Category Archives: youth

Guendouzi – Stick or Twist?

Arsenal’s squad in terms of youthful talent pushing through is in rude health.

Some of the starlets in our ranks are among the brightest we have seen at the club for some time. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe represent a hopeful future for Arsenal that we can thrive when these kids really start to bloom.

Matteo Guendouzi could be mentioned among these names. The young Frenchman is very highly rated at the club and beyond, but it seems that he is missing one vital ingredient in order to rise above the average and really strike it at the top.

That is humility.

Guendouzi, as I write, is currently training alone after his spat with Neil Maupay of Brighton. His comments toward the Gulls striker revolved around money and how Brighton’s number nine would never be able to earn what Matteo is currently on at Arsenal.

It indicates two things. One, that Guendouzi is prioritising the wrong thing and two? He really needs to put the effort he uses to annoy opponents into his football.

Since then, we have seen stories, or ‘leaks’ circulating around Guendouzi’s attitude at former clubs and of an apparent bust-up with Sokratis at our Dubai training camp earlier this year.

Now we may or may not ever know the truth about his run-in with our Greek defender, but his behaviour at his former club Lorient is a very good gauge of who the boy is behind the player as it is verified information.

His former manager at Lorient, Bernard Casoni, spoke to the media this week and had this to say:

Guendouzi’s problem is not physical and is not technical. It’s his attitude, it’s not good for the team or the coach. My relationship with him was not very good.”

“I chose him for a cup match against Nice but he was booked very early. The referee told me at half-time to warn Guendouzi: one more fault and off we go, but in the second half nothing changed. I had no choice but to master it. When I did, he refused to shake my hand.”

Most tellingly, Casoni finished with this, “He took his job seriously, his training was no problem and his character is to always want to win.

“Sometimes when he talks it’s good. But sometimes he speaks badly. He talks too much.

“His talent is not in question, this is not the problem. He can be a top player and I think he can still be successful abroad. It is up to him to change his attitude.”

Guendouzi featured heavily under Unai Emery, playing 33 times in our PL campaign alone. This season though, has been a stop-start campaign for Matteo, and early under Arteta, Guendouzi found squeezing his way into the team a tough ask.

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The balance of Xhaka and Ceballos has no doubt not helped Guendouzi’s quest for minutes, but it seems that Arteta is not keen on the Frenchman staying at the club. Perhaps one bad apple does spoil the bunch? Just imagine being in that situation – training with a bunch of teammates daily, but one of them is difficult? It would sour the ambience at the training ground to a degree.

But it is undeniable that Guendouzi is talented. He would have no shortage of interested parties should he decide that the going is better on other shores.

How do we avoid another Gnabry situation?

Now there are many facets that aren’t similar – Gnabry’s attitude wasn’t abrasive and he couldn’t get enough gametime from the start. But we have let plenty of young players go, only for them to immediately show us what we are missing.

There is a definite chance of this happening with Guendouzi.

The problem is that if he does stay at Arsenal, how does Arteta get him to tow the line like his other players? Currently, putting him out to train alone is not exactly fertilising positivity. So if Matteo flouts the rules again, how should Arteta react?

Alternatively, if he did it again, would that indicate that Guendouzi is simply a renegade who isn’t interested in harmony and mutual respect?

It’s clear that Guendouzi isn’t the finished article – his positioning smacks of inexperience and he far too often fails to track his man, but we have all seen that he could be a huge player for us.

Or for another club. At this moment in time, it looks likely that our crop of promising youth players will shoulder the responsibility of Arsenal’s immediate future without the help of the crazy-haired Guendouzi.

 

 

 

Arsenal Kids – A Place In Our Near Future?

This season has been one filled with searching.

In amongst the plethora of disappointment and underwhelming results and performances, we have scoured the earth for positives.

The Premier League has made for unpleasant viewing for quite some time, and winning a trophy has looked like a pipe dream. So going through the campaign requires a light at the end of the tunnel.

That shining beacon of hope has been our array of Academy talent that has bolstered our squad.

