Presently, the academy of Arsenal Football Club contains an assortment of players with varying amounts of potential. Whilst most are aware of exciting prospects such as Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, there are other underrated, younger, talents currently flourishing who deserve more of the spotlight. Albeit there are many young players to choose from, here are five of the best candidates who deserve your attention.
Stephy Mavididi is one name that some of the more knowledgeable Arsenal fans will know a bit about, and rightly so. The powerful striker was in substantial form for the Under-21s last season, scoring 17 goals in 30 appearances to become the league’s top scorer. The adolescent Arsenal team earned promotion to Division 1 last season, with the overall threat on goal created my Mavididi one of the key reasons for promotion.
Going into the current season, the Englishman hoped to surpass his form and was even awarded a loan move to Charlton Athletic FC to try and gain experience around first team football. Whilst he has failed to score his first senior goal, the striker did earn the attention of many social media enthusiasts as a clip of him dribbling past many Rochdale players surfaced the internet. Despite the promising start, the adept, young striker was sadly ruled out for the remainder of the season after tearing his hamstring against Shrewsbury.
Another famous, but also disregarded, player of the academy is Edward Nketiah. The Englishman joined the club from the Chelsea Academy after being released because of his height. Since then, the forward has successfully played on the left flank as well as in the number 9 role. Despite only being 17 years of age, Nketiah has already started playing for the under-23 team.
The Englishman already has many good qualities to his name that will definitely help secure his place in the first team in future should everything go his way. The youngster has proven in the past the overall threat he can have on goal and possesses a lot of flair and overall ability in a variety of attacking positions on the pitch.
At just 18-years-old, Chris Willock is a young man who many have tipped to be the latest gem as part of the illustrious Arsenal academy, including manager Arsene Wenger. In an interview, the French manager went on to say: ‘Chris is a very gifted player with natural strength and natural talent’, ‘He has what you do not find very easily’. After putting in many impressive performances for the under-23s, Willock was awarded his senior debut as a substitute against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup.
For the next couple of years, the young forward will have a big task to fulfil and prove that he deserves all of the praise that he has received in the past. With the Arsenal attacking lines filled up with experienced, quality, players, a permanent call up seems unlikely for now for the Englishman. However, after looking at the incredible adventure his former academy teammate Alex Iwobi has had, nothing is impossible.
Looking towards the defensive options at the academy, it’s clear that out of all the prominent players there, Ben Sheaf is the one who deserves recognition. The versatile Englishman has successfully played in numerous defensive positions throughout his tenure at the academy including defensive midfield, centre-back and also right-back.
Earlier in the year, the Englishman was awarded (and later accepted) a contract renewal with the club thanks to his performances recently for the under-23 side. Additionally, whilst captain Julio Pleguezuelo is on loan at RCD Mallorca, Sheaf has taken the duty of captain for some of the Premier League 2 fixtures this season.
Finally, one last notable candidate apart of the academy that has been tipped to success is Reiss Nelson. The versatile Englishman has matured a lot with age this season and was deservedly given his professional contract with the club just a few months ago. With his explosive acceleration on the ball combined with noteworthy dribbling ability, Nelson is certainly a key name to look out for in the coming years as he evolves as an academy player.
Nelson has represented England on numerous occasions at youth level, earning his initial u18 call up in September of last year. Despite only being 17 years of age, Nelson has already made a positive impact on the under-23 squad and could even push for a potential spotlight in the Arsenal first team in the next few years. However, a permanent placement may seem too much to achieve thus far for the Englishman.
John Smith is a lifelong Arsenal FC fan from London, England. He admires players such as Dennis Bergkamp and has a passion for writing.