With the likes of Alex Iwobi breaking into the first team and Chuba Akpom on the fringes, who else should we look out for in 2017?
Affectionately known as ‘Jeff’ or ‘The Jeff’, the big winger has managed 237 minutes for the Arsenal first team since 2015. Although these were in the league cup, this is a pretty indicative way of telling who Arsene Wenger is ‘grooming’ a player, so to speak, to break into the first team.
Just like Alex Iwobi, Jeff has been introduced to league cup games and shown a huge amount of creativity and promise.
For the youth team, the Frenchman has made eight appearances in the UEFA Youth League and Premier League 2 this season, assisting once.
The 18-year-old can play on the wing, but also as striker or just behind the main target man, like Mesut Ozil, with his speed making him exactly what a club like Arsenal look for.
The speedy midfielder is one of the names from the youth team always on everyone’s lips.
The 18-year-old has already made 10 Premier League 2 appearances this season, scoring two and assisting SEVEN in that time.
He’s also racked up 70 minutes in the UEFA Youth League against PSG’s u19s, a game which the Young Guns drew 0-0, and played twice for the senior team in the EFL Cup. In both games, Arsenal won; 4-0 away to Nottingham Forest and 2-0 at home to Reading.
With the youngster developing rapidly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him loaned out in the near future so that he can get some experience at the top level before being plunged too deeply into Arsenal’s senior team.
Saying this, we could just see him during our easier FA Cup games.
Last season, Willock made 29 appearances over all competitions for the youth team, scoring eight and assisting three.
Ainsley’s incredibly versatile, able to play as a striker, winger or central midfielder and is actually Arsenal’s second youngest player to travel with the team during the Champions League (Galatasaray 2014). Jack Wilshere is the youngest.
The 19-year-old has been spotted training with our first team numerous times already this season and he’s also made three EFL Cup appearances, racking up a total of 203 minutes.
He’s made seven appearances for our youth team in Premier League 2 but perhaps the most telling is that he’s the only player out of the three I’ve mentioned who’s actually played for the senior team in the actual Premiership.
Ainsley was on the bench for Arsenal’s disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough and also got one minute during our 4-1 win against Sunderland.
Okay, one minute isn’t exactly an ‘appearance’ but, let’s face it, to even give him a run out is pretty promising.
Last season, while on loan at Ipswich Town, the 19-year-old made 30 Championship appearances, proving how much he was trusted, and even scored a goal and assisted three. He also scored against Portsmouth in the FA Cup.
Out of the three, Maitland-Niles is probably the most likely to break into the first team but, given Iwobi’s rapid rise, I wouldn’t rule any of them out.