Last season, Hector Bellerin emerged from the Arsenal academy to become a regular in the first-team. In this piece, we take a look at the candidates to follow him in making the step up to senior level next term.
The German attacking midfielder missed the entirety of last season with a knee injury, but is now recovered and should be raring to go for the new campaign. Asked for his prediction as to who the break-out star of next season could be, Spanish full-back Nacho Monreal immediately mentioned Gnabry. His few first-team outings to date have showcased a player with bags of potential: speed, balance and preternatural awareness.
However, his return to first-team action is unlikely to be straightforward. After such a long spell on the sidelines, Gnabry is certain to be rusty and prone to niggling injuries. With that in mind, Wenger may elect to send him on loan while he recovers his rhythm. Thee are sure to be plenty of takers, both in the Premier League and on the continent.
The French forward is one of Arsene Wenger’s pet projects. Since arriving from Auxerre on a free transfer, the Arsenal boss has shown significant faith in the young striker, despite his raw technique and apparent lack of goal threat.
He opened his account in English football against Borussia Dortmund last November and was expected to kick on during a loan spell with Crystal Palace. However, he managed only one goal in an Eagles shirt — a deflected strike in the FA Cup.
It’s impossible to see Sanogo climbing above Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott in Arsenal’s attacking hierarchy, so next season will be a significant test of Wenger’s loyalty to his protege. The most probably scenario is another loan spell — one that could prove make or break for Sanogo’s Arsenal career.
Zelalem recently caused an international sensation when he declared his footballing allegiance to the USA, despite being eligible for world champions Germany. His remarkable talent makes him a significant coup for the American national set-up.
The reason they fought so hard to secure Zelalem is obvious: he is regarded as one of the most precociously-perceptive young midfielders in the world. In his appearances at youth level, his ability to pick out passes has led to comparisons with both Cesc Fabregas and Mesut Ozil.
The issue for Zelalem is a physical one. He has not filled out as expected, and still needs to bulk up to cope with the rough and tumble of the Premier League. Nevertheless, Wenger is likely to keep him at London Colney as part of the senior squad. Next season could be the one in which America’s great footballing hope begins to make a first-team impression.
Signed in January for a fee believed to be in excess of £2 million, the Polish teenager has trained frequently with the senior squad. However, by the tim next season kicks off he will still be just 17. Arsenal require cover and competition for Francis Coquelin, but despite his prodigious talent Bielik seems some way away from providing a solution.
The likelihood is that Bielik will be allowed to continue his acclimatisation to Arsenal and England in the Gunners’ academy squad.
Having been convinced to sign a long-term deal with the club, Akpom might be optimistic of getting a chance with the first-team next season. However, his case won’t have been helped by an underwhelming loan spell with Nottingham Forest towards the back end of last season.
Akpom may have to prove he can translate his prolific youth team form to the senior stage elsewhere before earning a spot with the Gunners.