Bukayo Saka, Jo Willock, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah. These kids have lifted us when we needed it most with displays that are far beyond their tender years.

When our squad has needed some urgent remedies, they have stepped up and now, our squad looks filled with talent. So much so that when considering potential transfer activity in the summer, we are now considering what new recruits would do to the future of these kids.

They are the future of the club, but are they one season wonders? Or does their talent match their work-rate?

In short, does their future lie as a bona-fide first teamer at an Arsenal that has heir heads craned upward?

 

Arsenal Kids

 

Bukayo Saka

They call a first season for a youth product – a breakthrough season. That slightly underplays what Saka has done for Arsenal.

He is our chief assist maker this season, far and away above anyone else. He covers more ground than most and has looked at home in neat interplay around the box with more esteemed players, so his talents are up to scratch.

All this glows brighter when you consider that two thirds of his starts have been at left-back and he is still a teenager.

There are still question marks about his future as this is his first campaign, but surely his figures and his tendency to influence games spell a prominent place for next season under Arteta.

 

Jo Willock / Emile Smith-Rowe

The midfielder divides opinion, and so does his permanent position. He has split his time between playing as a back up Number10 and a central midfielder – where is he best?

We have seen he has an eye for a pass and we also know that his energy is bountiful enough to play in central midfield, but it won’t be his talent that defines his immediate future.

It will be who he has in front of him. In the centre, we have Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi. They are all ahead of him in the queue. Whereas in the playmaker role, it is only Ozil that really stands in his way, aside from one of his Hale End brethren – Smith-Rowe.

Yep, the kid who is on loan at Huddersfield has made a bigger splash in terms of excitement than Willock and it is perceived that Smith-Rowe has the bigger future. So if Emile can make his loan spell a success, he will return in the summer with a great place on the squad ladder.

Willock though, don’t write him off. His pass success is comparable to not only Guendouzi, but pass master Ozil (84% compared to 88%) and his defensive merits stand up too. Willock has a future, but if he wants to avoid being a bit part – he needs to make an impact in one position.

 

Eddie Nketiah

The striker scored when he played at Leeds during his loan spell – but that wasn’t enough to further his development. He was recalled and he looked to be going on loan to another club, but when Arteta saw him in training, he realized that he was good enough to play.

That says much for the dedicated youngster. He shows a predatory instinct that comes as much with being born with it as it does with development. Nketiah is on the cusp though – he needs to make the most of the remainder of this season.

He has the faith of the boss and has already started since being recalled. He now needs to be dependable, and get some goals. Succeed and he will be our backup. Fail, and another loan or a move to an ambitious club looks to be on the horizon.

 

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

The midfielder turned right-back has an old head on young shoulders. He has made a real fist of his stint as Bellerin’s deputy and since Arteta arrived, Maitland-Niles has really stepped up. His stamina is up there with the best and his defensive work shows why he works well as a midfielder.

Trouble is, he has been so good at right-back that seeing him in the centre looks to be far off.

And now the acquisition of Cedric Soares sees him slip down the pecking order. Attributes alone mean he can forge a career at Arsenal in the centre, but AMN has a lot of obstacles in his way in either position…

 

Reiss Nelson

The winger was fantastic in Germany on loan, but injury has curtailed his seismic performances at Arsenal. He was prevalent under Emery but he is now only feeling his way back.

The difference for Nelson as opposed to the others is that he offers true width. We suffer from a lack of this and if he can get some minutes during the rest of this season, Nelson can leave Arteta feeling like he can be a worthy member of next season’s squad.

The future is bright, but this talented bunch still have plenty of work to do if they want to cement their Arsenal legacy.

 

 

Our New British Core

The British core remains only as a memory of the image of the group sat at a desk, resplendent in club gear, simultaneously signing their contracts. Overshadowed by Arsene Wenger who had masterminded their presence in the first team, it was meant to represent a new, homegrown dawn for Arsenal.

