By David Seager
ANY signing Arsenal might consider in January needs to be tempered with the reality check of the club’s self-sustaining model.
That being said, are any of the new signings from the summer any more
exciting or rewarding than seeing your own homegrown talents flourishing in the famous red and white?
The answer, for me at least, is a firm no, because nothing warms the heart of a true fan more than seeing one’s own youth product become integral to the first team.
It is a joy that Arsenal fans were long denied in the Wenger era with only really Ashely Cole and Jack Wilshere truly breaking through.
Not since the 1980s, when we saw Tony Adams, David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Paul Merson form the backbone of George Graham’s title winning teams, have we been able to truly cheer our own week in week out, until now.
Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are among the first names on Arteta’s
team sheet, and the latter has now joined his friend in the England squad.
The hype around Hale End and its transformation under Per Mertesacker and his staff is tangible at present and this undoubtedly leads to an expectation that there will be more exciting young players threatening the first team in the near future.
On a cautionary note, however, with no additional Europa League football, and so many first-teamers not getting minutes, opportunities are scarce. But here are a few who could make the breakthrough…
I am not sure there was any doubt that the buzz around Patino is merited.
The highly technical midfielder was due to make the bench for the League Cup tie at home to AFC Wimbledon, only for Mo Elneny to declare himself fit
and in need of minutes.
Arteta has had Patino in and around his squad for over a year now and has
suggested that unlike Miguel Azeez who was loaned to Portsmouth, the youngster will, like Saka before him, be allowed to progress without a loan.
Handing him his highly-anticipated debut agains Sunderland is a sure sign that could happen.
Closely behind Patino in the hype ranks must be the exciting, skilful attacking midfield talent that is Omari Hutchison.
Most comfortable just ahead of Patino in a 4-2-3-1, the gifted playmaker, like Smith Rowe, who he must wish to emulate, can also play on either flank.
He particularly enjoys cutting in from the right on to his explosively accurate left foot.
After a long-running will he, won’t he sign contract saga, I think most Arsenal supporters expected to see far more of the striker this season. ‘
Certainly, it has bemused many how little minutes the free-scoring youngster has been afforded whilst want-away Eddie Nketiah has featured.
With five goals in three November matches, the U23’s skipper has been voted the Premier League Two player of the month.
Mertesacker has recently suggested Balogun needs a loan and will be made available in January but since then Nketiah has confirmed he will not sign a
new deal and Aubameyang has shown ill-discipline.
Will these developments change the clubs’ plans?
Many fans will hope so.
With Ramsdale now confirmed as Arsenal’s Number one, 20-year Arthur Okonkwo, who has been at the club since he was aged eight, may get an opportunity this season.
With former first-team keeper Bernd Leno out of favour and perhaps leaving as soon as January, the giant shot-stopper has been promoted to the first-team matchday squad of late.
With so many young goalies vying for the chance to make the step up, the six-foot five-inch giant seems to have moved ahead of his rivals.
Whilst it might scare the fanbase, it only takes an injury to Ramsdale for Okonkwo to be called upon.
However, I do know that all three are highly rated by the club so watch this
space come the summer and pre-season for loans and chances in friendlies.