Whilst Premier League success might have eluded Arsenal in recent times, and will likely continue to do so, there is plenty of reason for optimism amongst the young players coming through the ranks.
Manager Mikel Arteta is only just finding his feet at the Emirates, taking over from Unai Emery who endured a tough spell during which the club were in transition. Whilst Arteta has an array of exciting senior players at his disposal, it is some of the talent coming off the production line that gives reason for excitement. 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli is one such player; he’s already appeared for Brazil’s Under 23 side and has impressed in the Premier League.
He was praised by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp earlier in the season and is the sort of talent that Arteta will want to see being generated by his own academy. Martinelli was bought in from Brazil, but he has proven there is a pathway for young talent if they’re good enough.
Another player who has earned rave reviews, particularly for his outings in the Europa League, is Bukayo Saka. He’s also 18-years-old and is a homegrown talent, coming through both Arsenal’s ranks and the England youth setup to emerge as a first-team player at the Emirates.
Saka is quick and can operate anywhere on the left-hand side of the field, giving the Gunners attacking depth and a solid defensive option. His best outings have been reserved for Europe, scoring against Standard Liège and Eintracht Frankfurt.
He also bagged in the FA Cup against Bournemouth, setting up a sixth-round tie with League One side Portsmouth. The FA Cup offers youngsters a chance to shine in the first team and was won three years out of four by Wenger’s side. This year, The Gunners are behind a number of clubs in the current FA Cup betting, including Leicester City and North London rivals Spurs.
Given a tendency to field the younger players in these ties, Arsenal’s status as outsiders for a place in the final might be a false one. Eddie Nketiah, on loan at Leeds for the first half of the season, bagged a winner against Bournemouth in the last round and is hoping to prove himself worthy of a first-team place. 22-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles made a late cameo against the Cherries and Reiss Nelson netted a winner against Leeds United in the third round.
Even players such as Tyreece John-Jules have been handed a hint of future game time this season. He was on the bench for the Leeds game, but later loaned to League One side Lincoln City for more experience. Arteta claimed he had been close to making his Gunners’ debut and he’ll likely be in the same boat as Nketiah and his peers next season.
Success does not just arrive with new management; it takes time to build a dynasty and Mikel Arteta is keen to see his young players form part of the club’s future. That future might not shine as bright as that of Liverpool, but the Gunners do have an exciting crop of young players that might form the basis of their first team for many years to come.