It is not often in the modern era that players burst on to the scene at 16, particularly not at Premier League clubs. That said, Arsenal’s youngest league debutant has come in recent times, when Jack Wilshere, aged 16 years and 256 days, took his bow. It is interesting therefore that the subject of our next interview with our own Arsenal Youth Expert is also a technically gifted, left footed central midfielder.
His name is Charlie Patino, and he first came to many Arsenal fans attention when Mikel Arteta invited him to train with the first team, aged only 16 and 3 months, in January. This followed Watford born, Patino’s call up to the England U17s squad in November 2019.
So where do Gunners Town turn when they want the inside track? They go to John Williamson, because we get a level headed view from an experienced old head:
DS: So John, Charlie first came to my attention when Arteta honoured him with a call up to train with the senior squad but presumably you have watched him frequently at Hale End and for the U18s?
Response: Charlie first came to my attention whilst he was still at Luton Town. An excited, long standing friend of 40+ years and Arsenal Academy scout, Brian Stapleton was waxing lyrical regarding a 12 year old lad he had scouted and was bringing to The Arsenal.
Brian gave me the full run down on Charlie; just from the information I was told and my knowledge of Brian’s scouting abilities, I was excited.
I first saw Charlie play for us at the beginning of the 2015/16 season; straight away, you could tell this kid was special.
Charlie has played for a higher age group every season for Arsenal as well as England. As a 14 year old, Charlie captained the England U16s against Spain, also as a 14 year old, debuted for the Arsenal U18s against Chelsea.
DS: – As central midfielder he is tall at 5’11 for his age. Is he more defensive as a central midfielder or do you see him more advanced? I guess with his height and technical ability I am automatically thinking Gilberto or Busquets.
Response: Charlie is a footballer who is extremely comfortable on the ball; he can pick the ball up in a deep position or in the centre of midfield and take players on, he also has a great passing range; his style and work rate reminds me of Liam Brady.
Charlie is recognised as an unbelievably hard working and focused young man who is also respectful and polite both on and off the pitch.
One of the interesting aspects of Charlie is how likened he is to Phil Foden, albeit they are 3 years apart. They are different of course but there are similarities. The obvious connection that now links the two lads is Mikel Arteta. The work that he did with Phil at City can only help Charlie and I would not bet against Charlie being in and around the first team by the end of next year rather than going out on loan.
For me, Charlies introduction to the fans was last season in an FA Youth Cup tie away to Cheltenham Town; a match which was spoilt by heavy rain and a swirling wind; Charlie stood out in an awful 0-0 draw as well as getting the desisive penalty in the shoot-out.
After the match, I was in conversation with Actor and fellow Arsenal fan Tom Watt; we were discussing the match in general, his passing comment was: ‘The stand out player for me, was the lad Patino; he will go far’ – praise indeed…
DS: I notice that last season, once he broke into the U18s starting 11 he was pretty much ever present until the season ended prematurely in Febuary. Will that be his place for 20/21 or with so many going on loan is he ready to play a role for the U23s in your mind?
Response: Charlie is a unique talent, as such, my hope is that Arsenal will create a pathway for Charlie to progress through to the first team.
It is hard to predict how this season will pan out due to the knock on effect from COVID-19. I would imagine that Charlie will continue playing for the U18s whilst getting game time for the U23s.
DS Of course we have had some superbly talented midfielders break through at 16 or 17 (which Charlie will be in October) including Fabregas, Wilshere, Ramsey and from our present crop, Saka made his debut at 17. Charlie will not be 18 until after the start of 2021/22 so is a first team outing in the Europa League of Carabou Cup a realistic target?
Response: Once Charlie has turned 17, I’m sure first team appearances will start to come; I see more training with the first team and should we tour next preseason, a trip with the squad and an appearance in a low key friendly.
DS: How do you see Charlie’s career progressing from this moment forward?
Response: Charlie has just signed scholarship terms with Arsenal. On his 17th Birthday, I see Charlie signing a 3 year Pro contract which is the maximum for his age group and then 12 months later, the club trying to secure him on a longer term contract.
DS: A new feature for this interview and one I will keep in from now on John, is that I am introducing the Willowmeter that measures the likelihood of our subject making it at Arsenal. The scale on the Willowneter is 1 to 20 with 1 being no chance of playing first team football for the Gunners to 20 being a racing certainty we have a future Arsenal star on our hands.
Response: HaHa, this really puts me under pressure…We have started this at the very top!
With my knowledge of players coming through the Academy, I truely feel that Charlie is the best I have seen; even better than Jack Wilshere; an honest 19/20; Charlie will without doubt be a star and the fans will love him.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.