Arsenal youngsters set for exciting futures

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Arsenal may have set a club record for transfer spending this summer to reinforce their first-team, but there are plenty of players currently on the books that can excite in the future.

Although they may not see extended playing time during the season, they will likely show flashes of why there is reason to be optimistic for the next generation of youngsters coming through at the Emirates Stadium.

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Chuba Akpom

Akpom, who has yet to be loaned out, unlike his colleague Benik Afobe who scored twice for MK Dons as they routed Manchester United 4-0 last week, is a similar striker in terms of stature to Olivier Giroud.

Akpom is a player that is probably too good to be playing for the Arsenal Under-21 side at this point, something demonstrated with a recent hat-trick against West Brom.

Interestingly enough, Joel Campbell and Abou Diaby both started that match, as well the next four players. How’s that for continuity?

Akpom seems to have all the traits of a top striker of his age, size strength, speed and finishing ability. What Arsene Wenger decides to do with him this season will be interesting: does he keep him in the under-21 squad, where he’ll no doubt excel and bag a bunch of goals in the process, or will there be another loan spell?

He spent time last season at Brentford and Coventry City respectively but, for now, will have to wait until the loan window opens for his fate to be decided.

Isaac Hayden

Hayden is one of the quietest and most understated players at the club it seems, for all his talent, we rarely hear about him or get a glimpse of the 19-year-old centre-back.

Captain of the under-21 side, he showed great composure and poise in the limited action he saw during the Gunners pre-season matches with the likes of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny away recovering from their World Cup exploits.

Not only used as a defender, Hayden has also seen action in midfield as an anchorman, a position that continues to be a thorn in the side of Arsenal.

Hayden is as currently stands, the fourth choice centre-back after being overtaken by new signing Calum Chambers, although this may be addressed in the January transfer window.

Hector Bellerin

Bellerin recently broke Theo Walcott’s 40 yard sprint time; making him the quickest Arsenal player ever recorded over this distance.

A product of Barcelona’s infamous La Masia academy, Bellerin moved to Arsenal in 2011 and has featured a handful of times, as well as having short loan spell at Watford.

His primary position is as a marauding right-back, but his defensive flaws in the past have been criticised. The 19-year-old has looked to correct some of those flaws into making him a more rounded defender, but his primary competition comes from Mathieu Debuchy (29) and rising star, and now England international, Calum Chambers.

There is, of course, another right-back on the books in Carl Jenkinson, but with him away on loan at West Ham, Wenger's faith perhaps lies with Bellerin.   

Debuchy is obviously at this point in his career not the long-term option, which may mean that there will be an outright competition between Bellerin, Chambers and Jenkinson for a starting gig at right-back, two, maybe three years down the line.

Dan Crowley

Crowley has been labelled the ‘New Wilshere’ so many times, it has become a phrase that is played out more than Gangnam Style. You’d forgive any Arsenal fans who decided remove the term from their diction completely.

Crowley, like Wilshere is English, and has trained with the first team squad from a young age. But I can neither confirm whether he smokes, nor know what his working relationship with Aaron Ramsey is like.

What I do know of Crowley is that he’s capable of scoring goals like the one you’re about to see here in the 4-2 win over West Brom’s under-21’s. The 17 year old has become somewhat of a set-piece specialist for the side, carving out a niche for himself isn’t a bad ploy as he looks to set himself apart from a heated competition amongst teammates.

Gedion Zelalem

The ‘Germerican’ youngster will be familiar to those who followed Arsenal closely in the last few seasons. He impressed in pre-season last summer, and earned a debut against Coventry City in Arsenal's successful FA Cup run.

Zelalem in the little that I’ve seen of him seems to be one of those players that can be on the periphery of a game, however he’s a clean passer of the ball, if he doesn’t see a pass he can make, he’ll take the safer option and play it elsewhere.

But at such a young age he doesn’t look out of place, well, except for he looks his age, 17 playing against men much older than him. But with time he will gain the weight and muscle to compete physically.

He’s represented Germany at under-15, 16 and 17 level but, representatives will make a hard pitch to recruit him to the USA, who impressed many after their efforts at the World Cup.

He may well have a tough decision to make on which country’s jersey he elects to don. Fans will likely get an extended look at Zelalem, and all of the above featured players during this season’s Capital One Cup as Wenger looks to blood through some of his younger players.

The way he conducts himself however, you’d be easily forgiven if you thought he was a player in his mid-30s. Listening to him speak he mature beyond his years and has had to deal with a lot of adversity in his young life. His is one story we will all root for.

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Premier League
Jack Wilshere
Arsene Wenger
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