Arsenal have endured a difficult decade to say the least, but one thing that hasn’t changed - for better or worse in some Arsenal fan’s eyes - is Arsene Wenger’s unwavering commitment to youth.
Whether they have come through the academy or have been brought in from elsewhere, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the next generation ready to lead the club forward.
Add in even younger graduates such as Serge Gnabry and very soon Gedion Zelalem, never have the academy been churning out such talent at such a rate. But what of the next generation?
Here are three young Arsenal stars ready to make the step up...
Yet another youngster who has taken the same path trodden previously by Cesc Fabregas, the 19-year-old Spaniard made the move from Barcelona’s La Masia in 2011 and hasn’t looked back.
Very much a modern full-back, Bellerin loves nothing more than venturing forward and using his pace to join attacks. A loan move to Watford has only enhanced his reputation and sped up his development to such an extent that we could see the young man in Arsenal’s first team squad next season. He could potentially replace Bacary Sagna sooner rather than later.
When Bellerin made the trip from Barcelona to London, he brought a friend along with him. Central midfielder Toral is yet another La Masia starlet to join Arsenal and in his time at the club he has displayed all of the qualities you would expect from a La Masia manufactured player.
Toral is calm and composed when in possession with terrific technique and a keen eye for a pass – whether it be the final ball or distributing from his own half.
A promising debut season led to even more success last season when Toral netted an impressive five times in just seven appearances for the U18s in the Next-Gen series, where impressive link-up play with striker Chuba Akpom against Europe’s elite youth teams potentially gave Arsenal a glimpse into their future.
Possibly the country’s most exciting youth striker - alongside Manchester United’s James Wilson - Akpom is a tall, well-built, powerful frontman capable of leading the line on his own.
Like Wilson, he made his debut for the U18s at just 15 and came to the fore by netting 10 times in as many games. A young man with confidence in abundance, Akpom can fend off defenders with his strength, turn a man and leave him for dead with a drop of the shoulder and his link up play could teach Olivier Giroud a thing or two.
Akpom was impressive in the Uefa youth tournament this season, where eye-catching performances against Barcelona and others only raised Arsenal fans' expectations for him. It is most likely a matter of when and not if Akpom graduates to the senior team. Arsenal are waiting for their next Thierry Henry, after all...
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