The Kids are Alright

Other than the usual rumours and speculation it’s been a pretty slow few days news-wise with the exception of Arsene Wenger supposedly cleaning house in the offseason when several players are possibly going to be sent packing. These include the likes of Manuel Almunia, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Andrei Arshavin, Sebastien Squillaci, Carlos Vela, Denilson, and perhaps Park Ju-Young. It’s estimated that with these players off the books the Gunners will save several million pounds a year.
However, some of that money’s going to have to go back in the team as Wenger needs to re-sign Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, and is reportedly trying to get Alex Song to sign a new deal with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also in line for a pay raise. Also, Wenger hopes to sign a couple of big-name players in the next transfer window.
One of the more interesting articles floating around today, by Dan Coombs, listed a few of the young Gunners that could make a difference in the first team in the next few years. I’m sure Arsenal supporter Roger Daltrey wasn’t singing about them in Pete Townshend’s Who Classic ‘The Kids are Alright,’ but the title’s appropriate for this quartet of players.
Joel Campbell:
This 19-year-old Costa Rican striker could very well be the best of the bunch at the moment. He’s currently on loan with Lorient of France’s Ligue 1. Campbell stood out last year while playing for Costa Rica’s Under-20 side and had quite a few teams interested in him. Arsenal managed to get him to sign on the dotted line though last summer. Campbell showed just how good he is when called up for his nation’s senior team and scored against Spain in a 2-2 draw towards the end of last year.
He then played in the testimonial match for former Wales’ manager Gary Speed earlier this year and managed to net the winning goal against Wales. The reason Campbell was loaned to Lorient in France was because he had some problems with his work permit in the UK. Getting that mess sorted out should be one of the Gunners’ priorities in the offseason as this kid should be located in England as soon as possible.
He’s still got quite a bit to learn, but has the potential to be a football star no matter who he’s playing for. He’s only scored twice in his first 18 matches with Lorient, most of them as a substitute, and if he can add a few more his confidence will build. It’s likely that he’ll be loaned out again next year to develop some more unless he has an exceptional training camp prior to next season.
Serge Gnabry:
This 16-year-old midfielder was born in Stuttgart, Germany and was signed by Arsenal prior to the current season after Manchester City also showed interest in him. He’s strong and fast and knows where the opponent’s net is. He’s comfortable playing behind a striker as well as on either wing and has played for Germany’s Under-16 and Under-17 national squads.
Gnabry’s father is from the Ivory Coast and his mother’s German. He grew up as a Barcelona supporter and played with local teams until his father finally let him join Stuttgart’s Under-13 setup, after hesitating at first as he didn’t want him to play with a pro academy. The youngster’s also an accomplished sprinter and competed at numerous track and field meets in his homeland. He claimed he never lost a race, but had to make up his mind if he wanted to play football or keep on running.
Gnabry was named the best player of the tournament in 2010’s Nike Cup. His Stuttgart team won the event and Arsenal offered him a week’s trial with their Under-16 side squad. He was so impressive the Gunners signed him and he moved to England last July when he turned 16 years old. He then went on to play for the Gunners’ Under-18 team and played in the reserves against Chelsea this March. He also lined up against West Brom for the reserves along with Johan Djourou, Marouane Chamakh, and Andre Santos and managed to score.
Chuks Aneke:
Aneke is an 18-year-old English midfielder who’s currently out on loan at Preston North End. He’s been with the Gunners youth system ever since he was seven years old. He’s starting to get noticed now as he matures as a player. He also spent some time earlier this season with Stevenage of the First Division. Aneke managed to thrill Preston supporters by scoring against Bury in his debut with the club, which was his first goal as a pro.
Arsene Wenger has likened him to Yaya Toure and at 6-foot-3 he may one day fill those boots. Aneke debuted for Arsenal’s first team earlier this season when he suited up for a Carling Cup match against Shrewsbury. He’s now learning his trade with Preston and could be loaned out again next season or stick around London and play a few more Carling Cup contests. His confidence should be sky high at the moment with one goal in one game with Preston and he’s now got the opportunity to show what he’s made of until the end of the season.
Benik Afobe:
The 19-year-old Afobe is an English striker and currently out on loan with Reading of the Championship League after spending last year with Huddersfield and scoring eight goals for them. He’s been impressing scouts since he was 16 and was named to England’s Under-21 team last August to replace Danny Welbeck. However, he’s missed most of this season due to a serious groin injury. Afobe possesses strength and speed and Arsenal will be keeping their eye on him as he attempts to get Reading back into the Premier League.

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