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Posted: 31/08/2013
By Darren Bowser
Category: Editorial

One to watch (Part 1/4): 'Breaking through'

In our three part series we ask our panel of writers and guests to discuss which players they foresee having a greater impact / role next season.  Our panel will be considering player potential, rate of development as well as squad issues including: partnerships, competition for places, and team balance – summarising with a round up of expected appearances, impact etc.

The panel:

We welcome David Faber (@TheGoonerholic) from, and newly appointed History Editor, returning AL writer Neil Payne (@NeilPayne) as well as featuring the best reply from our forum.

In part 1 – 'Breaking through' we’re asking our panel to discuss which of the youngsters on tour (or otherwise) have shown the most long term potential and who can make the most significant contribution next season. Could any even play a telling part in the bigger competitions?

Neil Payne (@NeilPayne)

With so much burden and expectation it is harder than ever for youngsters to step up quickly into the pressure-cooker world of Premier League football. Serge Gnabry is one I think capable of making the upgrade. In some of the Academy games I viewed last season he showed more than enough to suggest he could be a top player in the making. Two footed, great technique with ability to run with the ball at pace he shows real promise.

He seems at ease also with playing either centrally or wide which I would expect impresses Wenger, knowing how keen he has always been on his forward players showing adaptability in different positions. Gnabry has also shown terrific composure in front of goal within the academy set-up. Generally the cupboard does look a little light right now in terms of quality promotion from within, so Gnabry may have a chance, particularly if Walcott is again deployed centrally at some stage and our never ending injury issues do not go away. There is no doubt is he a decent prospect.

David Faber (@TheGoonerholic)

Those who followed Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia will surely have been alerted to the precocious talent of Gedion Zelalem.  The sixteen year old caught the eye with a number of defence-splitting passes and will surely get further exposure to the first team before the season is out.

His story is an unusual one. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Germany, he moved with his family to the outskirts of Washington DC at the age of eleven. Arsenal’s North American scout, Danny Karbassiyoon, spotted Gedion playing for Olney Rangers at just fourteen.  Following successful trials Gedion was signed by Arsenal after his sixteenth birthday in January. The absence of Santi Cazorla for much of pre-season gave the youngster a chance and in his five appearances he impressed with his control in tight areas and his distribution.  Any doubts about his physical strength belong in the past. Arsene Wenger was not afraid to name Gedion on the bench for the Premier League fixture at Fulham. It is a fair bet the young man is close to making his senior bow very shortly.

Forum member Balboa

This season is incredibly tough as there is really little choice. Based on the tour, our current lack of options up front and real lack of youngsters knocking on the door, it is Chuba Akpom for me. I'm being quite disrespectful to the lad though because irrespective of what talent we had behind the first team he'd be knocking on the door in any case. He really did himself no harm this summer with the first team bagging 3 goals.

Raw talent is a word that gets used too much, or far too easily to say the least, however it is truly fitting for this young kid. He's spent a lot of his time playing above his age groups and hasn't looked out of place by all accounts. I liked what I saw of him on the tour, albeit the little he was afforded but he made an impression.

Zelalem is the easy option but I think Akpom has demonstrated he has all the right qualities to become something at Arsenal. Given our 'one up top' way of playing at the present it's a role that he could thrive in, as he seems to have the intelligence and ability to match his impressive physique and pace. Which could even afford him time perhaps out wide competitively this season in Cup competitions, that is if he's not loaned out and I don't think we'll be short of suitors when injuries begin to take their toll down the divisions.

Editor’s summary

Three unique selections from our panel, each in different positions and each within the front six positions. I think that’s a fair reflection of where the depth is within in the youth ranks with Olsson, Eisfeld and Yennaris further candidates, whilst Martinez, Bellerin and Hayden seem the most likely in the back five.

On tour in Asia the selected three were by far the most prominent – Zelalem picked out Cesc like through balls time after time, Gnabry made numerous strong runs at and across defenders whilst Akpom bagged 3 goals with some opportunist forward play.

In terms of selection the cull of deadwood and injuries to the first team squad means that each is now much closer than anticipated despite neither yet reaching 19 years of age.  The biggest profligate could well be Serge Gnabry (18), who has already tasted first team action last season, with Chamberlain and Podolski both ruled out for 3 months in addition to the permanent exit of Gervinho.  Zelalem (16) has the most competition both at youth level and first team level but is also the most exciting – maybe even nailed on for stardom.  He’ll surely be fast tracked but Wenger will do well not over expose the young player who has plenty of time on his side.  Akpom (17) is the most likely to be loaned out, especially if Arsenal buy in his position as expected.

The league cup has traditionally been utilised to blood a wave of young players but there is a pressure now for Arsene Wenger to succeed with trophies and the domestic cups represent our most realistic opportunity. Thus there may well be less opportunities as Arsenal continue with a revised policy.  On the other hand with the squad lacking depth and injuries already taking their toll Arsene Wenger may well be backed into a corner and face the potential prospect of another lose / lose scenario – ie first teamers played without the associated expected rewards.

In part 2 – 'Stepping up' we will discuss which current first team player has the most to prove and which squad player can cement a first team place.

Follow our contributors:

@arsenalland – Official AL twitter account
@thegoonerholic – David Faber
@neilpayne – Neil Payne


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