One by one they fell by the wayside, leaving probably the least likely to remain as the sole representative of this golden generation. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson could have potentially formed the spine of Arsenal for years to come, but thanks to varying reasons – some unlucky and some simply because they lacked the minerals to fight at the very top – they were sold from Arsenal.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the first to go, expressing an interest to shake off the comfort zone that saw him make 25-30 appearances but never quite hold down a regular spot. His flexibility was one of the reasons that ‘The Ox’ never quite put his stamp on our eleven, and another was his maddening inconsistency. With one game he would slalom past a handful of challenges and succeed with a netbuster. The next game he would lose the ball like it was a personal hobby. He moved to Liverpool to progress but thanks to injury – another frequent blight on his time here – he currently stands in the same spot he had as a Gunner – bit-part utility man.

Jack Wilshere carried perhaps the most expectation as a player. His virtuoso display as a teenager against the best midfield in the world, Barcelona, exhibited the ceiling his talents had, but the diminutive baller never scaled those heights again. Injuries curtailed his ambitions and his time as an Arsenal man, and he is now a Hammer.

The rest, aside from Aaron Ramsey, were ousted from the squad as we found superior replacements. Time had seen us move on but these players didn’t match the step count, and they lagged behind.

Fast forward to the present day and we now have another batch of homegrown players. The majority of these kids have been schooled by the Academy and are steeped in ‘The Arsenal Way.’ There is a big difference between the two groups of players though.

The original gaggle of players had already had a number of seasons under their belt before their talent had shone through to lead people to declare them our core.

The current group? They are just starting on their journey – and they are making waves in the first team ahead of some truly established international stars.

Wilshere, Gibbs etc of course had some truly special players in their midst, but they had their first team spot more or less made theirs whenever they were fit for the most part.

Whereas Jo Willock, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Emile Smith-Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have had some imposing figures in front of them, and have still established themselves as contenders for their respective spots.

British Core

Well, to varying degrees anyway. Jo Willock and Rob Holding are probably the closest to having their spots tied down, and both have serious competition in their way – which makes their progress even more spectacular.

What is evident is that these kids really DO have the chance to become the rigid spine that Arsenal have needed for some time. Time though, is the only true yardstick for this group. It is only as matches and a few seasons go by that we will see if these special talents really are as good as they appear to be – and if they can go on to forge themselves as homegrown Arsenal legends – something that we haven’t had for quite some time.

Over to you boys.

Spotlight on Youth Progress

Freddie Ljungberg’s move to Assistant Manager from his previous role as Under-23’s boss heralds a shift in focus for our club.

The statement that accompanied the Swede’s move to Unai Emery’s bench chose to underline this, mentioning that Ljungberg’s intimate knowledge of our youth system and the products that have rolled off the conveyor belt recently was the reason that Freddie has taken Steve Bould’s role – with Bould going in the opposite direction.

It is this hands-on, daily intel that Ljjungberg possesses, that gives him the best position to determine who can move up from the Academy and bolster our squad.

With our self-sustainability model in full effect, the dream situation for our club hierarchy and our bank balance, would be finding the answers to bolstering our squad within our current ranks – unearthing the latest rough diamond and polishing it in front of our very eyes in the stands.

Freddie is meant to be the conduit between the kids trying to make that step up, to the ear of Unai Emery, who knows that his budget will leave him hindered in his attempt to reclaw our Champions League prospects back, after last season saw us confirm we will miss out for a third consecutive season.

With Champions League omission comes a shrunken budget, so Ljungberg moving up to provide Emery with another eye, perhaps the most important eye amongst our coaching personnel, means that Emery can have a true gauge on whether our prospects can supply the fillip that our first team and squad we so desperately require.

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Jo Willock and Eddie Nketiah spring immediately to mind in regards to who will make the step up, but there are others who will be in with a shout.

Bukayo Saka and Tyreece John-Jules are others who are in with a shot, and Emile Smith-Rowe, along with Reiss Nelson, are champing at the bit to get the nod.

