With an international break upon us, it was a bit harder to find something to write about Arsenal this week. But with a club the size of Arsenal, there’s always something at the club to talk about. Yes the situation with the first team is important but there are also youngsters out on loan that should be taken note of especially as they could be making impacts in the first team soon.
First off is a player that most Arsenal fans should be quite familiar with by now. Gedion Zelalem. The German-born American is currently out on loan at VVV-Venlo in Holland’s second division (Eerste Divisie) but has only made six sub appearances since the move, scoring one goal.
Zelalem has been the name on fans’ lips for almost four years now, breaking into the under 21’s team in April 2013, with that in mind it’s a bit mind boggling that he hasn’t broken into the first team properly after all that time. I remember first seeing him play live for the first team in the pre-season of 2013-14 and he did catch my attention on the day and I’ve been expecting him to get his break ever since.
In that season he did make his competitive debut in the F.A. Cup against Coventry as well as making another appearance for the first team the season after against Galatasaray. Racking up 22 games and 8 assists last season on loan at Rangers some may have thought that consistency would’ve gained him an opportunity in the first team this year but obviously that hasn’t been the case. Personally for me Zelalem is one of the most exciting prospects at the club and could definitely make it to the first team so hopefully there aren’t many more loans in the future.
Another youngster currently on loan in Holland who I think should be breaking through to the first team soon is Dan Crowley. He’s had two loan spells this season at Oxford United, scoring 5 goals and registering 2 assists in 11 appearances and now playing regularly in the Eredivisie for Go Ahead Eagles scoring once and assisting twice since joining in January.
The midfielder, like Zelalem, for me is one of the hottest prospects at the club and showing some form going forward this season I would hope that he could break into the first team in the near future. Both are attack minded midfielders with an eye for a pass which suits Arsenal’s way of playing, with Crowley also having the ability to get a goal quite often so I’d hope they do get to become regulars in the first team. However, with the amount of central midfielders in the first team at the moment it doesn’t look promising for ones in the academy.
But there is somebody in the youth ranks who may have a better chance, having already been capped internationally. That player is French-born Algeria international Ismael Bennacer who is currently on loan at Ligue 2 side Tours and has played 8 games. Bennacer came on as a substitute in Arsenal’s inexcusable 3-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup which wouldn’t have been an ideal platform to show what he’s got, but like Crowley and Zelalem he is an attacking minded central midfielder who has an eye for a pass and is very good on the ball, who I think could get into the first team soon.
Another player getting some experience elsewhere that I have high hopes for is Krystian Bielik. Arriving at Arsenal from Legia Warszawa as a defensive midfielder, the Pole has since been used more often as a centre back. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches at just 19 years old, this could have been the plan before bringing him to the club and it hasn’t been a terrible idea. Since moving to Birmingham City on loan in January, Bielik has featured 4 times for The Blues, every time at centre back so it should probably be expected to see him there for Arsenal soon, also suiting our style as he is very comfortable on the ball.
Lastly is a player who was recently hit with a devastating injury whilst on loan. Striker Stephy Mavididi. The 18 year old suffered a terrible hamstring injury just 5 games into his promising loan spell at Charlton Athletic, but is nothing short of an exciting prospect for the future. Most could probably remember the video that was in circulation a few weeks ago of his lung busting run which almost ended in a goal for Charlton and that was just a peek at what the teenager has in his locker.
Last season Mavididi was the under 21’s top scorer in a season which saw them gain promotion to division one with 17 goals in 30 games. Before his move to South East London this January, Mavididi also managed to bag a couple of goals for the under 21’s this season. Fans can only hope that he will come back from this injury stronger and continue to show his form and possibly get to Arsene Wenger’s (or whoever is manager at that point) attention.
Personally I’d like to see Arsenal use a few of these guys in the first team every now and again rather than see them out on loan but they do need regular game time at this stage in their development. With any luck a few of these players could breakthrough into the team and be a breath of fresh air that fans are looking for, like how academy graduates Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi did. But like everyone else I can’t predict what will happen in the future so we’ll just have to wait and see.