One to watch: Part 1 Emerging talent
Part 1 of 3 - In this 3 part feature our panel will be identifying the 'One to watch' in 3 categories. Part 2 will discuss which players have a 'defining season ahead' and Part 3 the 'key performer' for Arsenal's fortunes. In this article, Part 1, we asked AL writers Mike Strevens & Adam Pembrey and forum member Joe Kiddle to provide their views on 'emerging talent' with consideration to talent, footballing ingredients and likelihood of playing time.
This time last year, everything looked bright for Emmanuel Frimpong. The powerful young midfielder had featured in most of our pre-season games and was all set to make the step-up to the first team. But on the eve of our first home game of the season, he damaged his cruciate ligaments in training and was forced to put his promising career on hold. It was a devastating blow for the Ghanaian-born youngster, who could only watch from the sidelines as Jack Wilshere, his midfield partner from the 2009 Youth Cup winning team, enjoyed a stunning breakthrough season. Going by his energetic displays in our warm-up matches, he appears determined to make up for lost time. At the Emirates Cup, I was impressed by the way he hassled and was able to distribute the ball cleanly after regaining possession.
Juan Roman Riquelme said he was our most important player on the day, which should give him plenty of confidence – although if you follow him on Twitter, you’ll know that he is not exactly lacking in that department. Now that Denilson has moved on, we finally have someone who can give some much needed competition to Alex Song in the holding midfielder role. He certainly has the physique to do it and the way he has come back from his enforced absence shows that he has resilience and the much vaunted ‘mental strength’ that the boss is always looking for. He should also be able to slot in seamlessly alongside Wilshere as the two of them have played together since the age of 11.
Having been around for such a long time, it is hard to believe that Frimpong has yet to make a competitive appearance for the club. I expect him to be nailed on for a Carling Cup spot and get some league experience from the bench initially. He may well go on loan in January if playing time is hard to come by and as long as our usual injury curse hasn’t bitten too hard by then. Emmanuel claims to ‘love Arsenal more than the person who founded it’, which is a sentiment I think we can all identify with. Let’s hope that he can make the most of any opportunities he is given next season.
I’m very excited to see what Carl Jenkinson can do in an Arsenal shirt. I must admit I do have concerns that he seems to be the main backup to Bacary Sagna, which means if the Frenchman does get injured/suspended Jenkinson could find himself lining up against Manchester United or Liverpool for his debut. He seems to have the right attributes from the (very) small amount I have seen of him, he has pace, power, height and composure, all key ingredients for a top level defender. The fact that Arsene Wenger does seem willing to let Eboue leave suggests he has been suitably impressed by the young lad to put his faith in him.
I think having a 6ft plus right back that has a great passing range can be of real benefit to the squad defensively and offensively if he can prove himself in the basics of defending. If he can learn positional sense, anticipation, when to tackle and when to stay on his feet, how to mark men and win aerial duals then we could have quite the player on our hands. In an ideal world I’d like to see him play 10-15 first team games, mostly in the domestic cups, with a lot of reserve team football. If Sagna does suffer an injury of any sort in the medium to long term that won’t be likely unless somebody else can cover there too.
My worry is that he will have to play 20 plus games and we will ‘pay for his education with points’ to paraphrase the manager, and the increasingly impatient and long suffering support won’t be as forgiving as they would in usual circumstances. Another massive plus about Carl Jenkisnon is that he has spoken of his lifelong love of the club. I realise many a new signing spouts this at a new club (calling Mr Bentley) but with Carl it seems to be quite genuine. I felt one problem we had last year was a bit of a malaise amongst the squad players. I am certain that any chance this young man gets will be grabbed with both hands and all being well the best right back in football could have a fight on his hands from the young Finglishman.
With the many moans and groans around Arsenal this summer, the abundance of young talent that this club possesses has at times been forgotten. There is one particular young talent who I have been impressed with in pre-season and has the potential to make that step up next year - Emmanuel Frimpong. The 19 year old half Ghanaian half English midfielder was showing signs of promise this time last year until a horrible injury kept him out for the season. It was for that reason that it was great to see him back this year and looking just as sharp and energetic as I remembered him back then.
Unlike a lot of the youngsters at the club, Frimpong has a defined position to develop in - defensive midfield. He can follow the footsteps of Alex Song who will act as a talented and charismatic mentor. His acceleration, balance and work rate reminds me of a Flamini type player, although surprisingly, despite the fact he appears to be slightly short and stocky, he is actually about 6 feet. Admittedly however, although his talent is exciting, there is still a fair bit of work to go on his positioning and stamina, but he has time on his side and they are aspects that will improve with experience. Similar to Wilshere, Frimpong was at the club as school boy, so it would be great for everyone to see him make that step up and with Song likely to be off at the ACN, he may (if he's not called up) just have his chance to shine in a busy part of the season.
The clamour for senior proven players will no doubt leave supporters perhaps less excitable at the prospects of well more prospects, however as proved with Szczesny and Wilshere last season young players can make a dramatic impact from seemingly nowhere. Frimpong, Jenkinson and Miquel have all tasted first team action already, somewhat thrown in at the deep end. To their credit neither have let the club done in their application but the thought of being reliant on these players so heavily is a sobering one. I am wary of the risk of these guys getting caught up in the disquiet at the club but hopeful the supporters give these guys every chance when they are on the pitch representing the club, thankfully that seems the case to date. Frimpong and Jenkinson will no doubt be most relied upon but Miyiachi and Chamberlain can stake an increasing claim through the season whilst Campbell's chances of game time may be aided by Bendtner's exit and Chamakh's form.
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