Much like last season, Emery’s first, we can tell a lot from Emery’s team selection for the supposed ‘friendly games.’ He rotated heavily, and with a hectic warm-up schedule, thanks in part to sponsorship deals, games were thick and fast. That meant plenty of chances for the kids to impress, but what will also help these kids show that Freddie’s testimonials were all true – is squad strength.

There has been talk of Arsenal going in for Keiran Tierney in a bid to boost our defensive strength, and it is obvious that our backline is in dire need of reinforcements.

So, with Freddie swooping in and having Emery’s ear in regards to what kid can help out in our hour of need, or who has what it takes, our kids could well be the salve that eases the burn on our backline.

Freddie is meant to help the transition between the youth and first team sides, and with our defence on its knees last season, Ljungberg will be instrumental in ensuring the likes of Calum Chambers, Zach Medley and Jordi Osei-Tutu, currently on loan, make the big leap from boy to man in terms of football.

Whether the Swede truly has enough sway to ensure Emery listens to him regarding our players is another matter intirely, but it is irrefuteable that our club would enjoy a ‘signing’ that came straight from our youth team.

We can only wait and see if Ljungberg is starting to have an effect on proceedings. With the precociousness’ of youth also means we should remember that they will have to be given a little flex in order to weed out the mistakes their game demands they make in order to learn vital lessons.

Without patience, then those opportunities that Ljungberg will fight so hard for might as well not happen. We need to keep that in mind when these kids light up the pitch.

Guendouzi Appreciation Society

Let us take a moment to appreciate Matteo Guendouzi.

The young Frenchman has taken to the Premier League like Tottenham to a semi-final exit and defied his years to put in performances that have filled us all with optimism for his near future.

Joining as a 19 year old, we had been linked with some promising players prior to Guendouzi putting pen to paper, but all had fallen by the wayside. Guendouzi was the kid chosen, and from his displays so far, it appears we have made the right choice.

What makes him so special though? At the time of writing, the kid with the untamed hair has made 28 appearances so far in the campaign, a huge number for a player touted to make his mark first in the Under-23’s.

Guendouzi crazy hair
Guendouzi – The Lion-Haired Talent

Why has Unai Emery invested so much trust in the precocious youth? From what we have seen, one of the main reasons is his fearlessness.

In tight situations, both on the ball and in scoreline, Guendouzi has shown an incredible hunger for possession. He always shows for the ball, and even better than his desire to be on the ball is his instant decision to always be on the front foot.

What makes him different to the midfielders we have is that the sideways pass is his safety net, but his first choice is always to progress up the pitch. He can make that happen with or without the ball – Guendouzi is a decent dribbler and can carry when the need arises, and his eye for a pass highlights a decent eye for someone so young.

His transitional play gives us something we don’t have in our ranks and he has stamina to burn. We must remember his age and lack of experience, however.

At times his decision-making – the last skill normally developed by kids as they grow – has been found wanting, and the negative to go with the positives of youth is that they will make errors on the pitch. That is how anybody learns, and footballers are no different.

We as fans are an impatient bunch, and mistakes on the turf are always met with groans, but when he inevitably makes a boo-boo and puts the team in danger, we must give him the time to learn.

The problem with Guendouzi is that he has made remarkably few since joining the team. He has made a rod for his own back as we expect so much now from him.

Emery obviously realises that Guendouzi is a real talent, and his box-to-box mentality and style is an arrow in our quiver that gives us the ability to adapt tactically. Guendouzi’s midfield versatility is perhaps his biggest strength and it will make him a lynchpin in the side in a year or so.

We have an opponent with a high press? Play Torreira alongside Guendouzi and have the Uruguayan and the Frenchman sitting deeper and tracking. What if we have a team that are sitting deep themselves and willing to hit on the break? A midfield 3 perhaps or Xhaka with Guendouzi, to push forward but have Guendouzi’s pace as a contingency.

Either way, whoever partners Matteo will know they have a player who puts it all in, and leaves nothing behind. They will have a partner willing to muck in when the going gets tough, and the ability to make thing happen or at the very least, get the ball quickly to the dangermen who can create.

Guendouzi is a real find, and his progress rate is quite astonishing. Let us hope he is given the room to grow into the player we all know he can be.

