This time last year, I think during another dull international break, I had a look at the reserves and which players will make an impact, albeit in the Carling, on the First Team this season. I thought I would do that again as the only news out of the club at the moment is the scheduled injury to an important back up centre back (Johan Djourou for those who are unaware)
I watched the highlights of the reserve match against Birmingham and it has excited me ahead of the WBA match on the 22nd of this month. Certain players caught the eye that night and many had actually come onto the radar during the youth cup run last season.
Kyle Bartley – CB
Bartley was named reserve captain for this season which in itself shows the belief the club have in this young defender. His leadership during the Youth Cup run last season has been rewarded with this accolade at only 18.At just under 6’3”, Bartley has a real presence on the pitch and is a very committed, no nonsense defender.
Last season he actually spent the season in the reserve side. He got experience at that level at only 17 which will serve to help him in the near future. This season may be a little early for the Carling Cup with the likes of Silvestre and Senderos still in the first team squad but I think if anyone is ready to step in at the back, Bartley could be the one.
Gavin Hoyte – RB/CB
The younger brother of Justin, Gavin Hoyte has already played for the first team. However, he will be looking to correct that day as he was in the side that was thumped 3-0 away at Manchester City. Hoyte was unfairly thrown into a game like that in my opinion and hopefully he will get a chance to put that right in the Carling Cup.
When Justin Hoyte left, many wished him good luck as he always gave his all for this club when he pulled on the shirt. Gavin is no different; whenever I have watched him play he always gives 100%. The positive thing is that Gavin is rated more highly at the club and is thought to be a better defender than his brother.
I would like to see Hoyte given his shot at right back in the Carling Cup as I believe he is ready to make that step up. He has had substitute appearances for the first team but I would like to see him given the full 90 minutes against a decent side like West Brom. Sagna is currently the first choice right back, and rightly so, but in a few years it would be nice to see Hoyte pushing him for his place.
Nacer Barazite – RM/LM/ST
Barazite has been around the fringes for a while now but many Arsenal fans will not be aware of his ability after consecutive loan spells. This season however he is back with the club and looking to break into the first team squad. There is no d
oubt that this boy has ability. Some people may have seen England U21s take on Holland U21s; anyone who did will have seen Barazite excel.
He has a great first touch, quick feet and an explosive shot. He also possesses electric pace which seems to be a must at Arsenal right now. He is very much a Wenger type player. It is time he got a chance back at Arsenal now and we may well see him on the wing in the Carling Cup at some point. He scored a great goal against Barnet in pre season but needs to push on from that now.
Francis Coquelin – CM
Anyone who has seen Coquelin play will know what I mean when I say he gets fans excited. However, he does this in a very different way to someone like Jack Wilshere. Although he has neat control and a bit of skill, his main strength is his strong tackling and work rate. When a tackle is needed, Coquelin will put one in and the sheer determination he shows in trying to win the ball gets fans on their feet.
He reminds me of Flamini at times in the way he chases opponents constantly and also in the strength he possesses both on the ball and in the tackle. Not many people had heard of him before Wenger picked him up from the lower leagues in France but he may now be ready to make his mark. He would be a perfect foil for Ramsey in the midfield as he would allow Ramsey to express himself with the knowledge that someone was protecting the space in the middle of the park.
Jay Emmanuel Thomas – CB/LB/CM/LM
JET is one of the most versatile players at the club which strikes many fans as odd. At 6’3” he is one of the tallest players to play LB and one of the tallest to attempt step-overs on the wing! Yet he does both very well as he possess an overall footballing ability that many crave. He is an athlete and just by looking at him, people can see that the boy has the potential to be a real powerhouse.
He has awesome strength and pace, but also great balance and touch. Wenger has not given him a chance yet despite many calls to do so and I feel Wenger may well be waiting to find his best position. Wenger likes to groom players to the fine details and I feel Thomas can be a great player with this kind of guidance.
Fran Merida – CM/LM
We have seen glimpses of Merida this season as Wenger has promoted him to the first team squad. When I watched the reserves highlights, it was clear that Merida was at a level beyond the second string. He opened up the opposition time and time again with deft touches and pinpoint, clever passing. He has a sweet left foot, audacity to the try the impossible, which I really like about him as well as a confidence in his ability.
He reminds me a lot of Fabregas in the way he likes to drop deep and dictate play. He has a lot more skill than Cesc does and is very suited to playing in the final third. He will be given his chance, of that I have no doubt, and I hope he takes it as I think he has the potential to be an awesome player for Arsenal.
Sanchez Watt – ST
Sanchez Watt burst onto the scene late into the Youth Cup run and proved to be a regular as the campaign went on. Wenger rewarded him with a place on the bench in the Emirates Cup. What struck me that day were his nervousness and his desire to just do the right thing on the ball. This is by no means a bad thing and it was refreshing to see someone who was just excited to be on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt.
When I have seen him in full flow, he has shown an ability to finish clinically, make clever runs in behind and hassle defenders. He is a lanky player which enables him to cover the ground quickly but he is able to hold his own with the ball at his feet. Wenger sees something in this kid it seems and I would like to see him alongside someone like Bendtner in the Carling Cup.