Five Arsenal youth players who could break into the first team next season

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This season has seen the emergence of Alex Iwobi from the obscurity of Arsenal's Under-21 academy side to a fully-fledged star of the future.

The 19-year-old has risen above Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell in the pecking order and been a ray of hope in an otherwise disappointing second half of the Gunners' campaign.

Iwobi, who selected to represent Nigeria ahead of England, scored on his first Premier League start away to Everton last month and again in the following fixture against Watford.


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Since Jack Wilshere became Arsenal's youngest ever league debutant at the age of 16 years, 256 days in 2008, youth prospects to make the grade at the Emirates Stadium have been few and far between.

But under the watch of Dutchman Andries Jonker, Arsenal's academy side finished second in the Under-21 Premier League, and here are five players who could make the grade next year.

1. Chris Willock

The fleet-footed 18-year-old has enormous potential and is arguably the most exciting prospect in the Arsenal youth set up at present. He has the ability to beat a defender with both feet on the wing, a highly impressive burst of pace and a spacial awareness which belies his age.

Arsene Wenger recently described him as "a very gifted player with natural strength and natural talent", while insisting that he would have no qualms about playing him in the first team if necessary. Willock must stay level-headed if he wants to follow in Iwobi's footsteps.

2. Dan Crowley

Attacking midfielder Crowley spent the first three months of the season on loan at Barnsley, scrapping it out in League One. The 18-year-old scored in a Capital One Cup defeat to Everton and was proclaimed by manager Lee Johnson to be "the most talented 18-year-old I've ever seen".

A player of similar style and technique to Wilshere, Crowley is blessed with outstanding vision and first touch, and is also a dead-ball specialist. Fingers crossed the England Under-19 international will have more luck when it comes to injuries than his senior counterpart.

3. Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Having joined Arsenal's Hales End Academy at the tender age of six, Maitland-Niles made his debut for the Gunners aged 17 away to Galatasaray in the Champions League - quite a baptism of fire, but this youngster is not easily fazed.

Known for his tricky feet and lung-busting runs from midfield, the youngster has spent the season on loan at Mick McCarthy's Ipswich Town side, earning rave reviews. Having made 32 appearances and scored twice for the Championship side, he clearly has a bright future at the highest level.

4. Krystian Bielik

Arsenal shelled out £2.7 million to sign the Polish youngster from Legia Warsaw last January. Bielik plays the holding midfield role in a similar mould to Francis Coquelin and will be inspired by the Frenchman's rapid progression from outcast to first teamer.

Fans are yet to get a real glimpse of his ability, but he's already been dubbed the new Patrick Vieira by  those who watch Arsenal's Under-21 side.

5. Jeff Reine-Adelaide

Wenger believes the young Frenchman has all the attributes required to make the grade as an all-round central midfielder. He helped his country win the European Under-17 Championships and was even named in the Team of the Tournament.

The 18-year-old scored three times and notched four assists in the academy side this season, suggesting a spell out on loan with a lower Premier League team would do wonders for his progression next year.

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