Last season was especially significant for James Olayinka as he gained his first experience of senior football.
The 18-year-old featured for Unai Emery’s side in the friendly against Al-Nasr and also trained with the squad on several occasions, especially during international breaks.
Olayinka also established himself as a regular in the U23 side before an injury disrupted his momentum a little.
The Hale End product is a lively presence in midfield who relishes bursting past opponents, although he isn’t especially strong physically.
Also capable of playing out wide or at right-back if required, Olayinka could be set for another landmark campaign as he looks to make his competitive debut for the first-team.
That could well come in the Europa League or the Carabao Cup, with Emery having been impressed with Olayinka’s excellent work rate.
It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Olayinka could be involved in the first-team’s pre-season plans, with Lucas Torreira away at the Copa America and Matteo Guendouzi involved in the U21 European Championship.
Olayinka is certainly far from the finished article and there have been times when his tendency to dwell on the ball have proven costly at U23 level.
Making your first-team debut is by no means a guarantee of future progress, as Charlie Gilmour and Julio Pleguezuelo, who have both been released, know all too well.
It could well be an exciting campaign ahead for Olayinka, however, with the Checkatrade Trophy also providing him with an opportunity to test himself against senior opponents.