Loan Deals – Future Is Out Of Their Hands…

Youth players have a plethora of pitfalls to navigate around in order to remain on the path to success.

Established clubs do all they can to prepare them for the obstacles they will face, but it is a necessary rite of passage in order to see who has the minerals to really prove their top-flight credentials.

There are some things that these starlets cannot compensate or prepare for though. Some circumstances are completely out of their hands and their future, or at least a large portion of it, is in the hands of someone else.

They are on the verge of a breakthrough, but with established players ahead of them making it difficult to earn the gametime they need to progress, these kids will be faced with the prospect of joining another club, often one of lower stature, for a season.

This opportunity is the last hurdle before they become fully fledged, ensconced within the club they were schooled in. It is also the highest of hurdles, and it all hinges on the manager at the time.

They choose the club that the youth prospect will be farmed out to. They are responsible for setting the parameters of immediate success or failure. You see, if the club is the wrong fit, then their progress can be set back, or even worse, they could be sold.

Opinion will be based on how they fare. We have had countless players who have been given their big opportunity to show everyone, and the people at Arsenal, what they’re made of. Instead, through a mixture of injuries, an untenable situation with the regime at their loan club, or plain bad luck, have seen them sent back early with their fragile confidence broken, or they stay for the duration of their loan and warm the bench, making sporadic performances they could make at Arsenal.

A prime example of a potential career breaker was the loan move of Serge Gnabry to West Brom. The manager at the time was Tony Pulis, not exactly renowned for being the finest exponent of swift, technical football, we all scratched our heads at the destination for our promising German winger.

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Gnabry had made his debut and seemed to be ready to make the final leap from prodigy to first eleven candidate. Wenger opted instead to send him to the Hawthorns, Perhaps Wenger thought he would test the mettle of Gnabry, to see if he could mix it as well as bewitch opponents? Whatever the musings were behind the decision, it backfired spectacularly, with Gnabry learning pretty much nothing from his move – other than Tony Pulis doesn’t get a rough deal – he really DOES only know one style of play.

You see, managers really do have the future of these kids in the balance. Does the destination club play the right way? Does the kid have something specific he needs to learn? Is the managerial situation stable? Does the manager have a forward thinking style? What is the positional competition like for the youngster?

Also, will our appointment of a Loan Overseer of sorts, help with future loanees?

Emi Martinez last season earned practically no experience in his loan move in La Liga, and it wasted an entire year of the keeper’s career.

The recent loan move for Reiss Nelson in particular, there is a focus here that isn’t usually on a loan deal – with  the huge promise that Nelson possesses. A lot hinges on this season, and Nelson is so far delivering on it – but the season is long.

The destination club – Hoffenheim – is a progressive club, playing a blend of football that adapts to the given opponent. It means Nelson will be schooled as well as get the game time he needs, and our club needs in order to goague his progress and capacity. Julian Nagelsmann is a revered coach and will use him wisely, but there could be tougher times ahead, times that mean the bench or worse, the physio’s table, beckons.

We have the likes of Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik on loan too, with both players Arsenal future’s very much in the balance, off-set by the potential success or failure of their respective moves to Fulham and Charlton respectively.

These fledgling players can fight tooth and nail, bleed for every minute on the pitch, but if the loan club isn’t the right match, then it won’t matter a jot. Their future is not just in their hands.

Just imagine that. Having the fate of a kid in your hands. Rather them than me.

The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Youth

We seem to have a pretty settled and well stocked squad this season.

Depth in every position, competition to drive our players forward and avoid resting on any laurels, our team appears to have the necessary resources to last through a rigorous season, even if injury bites.

What about the near future though?

It would appear we have that covered too, thanks to our promising youth starlets pushing through the Academy.

In Eddie Nketiah, Ainslie Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith-Rowe and Alex Iwobi, we have players ready to be the next spine of our side. It doesn’t stop there either.

