Which youth team players will be looking to break into Arsenal’s senior side in 2016/17?

It’s going to be a big summer for Arsenal in the transfer market – with plenty of business expected to be done between now and the close of the window, in September.

Speculation continues to mount that Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka will be the first to arrive at the Emirates, with talks to sign the Borussia Monchengladbach captain reported to be at an advanced stage.

There’s no doubting that big-name signings are what fans dream of, and I expect there will be one or two at Arsenal this summer. The excitement of seeing a top footballer strutting his stuff in red and white is what keeps people clicking on links, flicking through pages, and scrolling through news feeds.

But what is equally as important for the sustainability of top teams is to ensure that the expensive academies and development squads prove their worth by bringing talented youngsters through the ranks and schooling them in the style and philosophy of the club.

Although it’s not quite so glamorous as Dick Law jetting away to foreign climes with a suitcase stuffed full of crisp £5 notes, returning weeks later with a World Cup winner and a tidal wave of expectation, there is a definite pride all fans take in seeing a youth team product performing on the biggest stage.

Just take Alex Iwobi, for example. Introduced gradually to first team action, having spent the better part of a decade progressing through the Arsenal ranks, young Alex made the quite impact in the Premier League and earned near-universal acclaim from fans.

So can we expect a few more lesser-known names to emerge from the youth team over the summer and really stake a claim from a squad place?

Let’s take a look at a few of those who will be looking to follow in Iwobi’s glorious footsteps in 2016/17.

Dan Crowley

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Midfield
  • About: After taking part in the club’s 2015 tour to Singapore, Crowley was loaned out to League One side Barnsley until January 2016. After making 13 appearances for the Tykes, however, he was recalled almost three months earlier than expected. Barnsley manager Lee Johnson called Crowley the best 18-year-old he had ever seen and tipped him to play for England. The teenager has been capped at Under 19 level for the Three Lions. He made 17 appearances for the Arsenal academy this season.

Gedion Zelalem

 

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Midfield
  • About: After arriving to much fanfare in the Arsenal squad for an FA Cup match in 2014, things soon settled down for the German-born American, who spent the 2016/16 season on loan at Scottish side Rangers. North of the border, the teenager has impressed, notching up eight assists in 25 appearances, helping the Scottish giants earn promotion back to the top division.

Jon Toral

 

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Midfield
  • About: The Spaniard was sent out on loan to Birmingham at the start of the season in what many saw as a make-or-break move. To his credit, and after enduring a couple of lengthy injuries in recent seasons, Toral had a quite superb campaign for the Blues, culminating in him picking up a hat-trick of gongs of the club’s end-of-season awards, including Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Season.Toral arrived at Arsenal from Barcelona in 2011 along with Hector Bellerin and the two are firm friends. While Hector has continued his development with the Arsenal first team, Jon made 38 appearances at Birmingham, scoring eight goals and producing three assists.

Chuba Akpom

 

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Striker
  • About: After failing to force his way into the manager’s thinking for the 2015/16 season, Chuba was sent out on loan to Hull City, in the hope he could get some goals to his name in the Championship.
  • In a varied campaign, the young Englishman managed seven goals in 40 appearances in all competitions for Steve Bruce’s side.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

 

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Midfield
  • About: After a high-profile incident last year in which Maintland-Niles’ mother was banned from Arsenal’s training ground, the youngster was handed an opportunity to impress on loan at Championship side Ipswich Town.In his 2015/16 campaign, Niles made 32 appearances in all competitions for the Tractor Boys, managing two assists and two goals. He also made seven appearances for England Under 19s, scoring two goals.

 

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