaranteed starter, while Ben Sheaf, when fully fit, is also expected to be involved heavily. In addition, Arsenal can also call upon Danny Ballard, Zech Medley and Joseph Olowu, all of whom are no longer eligible for the U18s.
Olowu had already gained plenty of experience of U23 football going into this season, but so far this campaign has been rather different for the Hale End product, who has frequently filled in at right-back.
With Jordi Osei-Tutu out injured, Olowu has slotted in at right-back and has performed admirably, making some crucial interventions and also getting forwards when necessary.
Given that he is usually a centre-back, it isn’t too surprising that Olowu, unlike many modern full-backs, sees himself as a defender first rather than an attacking threat, and this has helped Arsenal U23s to become slightly more resolute at the back.
There have, inevitably, been some teething problems, but overall Olowu has adapted very well to his change of position and has gained playing time that he otherwise wouldn’t have received.
Osei-Tutu is closing in on a return to fitness and will surely regain his place in the starting lineup when he comes back, but Olowu now has an extra string to his bow, which will surely aid his development greatly.
Olowu featured as Arsenal U21s beat Coventry City 3-0 in the Checkatrade Trophy last night, with the result once again emphasising the host of talented young players that Arsenal have at their disposal.
The three goalscorers, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock, are among those closest to the first-team and should feature in some capacity before the end of the month, with the club’s participation in both the Carabao Cup and the Europa League set to get underway.
As far as Olowu is concerned, the 18-year-old will be aiming to continue gaining as much experience as possible for the U23s in the hope that he too will eventually be able to catch Unai Emery’s eye and get into contention for first-team involvement.