Arsenal’s academy has been on the rise in the last few years due to the influx of talented young players brought through the ranks. Iwobi and Hector Bellerin are the start of this new trend and won’t be the last, that’s why I’ve compiled a top 10 list of our best young talents (minus Alex and Hector).
10. Kelechi Nwakali
He could potentially be higher up this list but he hasn’t actually played for Arsenal yet. Without a work permit he’s been in the Netherlands for MAA Maastricht where he hasn’t often featured for them. However at just 18 he’s a U17 World Cup captain and champion as well as Golden Ball winner (joining compatriot Kelechi Iheanacho and Toni Kroos). Already being compared to Yaya Toure his future is very bright.
9. Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Even though he is 9th on the list he is the most likely to break through to the first team. In the EFL Cup, he’s been very impressive playing in a multitude of positions and clearly displaying technical proficiency in his game. The reason he isn’t higher is because a lot of the players have higher potential than him which is a credit to the academy because Ainsley is very, VERY good.
8. Vlad Dragomir
If you were looking for the coolest name in the list you can stop here but if you wanna hear more about Vlad then read on. The talented Romanian extremely good with the ball at his feet and quite agile too in his movements his quality is just waiting to come through to the first team. Describing himself as a Toni Kroos like player Dragomir isn’t quite ready for the first team and must maintain his performances in the youth levels to get there.
7. Chris Willock
The Willock brothers are a talented lot aren’t they. Matthew doing well in United’s academy and Joe doing his thing in the younger levels of the academy. Chris is also exceedingly talented, peaking the interest of United and even Barca. He receives praise from first teamers for his flair, speed, trickery and ability from the wing. Very highly thought of by Wenger, Willock has played in the EFL Cup already though not shown all of what he promises in those moments. Chris Willock is a name to watch for in the future for sure for both Arsenal and England.
6. Gedion Zelalem
It’s said when Wenger saw Gedion play he ASSURED his parents he had an Arsenal future and I believe that’s justified. Seeing him at his best I believe he can be as good as Santi Cazorla someday. High praise yes, but his potential’s that big. His key weakness is physicality due to his slim frame but his time at Rangers taught him to quickly distributed the ball or use his agility to avoid overwhelming presences. This along with his tidy touch, clever body movements and passing that can unlock defences with ease makes Gedion’s path to starting one small step closer.
5. Krystian Bielik
For a defender to be in this list at all is very impressive since it’s so much harder to impress but Krystian has certainly done that. Captain of the U23’s at 18, Krystian is another leader added which Arsenal so desperately need. His distribution is excellent and his physicality and reading of the game is on point too. One of his best qualities however is his composure on and off the pitch as he always seems level headed in interviews as i he is in control of the pitch. I tip Krystian to be a world class centre back in the future.
4. Reiss Nelson
16 years old and was already in the U23 team, Reiss is an exceptional talent and in a year or two will definitely be playing in the first team to some capacity. Lightning quick feet, excellent crossing and pace to kill, he has all the skills to be as good as Raheem Sterling is when his age. Already training with the first team and his exceptional talent being noted by Barcelona, Reiss will become a great player some day let’s hope that happens at Arsenal.
3. Jeff Reine-Adelaide
The Jeff…nothing more need be said surely. We all remember his fantastic pre-season about 2 years ago and his performances at youth and senior level haven’t shown any decline yet. When watching him in the EFL Cup, I realised something, this guy plays like a player 5 years his senior and the ball is just attracted to his feet. Combining those skills, his height, versatility and physicality, Adelaide can become a formidable talent that could potentially be a ‘one man that can do it all’ kind of player. He is a player that has a good chance of starting in the near future like Iwobi or Bellerin if things go right for him and we can only hope they do go right.
2. Donyell Malen
This may come as a suprise that he isn’t first but my No.1 will show you why. Last year this time it would undoubtedly be Malen top because he is just too good. Excellent dribbling, excellent passing, excellent pace, excellent shooting…I mean do you get what I’m saying here. Malen is top class talent and the world is taking notice. Super Agent Mino Riaola, agent of Pogba and Lukaku, claims that Malen is the next big thing and given the strength his clientele he knows young talent when he sees it. Malen will be a great player and will get his chance soon enough.
1. Eddie Nketiah
I’m not sure how many Arsenal fans even know who he is but you and England fans will definitely will. I think this guy can be competing with Rashford as the best young English striker in the league. The former Chelsea man doesn’t have the best pace, skills, or flair in the academy but what does he have: Goals. When I see him play it reminds of how older Gooners described Ian Wright and how they new he was going to score before shot and boy can he shoot. 24 goals in 28 games last season in the U18 made him top scorer in the youth division last season and even now scoring for the U23’s at only 17. His outstanding finishing ability and positioning is so good that he is my shout as our biggest talent in the academy…but only just.