Alfie Matthews’ first season as a scholar at Arsenal hasn’t exactly gone to plan, with the striker having found regular playing time for the U18s difficult to come by.
With Folarin Balogun finding the net with regularity and Tyreece John-Jules occasionally dropping down from the U23s, Matthews has had to be very patient to get opportunities up front for Ken Gillard’s side.
The 17-year-old emerged from Arsenal’s Hale End academy with an impressive reputation intact having produced some excellent performances for the club at schoolboy level, but so far this campaign he has featured just eight times for the U18s, starting once.
During the club’s recent trip to America for the Dallas Cup, however, Matthews was finally given an opportunity to showcase his credentials, and he certainly took it as he scored against both Real Salt Lake and Toronto.
Possessing excellent link-up play and capable of providing an aerial threat, Matthews is a very talented player and the hope is that next season he will be given the platform to show just how effective he can be.
Next season Balogun and John-Jules will no longer be eligible for the U18s, meaning that there is a good chance that Matthews will be the club’s leading striker at that level.
The campaign will be a crucial one for Matthews in terms of his development as he looks to earn a professional contract, but he certainly has the quality to achieve that objective if he applies himself correctly.
Matthews will also look to break into the U23 squad but it will be interesting to see how he adapts to starting regularly for the U18s, given that so far he has usually only featured in the closing stages of games.
Next weekend Matthews will be aiming to play some part as Arsenal U18s face Fulham in a game that could see them clinch the southern division title. Then attention will turn to a hugely important season ahead.