Arsenal: Five Young English Players Aiming for a Spot in Wenger's Plans
Every season the same old turkey is played out by the media and opposition fans that Arsene Wenger is somehow anti-English.
It is undeniable that there has been a lack of English players in Arsenal's squad over the last few seasons, but that is due to a lack of available quality and not from any perceived bias.
With the influx of foreign players into various leagues (just look at Inter Milan's squad that won the Champions League), it is said that home based players are finding it increasingly difficult to break into the top squads in their respective nations.
However, that old cliché that if you are good enough you'll make it, remains true.
Wenger has deemed that Jay Simpson is not good enough for Arsenal, but here we look at five young Englishmen with hopes of playing for Arsenal for many years to come.
Note: Emmanuel Frimpong has not been included as he has declared for Ghana and is thus considered Ghanaian for the purpose of this article.
5. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Built like a human tank, Emmanuel-Thomas has been at Arsenal since he was just seven-years-old.
Rising through the ranks, he has been made captain of various underage teams, including the historic Youth side that were double winners in 2008-2009. During the FA Youth Cup run, Emmanuel-Thomas scored in every round.
Although he is now primarily an attacking midfielder, JET has lined out as left-back, winger, midfielder and center forward for Arsenal's underage teams.
The young Englishman has caught the eye of Arsene Wenger, who called him up for various preseason games, while he was an unused sub three times in the 2009-2010 season, before making his full debut in the fourth round FA Cup loss to Stoke City.
Last term, the manager sent him out on loan to Blackpool and Doncaster Rovers to gain some first team action.
He played 12 times for Blackpool, netting twice, before making 14 appearances for Doncaster and finding the net five times.
JET has a terrific goals-to-game ratio at the levels he has played. He has a rocket shot, great feet on the ball and he's not afraid to take on defenders. However, his talent is still raw and he needs to work on his concentration and distribution.
This is a season too soon for JET, especially when you consider the wealth of attacking talent available to Wenger. Perhaps a run out in the Carling Cup before another loan stint is in the cards.
4. Henri Lansbury
Another Arsenal midfielder who is considered by many at the club as having "massive potential" and has been sent out on two loan spells to hone his talent.
Lansbury joined the club in 1999 from Norwich City, and since then has progressed through the ranks. He made his full debut for the side in 2007 as a 17-year-old when he replaced Theo Walcott in the League Cup win over Sheffield United.
His progression was halted in 2008 when he missed half a season of football when he fell foul of glandular fever.
While others have been watched in the reserve side, Lansbury has spent the bulk of his time on loan, most recently at Watford where he spent the whole of last season.
He impressed many at Watford,although he seemed to go through purple patches rather than been continually influential. The highlight of the season for Lansbury came in the home game to Sheffield Wednesday where he scored two and created two to secure the three points.
Lansbury's main role was in central midfield, spraying long and short passes while occasionally breaking into the box.
A downside for Lansbury is his short fuse, although some of the Arsenal support would welcome that.
As with Emmanuel-Thomas, Lansbury is vying for a spot in a talented midfield.
Could well spend another season on loan.
3. Craig Eastmond
Yet another midfielder, but unlike JET and Lansbury, Eastmond has favour on his side as he plays in two positions in which Arsenal sorely lack options—right-back and defensive midfield.
Evidently, Wenger sees great potential in the 19-year-old as he handed him a Premier League start in midfield alongside Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby away to Bolton last season.
Although he made some positional errors and was guilty of mistimed challenges, Eastmond did not look completely out of his depth.
Last season, he made seven appearances for Arsenal in all competitions, five of them from the start.
While he would hope to get more game time this season, fortune hasn't favoured Eastmond. His poor preseaon, coupled with an injury has seen him being leap-frogged by Emmanuel Frimpong who has really caught the eye.
Could be a frustrating season for Eastmond unless he can find the form of his few appearances last season.
2. Jack Wilshere
There is one player in the Arsenal youth system that has Arsenal fans excited for some time, and that is local boy Jack Wilshere.
Although a West Ham fan, Wilshere has spent his entire career at Arsenal. He is continually likened to Arsenal legend and current head of Youth Development, Liam Brady.
Blessed with an amazing left foot, Wilshere has scored some wonder goals for the Arsenal youth sides.
Last season, Wenger sent the young talent on loan to Bolton where he quickly became a fan favourite.
There, he played 14 times and scored his first Premier League goal. Owen Coyle wanted Wilshere to return for the upcoming season but Wenger has decided to keep Wilshere at the Grove.
Since he was 15, Wilshere has played in the age group above his own for the English set-up, and this week he was left out of the England U-21 side in expectation of receiving a call-up to the full team from Fabio Capello.
With Cesc Fabregas' long-term future in doubt, their is a massive weight on Wilshere's shoulders to succeed and form a lasting partnership with Aaron Ramsey.
His ability is undoubted, all that remains to be seen is how he reacts to the pressure.
1. Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott
A bit of a cheat here on this slide as two players are mentioned. Furthermore, these two players are already in Wenger's plans, but this season they must cement their place.
Of the two, it may seem somewhat surprising that Kieran Gibbs' place seems more secure than Theo Walcott's.
Last season, it appeared for a period that Gibbs may well have done enough to remove Gael Clichy from his left-back berth. However, injury put paid to his best laid efforts. It also saw him miss out on the World Cup.
While Clichy has returned to the starting spot, Gibbs is back, fully-fit and will be chomping at the bit to get his chance again.
Walcott, meanwhile, continues to frustrate Arsenal fans with his apparent lack of improvement.
With Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Andrey Arshavin, Carlos Vela and Marouane Chamakh all capable of playing out wide in the front three, Walcott has his work cut out if he wants a starting spot.
Who Will Make It at Arsenal?
As always it is a guessing game when it comes to foretelling who has a future with Arsenal.
All the players mentioned are either in their late teens or very early twenties so have plenty of time on their side. However, football clubs are unforgiving so they must start staking a claim soon.
The likes of Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere look like they will get plenty of first team chances, both this season and in the future.
Meanwhile, those such as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Craig Eastmond, Thomas Cruise, Henri Lansbury, Kyle Bartley, and Sanchez Watt will hope to continue to impress and forge their way into Wenger's plans.
However, for Jay Simpson his time at Arsenal is up. Others including Mark Randall could well be on their way out of the Emirates as well.
There is plenty of English talent at Arsenal, it's just a matter of it blossoming.