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We have Gedion Zelalem now back from serious injury, and with previous loan spells giving him the experience he needs to push on further, it could be that Zelalem pushes out from the shadows and thrusts himself back in the limelight once again.

We have Ben Sheaf and Josh DaSilva, players who our backroom staff and those who have seen them have been raving about.

We also have Chris Willock, the midfielder who has impressed Emery enough to remain part of first team plans. Willock may not have many minutes under his belt, but the fact he has remained in the squad and hasn’t been sold or loaned points to a talented player who has kept himself in full view of the manager.

Let’s not forget about Reiss Nelson as well.

Compare this to our rivals for honours.

tottenham have the likes of Kyle Walker-Peters who seems promising enough, and Harry Winks is earning international recognition, but the best of the rest of their youth system is nowhere to be found.

At City, Phil Foden aside, there are no kids pushing through whatsoever.

United, before Mourinho anyway, were a conveyor belt for talent, and they also had a slim chance of making it into the team. Now, aside from McTominay, they have the likes of Tuanzebe who are being sent on loan as they have no hope of making an impression on the first team.

Chelsea have no representatives from their youth pool, and their recruitment policy may have calmed down, but their large amount of kids sent out on loan to the purgatory that is Vitesse Arnhem speaks volumes about what is required to be a first teamer at the Bridge.

We have not only increased the amount of our youth products coming through, but we have increased the quality.

Just look at Maitland-Niles last year. In amongst international class but a poor team, Maitland-Niles adapted in his full-back role, used his defensive nous to forge himself a slot in the squad, and impressed both Wenger and Emery enough to consider him in his preferred capacity and a s a certified first team player.

Emile Smith-Rowe made his splash in pre-season, and swayed Emery so much that he never left the first team fold. The teenager is making sporadic appearances, and is well on course to achieve great things with Arsenal. He has now got off the mark in terms of goals too.

Nketiah made a big splash last season by rescuing us with a superb brace in our league cup win over Norwich, and despite struggling to get into the team, has impressed when on the pitch, and is constantly in the squad and on the bench to be called upon.

When injuries bite and inevitable departures occur, these players will form the backbone of Arsenal – if all goes well, injury and mentality permitting.

Alex Iwobi is the target the kids have to aim for, and the Nigeria player is coming on leaps and bounds this season. He hauled himself up through the youth system, and now stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ozil’s and the Aubameyang’s in the team.

When players depart, we have the ideal fillers, and they will be one of our own.

Nelson’s Brave Loan Move

A few months ago, I penned a blog looking at the future of starlet Reiss Nelson.

It was on the back of his breakthrough season at Arsenal. He had impressed in pre-season, and his displays for the Under-23’s the campaign prior were filled with rave reviews and tongues wagging about this precocious talent.

He was rewarded with a prominent place amongst the Europa League squad, where he looked every inch a first teamer. While his trickery was dialled down a smidgin, his effectiveness and work rate were just as impressive.

It left Nelson at a crossroads in his fledgling career, and with his contract entering its final year, I surmised his options and where each path could take him.

Enter Unai Emery, and the Spaniard has picked up where Wenger left off, in terms of leaving the door open to our Academy graduates. Jo Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith-Rowe  and Nelson have all been included in first-team affairs and while first team opportunities have been hard to come by in our first games this season, the arduous nature of the season hasn’t reared its ugly head yet and that is where these kids can feature.

Nelson has obviously seen enough to know that his immediate future lies with Arsenal, as he has been persuaded to ignore the inevitable approaches, and sign on the dotted line for the foreseeable.

Reiss-Nelson-contract-2018

His new deal will see Nelson ply his trade in the Bundesliga this season, as the winger will play for Hoffenheim for the campaign.

This move is an incredibly brave one for the youngster.

There would have been opportunities to remain in England, at the cutting edge of the game still, and up his minutes on the pitch.

Instead, he has gone to an exciting foreign side, managed by one of the hottest coaching properties in the game.

Julian Nagelsmann is an incredibly young manager, but what he has done for Hoffenheim in a short space of time has placed him on the radar for all the European giants.

