Charlie Gilmour announced his departure from Arsenal this week, with the midfielder leaving the club after 14 years.
A Hale End product with a tremendous work ethic and a penchant for taking excellent penalties, Gilmour made two competitive appearances for the Gunners’ first-team, both of which came in the Europa League this season, but breaking into the squad was always going to be a difficult task, especially following the signing of Matteo Guendouzi last summer.
Such is the nature of youth football, another prospect is now looking to succeed where Gilmour didn’t, with 18-year-old Matt Smith set to receive plenty of opportunities to impress for the U23s next season.
Smith already has some experience of second-string football but this season he has mostly featured for the U18s, for whom he was one of the standout performers.
Capable of dictating the tempo of games with his precise passes, Smith racked up a hugely impressive 14 assists in 22 league appearances for the U18s, while he also weighed in with five goals as his side won the southern section title.
Stepping up to the U23s on a full-time basis will certainly be a tough task for Smith; indeed it took Gilmour some time to adapt at that level before he eventually became a consistent performer.
However, Smith possesses the attributes to take steps forward in his development, and it is testament to how highly regarded he is at the club that he trained with the senior squad last season when he was still a first-year scholar.
With several players set to join Gilmour in departing, it is likely to be a new-look Arsenal U23 side next season, with Smith having a very important part to play.
Some patience will undoubtedly be required, but by the conclusion of next campaign the Hale End product will have wanted to establish himself as a consistent performer for Freddie Ljungberg’s side.