Can the youth step up?

After the heroics of a certain Eddie Nketiah in the Carabao Cup vs Norwich, the question of including some youth within  some Premier League match day squads has arisen. The question is a fair one as well, especially when you consider how young talent has broken through across the globe in high profile situations. Mbappe with Monaco, Asensio with Real Madrid, Dembele with Dortmund, Rashford with Man Utd, Jesus with Man City and Alli with Sp*rs. There are plenty of top players coming through at top teams across European football who are cutting it at the very top level so it does beg the question, where is our next big young star going to come from?

There are a few fringe players plying their trade in the Europa League and Carabao cup and of the fringe there are a few knocking on the door, not quite banging, but knocking a little more than politely. Alex Iwobi has seen enough first team action as well as on the rotation side of the squad to be more than considered for the first team, but the more interesting options in my opinion are the likes of Joe Willock (18), Reiss Nelson (17) and Eddie Nketiah (18).

Joe Willock is a really interesting one and the one that I think is quietly making himself a real possibility for the first XI. He has played in the central midfield role and been perfectly neat and tidy when on the ball, the type of player that Arsene really loves, as well as looking mature enough to make key interceptions with impeccable timing. Considering that central midfield is our most problematic area, especially when off the ball, it could well be an opportunity for the young man. We’ve got a number of options in that position already, however they aren’t the most inspiring options when you get past Ramsey and Xhaka. With Wilshere finding his fitness with each game, he is definitely an option that excites, however Willock is fast becoming the man whom Wenger is relying upon to calm the storm in the middle of the park. I can see him playing in there with someone like a Wilshere or a Ramsey with them willing to press forward he would happily play the deeper more secure role. If an injury crisis does present itself, Willock would be an option I’d be happy for us to try. Where I’ve seen him struggle slightly is when he’s playing alongside someone who isn’t in his ear to dictate a little where he should be. But as he’s young, that’s to be expected when playing in front of 50,000. He seems to be calm in every situation I’ve seen him in, and while I understand that the Premier League is a big step up from the Europa League and the Carabao cup, it’s the only way that stars are unearthed.

Reiss Nelson is THE stand out name of the three, simply because we know what he is capable of when on the ball. A fearless young player with some incredible footwork makes for exciting watching. The reason we haven’t seen him explode onto the scene quite yet is because he is being played out of position and the position inhibits his natural born instinct to hurt the opposition. Wenger is always great at moulding great attacking players with discipline as a foundation to learn their trade, which can work both ways. Sometimes it can curb their attacking prowess completely but in others it can help to push them onto become a more complete player and more often than not Wenger is usually spot on with these things. Aaron Ramsey has become far more disciplined with his defensive game having played as a wide man a couple of years back and one can only hope that this helps Nelson in the long run. He is however a player that could be quite useful from the bench in games that are already won as well as games that might need a bit of a spark in a forward area. I really would like to see him play as one of the men behind the front man to see how he fares with some truly world class players around him.

Now when it comes to Eddie Nketiah, we’ve only seen a small glimmer of what he can do on somewhat of a big stage, but in that short cameo vs Norwich one thing that we all saw was a complete disregard for who he was playing in front of, alongside and against. He got a goal with his first touch, which could have simply been luck, however you do have to be in the right place at the right time for these things and we saw a truly brilliant header for his second goal. But it wasn’t just his goals that were exciting, it was his ability to run at the opposition with such control and ferocity combined that really got me going. He almost added another couple of goals to the scoreline with his fearless running. This is what a young world star usually has in their locker, this fearlessness is what Mbappe, Asensio, Dembele, Rashford, Jesus and Alli all have in common in different ways. They all have an arrogance about how good they are and if they’re playing against you it does make you hate them because of the arrogance coupled with the talent, but it’s what makes you sit up and take notice. He’s another I would love to see given a go off the bench to see what he’s really made of. He’s scored goals for fun in the youth side and while that’s good in itself we only have to remember that Nicklas Bendtner broke every youth goalscoring record going and wasn’t quite the main man when he made the step up.

The point is that there are at least a few players that could get a look into the first team and it really would be nice to blend in some fearless youth into an already good first XI. As I said they’re only just politely knocking at the door and not quite banging it down, but we’re long overdue a young star to come into the fore in the Premier League and one of the above 3/4 could well be that star. 

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.


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