There’s some exciting and equally intriguing news for Arsenal.
According to a trusted report from Jeorge Bird on Tuesday, 18-year-old midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide, has been promoted to the first-team squad. It was the first full day of pre-season training for the club’s senior side today and the French youth international was pictured wearing the number 20 shirt at London Colney, previously worn by Mathieu Flamini.
His shirt number is particularly significant because recently, youth players are allocated specific numbers – to differentiate themselves from first-team members. In this case, Reine-Adelaide would be wearing a number usually higher than 50 for example, like Gedion Zelalem’s 96.
Having burst onto the scene with his impressive displays at the Emirates Cup in pre-season last summer following his switch from Lens, he has already made his competitive bow for Arséne Wenger’s side – two FA Cup cameo appearances against Sunderland and Hull City.
So, what’s the story?
He was regularly training with both the seniors and u21 side last term, turned 18 at the start of January and was frequently part of the matchday squad in the latter stages of the campaign with other midfielders nursing themselves back to full fitness.
Questions have been asked as to whether he’ll emerge into the first-team scene like Alex Iwobi did last term, but the competition for places is much more fierce and it’s most likely he’d be involved in Cup games and could potentially feature against weaker Premier League sides.
Ultimately, talented players have come through when critics and supporters alike least expected it – Hector Bellerín in 2014, Iwobi last year, and the conveyor belt continues to roll. Reine-Adelaide continues to mature, his creativity and ability are not the question: the hype over his potential is, how will he react to criticism?