To say that the first half of the season has been frustrating for Ben Sheaf is an understatement.
The youngster, who has long had a reputation for being one of the club’s most exciting prospects, has spent the vast majority of the campaign so far on the sidelines and has yet to play 90 minutes.
A succession of injuries have meant that Sheaf has been unable to establish any sort of momentum but there was a boost for the youngster yesterday as he played the first half of the U23s’ defeat to Liverpool.
Sheaf didn’t show any signs of rustiness and demonstrated that his composure in possession, one of his key traits, remains very much intact, as he located Tyreece John-Jules with an excellent long ball from which the striker scored.
Arsenal lost the game 4-1, with Freddie Ljungberg’s side continuing their disappointing recent form, but Sheaf will be delighted to have not suffered any further problems and will hope that he can feature in the U23s’ final game of the calendar year against Blackburn Rovers on December 17th.
Should he come through that fixture unscathed, it seems likely that Arsenal will look to send Sheaf on loan in the January transfer window as, at the age of 20, he is not in a position where he wants to spend the remainder of the season in the U23s.
Last season Sheaf took some significant strides forward in his development as he featured twice for the first-team and gained experience on loan at Stevenage, but he is now determined to make up for lost time after such a difficult commencement to this campaign.
Over the past couple of years, Sheaf, having joined from West Ham United as a defensive-midfielder, has been moulded into a ball-playing centre-back and if Arsenal persist with playing three at the back in the long term then he cannot be discounted from being given chances eventually.
However, as well as the various first-team players in question, it also has to be taken into consideration that Sheaf is competing with the likes of Julio Pleguezuelo, Zech Medley and Daniel Ballard, while Krystian Bielik is still seen mainly as a centre-back by Arsenal despite having impressed in midfield while on loan at Charlton Athletic this season.
It is getting close to the point where a concrete decision will have to be made on Sheaf’s long-term Arsenal future, and he will be determined to make a major impact out on loan as he seeks to give himself the best possible chance of making the breakthrough at the club.