There had been much speculation that Arsenal could adopt an approach that would see some of the club’s talented youngsters receive first-team opportunities in the forthcoming campaign, and this week there were the first signs to suggest that such an eventuality could materialise.
Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson have all been promoted to the first-team squad and will hope to receive plenty of opportunities to impress.
In truth, being promoted to the senior squad doesn’t always mean too much. In 2012, for instance, defender Kyle Bartley was promoted only to join Swansea City in a permanent deal just a few days later.
However, the fact that four of the club’s best prospects have been promoted at the same time is certainly not a coincidence and indicates that Unai Emery will give each of the quartet opportunities at some stage during the campaign.
All four players will face a battle for game time, but with plenty of fixtures to play they should get chances to express themselves, especially in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup.
It will be intriguing to see just how often they are called upon in the Premier League and in particular in the more high-profile fixtures, but for now this is a major step in the right direction.
Nketiah, admittedly, was frequently called up to the senior squad last season, even if he didn’t play as much as he would have liked, while Nelson and Willock have been on the fringes for some time, and Smith Rowe’s qualities have been well known to a wide audience for almost a year now, so they aren’t entering this season as complete novices.
The other benefit of the youngsters being promoted is that it will give some of the other prospects in the academy an extra incentive to succeed.
The likes of Tyreece John-Jules, Bukayo Saka and Xavier Amaechi are all close to the first-team squad and will now believe that it is possible for them to also be promoted eventually, whereas previously in many cases it had seemed as if there wasn’t much of a pathway into the senior side.
There is still a very long way to go for all of the youngsters that have been promoted – even Kieran Gibbs, for example, made over 200 first-team appearances for the club but eventually had to leave after failing to hold down a regular starting berth.
However, this week’s news is a major positive in terms of giving youngsters chances to succeed and encouraging the next crop of starlets.