Most importantly for Nelson though, is that Nagelsmann has a firm grasp on modern, tactical football. It will enable Nelson to adapt and come back into the Emery fold with more tools in his armoury.

Nelson has gone to Germany where communication for even the simplest things will be difficult. It is the better opportunity for his career though, and a great barometer to gauge where he needs to be for his Arsenal future.

Nagelsmann has already commented on Nelson before he signed, saying “If it all works out, we’ll have a great player with pace who can do a lot with the ball.”

Nelson could well follow in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho, who moved permanently to Dortmund and has since seen his stock rise immeasurably. While Nelson has committed his future to Arsenal, a move to the Bundesliga can pay off handsomely. The tactics and the level are high, and Nelson, if he gets enough starts, could come back a far more polished diamond than we had before.

So we will all keep a close eye on events in Hoffenheim. To watch a player we all know has the skill, but if he can make it at a tender age in a foreign land, then his mental fortitude and hunger will be exactly where it needs to be too.

Minutes into his first outing, Reiss scored and made an instant impact.

Good luck Reiss, we are all rooting for you.

Smith-Rowe and Kid Gloves

You know those nights out that you have been planning for weeks? For once, the whole gang have been corralled into being free for this one night. Everyone will be there, we all know the score, and we’re heading to a very exclusive venue.

It’s going to be one of those events we will all remember, it will live long in the memory.

The trouble is, the weight of expectation crushes it – as well as your pal Terry who was well and truly trolleyed at least three hours before you even reached the club

You’ve built this up sky-high, and it means that your expectations will never match up to the actual night – leaving you with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Well, the same goes – mostly – for young footballers.

These bright young things burst into our field of vision with a searing white heat, emblazoning their name upon your retina and your memory. Your first glimpses of these starlets set the bar high, and you know that they have the potential to be even better.

These teenagers are nowhere near their peak years, and yet they’re already mindblowingly good. They take the ball and they confront defenders, impudently asking them questions that season upon season of cynical fouling and defensive coaching hasn’t quite destroyed yet.

It is a breath of fresh air, and thanks to the wonders of social media, their name and their display soon spreads, like a Russian plot behind a Trump campaign. Soon, they appropriate a phrase, one that is often the nadir of any hopes they – and you  – once had of seeing these prospects fully realising their talents.

They become ‘The Next Big Thing.’

At Arsenal, we’ve had this many times over the years in the Wenger era. The Frenchman had a penchant for finding a diamond in the rough in the hope that a bit of spit and elbow grease can coax out every bit of promise.

Sometimes it worked. Cesc Fabregas was a surefire hit. Nicolas Anelka was a real find. Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi were tracked all the way through the youth systems. Aaron Ramsey was a first-teamer early on, but he has come on leaps and bounds from the fresh-faced teenager that turned down Manchester United to come to London Colney.

There are others too though, that fell by the wayside. Quite a few actually.

For every Anelka, we had a Daniel Crowley. For every Cesc, we had a Jeremie Aliadiere or a Yaya Sanogo.

It shows that talent isn’t everything that comprises a top-flight success. The amount of careers that started at a major club and the majority of their professional lives were spent in lower leagues is evidence enough to show how tough it is to make that next step from starlet to bona fide first teamer.

It is why expectations should be scaled back a little.

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It is why Emile Smith-Rowe should be cherished, but avoid the heavy burden of our heavy breathing as we salivate over what could be.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide was in the exact same position only a couple of seasons ago. The Emirates Cup was buzzing as fans were able to catch a glimpse of the player given the moniker, ‘The Jeff.’

Big things were expected, and the rare sightings we had of him and the comments from coaches and teammates were indicating that he was the real deal.

Yet, on the day Emile Smith-Rowe made his first big splash upon our senses, the very same day Jeff Reine-Adelaide had signed a permanent deal for Ligue Un minnows Angers.

Apparently, it was a mix of money demands and first team requests that drove Jeff to move from the club, but either way, it is another player who has failed to reach the heights we know they can reach, at our club.

