Playing regularly for a team like Arsenal is a tough challenge. Whether you are competing for a starting spot with a big-money singing or a graduate of the club’s youth academy, there is always competition.
Here I have detailed four Arsenal players, each at a different crossroads of their career, but all striving for some game time under Arsene Wenger. One is having to make do with an impact role from the bench, one is on the verge of holding down a first-team spot, one is out impressing on loan, while the other may have to do the same next season.
Tomas Rosicky may seem like an odd choice to label as "underrated" as he has been around for some time and everybody is well aware of him. However, it is fair to say that this season his abilities have been a little undervalued.
Last season, a team bereft of much creative talent in midfield, and dealing with the injured Jack Wilshere, was struggling. Around halfway through the campaign, though, Rosicky managed to shake off an injury and, along with Robin van Persie, helped spark an Arsenal revival that saw the team claim Champions League qualification.
A year later, Arsenal are in a similar position. This time around Rosicky has Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in front of him for that attacking midfield role. His fitness has not been great but he had a bit of a shocker against Bayern Munich last week.
However, that does not mean we cannot see more of him from the bench. He has that ability that few of his teammates possess to change the pace of a game in Arsenal’s favour in an instant He is the perfect player to bring on during a 0-0 stalemate.
If he can stay fit, and Wenger can place a little more trust in a man who has only made four starts this season, then he could still yet have an important role to play.
Carl Jenkinson is finally starting to get some of the recognition he deserves after two hugely impressive displays in Arsenal’s last two outings—including a mature performance that belied his years in the win at Bayern Munich.
Bacary Sagna’s days at the club seem to be numbered due to a loss of form, terrible luck with injury problems, having been rather outspoken in the past about the Arsenal regime—much to Wenger’s dislike—and Paris Saint-Germain seemingly attempting to lure the Frenchman.
The good news, however, is that the Gunners do not need to waste millions on a replacement right-back when they go about restructuring their defence in the summer, as Jenkinson is the player to fill that hole.
He may not seem like the most technically gifted of players, but with the amount of heart and determination he has got, this boy can go far—and that includes a regular starting berth at international level for England. Not bad for somebody that was playing non-league football just three years ago.
Forced to be shipped out on loan for the past two seasons due to issues with his work permit, Joel Campbell is certainly building up a wealth of experience for a player of only 20 years of age.
After making 29 appearances for Lorient in Ligue 1 last season, the Costa Rican has featured on 20 occasions for Real Betis in La Liga this term. Campbell, who can play on the wing or down the middle, has represented his country 20 times, scoring seven goals and also featured in 2011’s Copa America.
The boy can shoot...
and he is not a bad dribbler either (he has been fouled on average more times than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo this season). Not to mention, Spanish newspaper Marca have singled him out as one of the young La Liga players destined for greatness, while Italian newspaper Tuttosport nominated him for the 2012 Golden Boy Award—a prize handed out to the best player in Europe under the age of 21.
With Champions League-chasing Betis eager to keep hold of him after a string of impressive displays this season, he could well prove to be a welcome addition to Wenger’s squad for next season if the Frenchman decides to bring him back to north London.
Thomas Eisfeld certainly looks like a promising talent for Arsenal’s future. A product of Borussia Dortmund’s youth academy following in the footsteps of the likes of Mario Gotze and Marcel Schmelzer, the 19-year-old signed for the Gunners last January.
He has impressed for Arsenal’s Under-21 side this term, grabbing eight goals in 17 starts from an attacking midfield position. The German made his first-team debut during the 7-5 Capital One Cup victory over Reading earlier in the season impressing from the substitutes bench. The youngster caught the eye with his wide range of passing and direct running, and played a role in helping swing the topsy-turvy game back in Arsenal’s favour.
Sadly for Eisfeld, he has yet to appear for the first team again. With the likes of Wilshere and Cazorla ahead of him in the pecking order, and with every game a cup final for the Gunners now, it is unlikely he will get another chance to impress this season.
We are more likely to see him secure a loan move next season, perhaps to another Premier League club like Wilshere at Bolton a few years ago. He certainly has the potential, and if he is able to fill it he could well be a vital player in Arsenal’s midfield in the not-too-distant future.