It’s taken a while but Hale End star Emile Smith Rowe has finally made his long-awaited first-team breakthrough at Arsenal.
The 20-year-old, considered one of the best young talents at the Emirates Stadium, made six appearances for the Gunners across the Europa League, League Cup and Premier League last season.
Smith Rowe impressed on loan at Huddersfield in the second half of the campaign, but once back at the Emirates, he still had to bide his time before finally breaking into the first team.
His three consecutive Premier League starts have yielded three consecutive victories – all of a sudden, you can’t help but wonder why we hadn’t given him a go earlier in the season when we were crying out for a player like him.
So, which other Hale End prodigies could Mikel Arteta look to give first-team minutes to in the coming months in order to add even more creativity and bite in the final third? Let’s take a look.
Azeez is a dynamic midfielder equally skilled as an anchorman as he is playing at No. 10, and is also viewed as a natural leader and captain material.
The 18-year-old joined the Gunners aged five and is deemed one of the brightest youngsters to have come through the academy in recent years.
Azeez was playing for Arsenal’s Under-18s when he was 15 and didn’t look out of his depth in the slightest, going on to captain the team by the time he was 17.
He has not only made the step up to the Under-23s but is now in and around the first team, having debuted off the bench in December’s Europa League win over Dundalk.
Some fans have even compared Azeez’s style of play to Andres Iniesta and Andrea Pirlo (Football London).
Much like Azeez, Balogun is one of the most highly rated youngsters at Hale End, and looks destined for regular first-team football sooner rather than later.
The 19-year-old striker is an instinctive player and clinical finisher with either foot, who also boasts amazing close control, blistering pace and superb movement to run in behind opposition defences.
Balogun has made five competitive appearances for the Arsenal first team this season – four in the Europa League and one in the League Cup – but worryingly, he is yet to play in the Premier League.
With his contract up at the end of the season and the likes of Swansea City reportedly hoping to make a move, Arsenal better get a move on if they are to retain his services beyond the summer.
Unlike Azeez and Balogun, Moller is a relative newcomer at Hale End, having only joined in the summer, but it’s not taken him long to make an impact and be tipped for stardom.
The 18-year-old, 6ft 4in striker made an immediate impact for Steve Bould’s side with a sixth-minute goal on his debut against Manchester City’s U23s in October.
To date, the signing from Malmo has made eight appearances for Arsenal’s U23s – six in PL2 and two in the EFL Trophy – with three goals and one assist under his belt thus far.
“If you break out all the qualities that a striker requires, Niko has them… he’s a super talent,” Robin Asterhed, his former coach at Malmo, told Goal.com.
Asterhed also compared Moller to fellow Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Arsenal icon Nwankwo Kanu.