Emile Smith-Rowe has been making waves for the youth teams since last season, big enough for the discerning Gooner to be aware of his presence. But it was his inclusion in the Singapore squad and his subsequent fantastic solo effort against Atletico Madrid that showed we may have a real gem in our ranks.

It seems that he has the world at his feet, but we’ve been burned before. We should hold back on placing so much emphasis on the development of Smith-Rowe, as Crowley, Reine-Adelaide and others have shown that talent isn’t everything.

If Smith-Rowe shows the same level of intensity and dedication that recent youth converts Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have shown – then Smith-Rowe could well be too dazzling for words.

The thing is though, is it is very uncertain right now. We have no idea what will happen.

All we can do is trust the framework at the club to treat the kid with kid gloves, and his rare forays in cup games are enough to avoid stunting his growth but also enough to let him shine.

We could place far too much weight on the kid, and most likely we will do.

But Smith-Rowe is that good.

Slow and steady everyone.

Eddie Nketiah – Stick or Twist?

The dream for every young player is to make their debut for the first team.

To also score the winner in extra time? That’s the equivalent of dreamland Nirvana – but our very own Eddie Nketiah can always claim his debut for Arsenal was the perfect one.

The League Cup encounter versus Norwich was going the same way as our season – South. The Canaries had pretty much played us off the park, our own efforts frustratingly blocked by bodies on the line and our own final third failings.

We were heading for another exit at the hands of lower league opposition.

Step forward Super Eddie Nketiah.

Eddie Living out his dream

With mere minutes remaining, his first touch was a goal. It rescued the tie for us, and Eddie was mobbed by his relieved teammates. The teenager had saved each and every one of them.

It was to get better, as in extra time, Nketiah scored the winner, to send Gooners into delirium and ensure that his debut would be one he would never forget.

It also meant that Eddie would be on the fringes of the first team squad for the rest of the season. This, in turn, meant that when Aidy Boothroyd selected his England Under-21 squad for the Toulon tournament, Eddie was on the radar.

Nketiah played three times in the tournament, and scored twice, to give him an excellent scoring ratio for his country – and also underline that his talent is not just a flash in the pan. Every level he has stepped up to since being released at Under-14 level by Chelsea, the youngster has met the standard required. It takes mental strength and no little degree of pure talent, but the boy from Lewisham has met the mark for every test put in front of him.

This coming season though, represents the unknown for Nketiah, and perhaps a huge decision for him to make.

Another season like his last would not suffice. The boy desperately needs games, he needs to go through a season and make 30 or so appearances, and see whether he can last at a higher level for the duration.

This would signify a loan move, and there would be no end of takers for the striker – although choosing a host club is so important after many of our young charges last season were criminally underplayed whilst on loan.

If he gets a chance, he will score, but he also needs luck with injury and a coach that is open to the mistakes a youngster will make. Managers can be forgiven to a degree for being ruthless when a player is short of form, thanks to the results-driven nature of their position. There needs to be a balance though, so it is with great care that if Eddie does go on loan, we need to pick a club and manager that will help him blossom – rather than see him as just an extra body in the squad.

Alternatively, Unai Emery is not averse to playing kids in his teams and giving them the opportunities they desire. If Eddie did stay and try to force his way into the team this early, then Emery would most likely give him a shot if he is applying himself in training. In terms of a rhythm of games though? that is decidedly doubtful.

The good thing with this young man is that he tasted rejection early in his career, and Arsenal swooped in and gave him another shot. He will have a loyalty to the club, and will want nothing more than to wear the shirt and play games. If it is at the entropy of his fledgling career though, and he has a chance elsewhere?

He could well move on. Just look at Chris Willock and Marcus McGuane at Benfica and Barcelona respectively.

Our pre-season tours are the perfect chance to give Eddie his shot up top. They may be friendlies, but they will give Emery a great chance to gauge his men on the pitch.

Eddie’s career at Arsenal could hinge on his showings in Singapore and the Champions Trophy.

Let’s hope now that Jack has departed the club, we can have another Arsenal youth talent to pin our hopes to.