Arsenal: The Top 10 Youngsters at the Club
Arsenal has developed a great reputation for finding and developing young talent over the past few years. With players like Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere blossoming at the Emirates, it's hard to argue with that reputation.
In this article, I have attempted to rank Arsenal's top ten youngsters, both homegrown and bought from other clubs. I've based my rankings on a combination of statistics, my personal opinion and from what I've seen of the young stars before.
All of the players in this article were younger than 21 before January 1st, 2010 and didn't need to be named in Arsenal's official Premier League squad. If you think I've left anyone out or my rankings are a bit off, please leave a comment and tell me!
10: Ryo Miyaichi
Name: Ryo Miyaichi
Previous Club: Chukyodai Chuyko High School
Ryo Miyaichi is Arsene Wenger's latest signing and the 18-year-old looks very promising. He has pace, great dribbling ability and can finish. He is similar to Cristiano Ronaldo and under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, I can see him becoming a great player. From what I've seen, Miyaichi doesn't seem to pass the ball too often, but after a few months at Arsenal, that should be sorted out.
The young Japanese star suffered a broken leg at a trial behind closed doors in Ajax, but he should be fit again in a few months. Miyaichi is a very exciting player and I can't wait to see him play in an Arsenal jersey.
9: Emmanuel Frimpong
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Name: Emmanuel Frimpong
Previous Club: None
Emmanuel Frimpong has been at Arsenal since he was nine and the Ghanaian has grown into a great defensive mid while at the club. He has a brilliant engine, hard tackling, a solid passing game and has been compared to Alex Song by many. Frimpong had an impressive preseason this year and looked to be in a good position to challenge Song for his place in the starting eleven.
Unfortunately, Frimpong suffered a knee ligament injury during training in August and he isn't expected to return until two to four months from now. Arsenal currently lacks an effective replacement for Song and I'm sure Wenger will be happy to see Frimpong return to the field in a few months time.
8: Henri Lansbury
Name: Henri Lansbury
Previous Club: None
Henri Lansbury is a player who has recently been impressive at the Emirates. He had a good performance after coming off the bench against Fulham last year and he scored a crucial goal against Tottenham in the third round of the Carling Cup four months ago.
I've been extremely impressed with what I've seen from him so far. He is a great playmaker and has an eye for scoring goals. I think he has the potential to become a brilliant player for the Gunners. However, competition for places in midfield is fierce at Arsenal and Lansbury has had to go out on loan multiple times to get some experience.
He went on loan to Scunthorpe United during the 2008-2009 season, where he had 16 appearances, four goals and five assists.
He also went on loan to Watford during the 2009-2010 and had 39 appearances, five goals and four assists.
On November 22nd, 2010 Lansbury went out on loan again. He moved to Norwich City in what was originally planned to be a 28 day loan, but after two extensions, he will remain there until the end of the season. He has had four appearances and an assist at Norwich so far.
Lansbury has a great chance to impress at Norwich and should he have a good season, Wenger might give him more game time next year.
7: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Name: Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Previous Club: None
Jay Emmanuel Thomas is an extremely talented and versatile player. He has been at Arsenal since he was seven years old and has played in many different positions while at the club, including left-back, winger and striker. JET can pass, tackle, shoot, dribble, head and hold off players very well, which explains his ability to play almost anywhere.
Arsene Wenger has acknowledged his versatility by admitting, "Jay can play anywhere." However, he has recently found his home as a striker and has been very impressive for the youth team over the last few years. He captained them to the '08-'09 Youth Cup, a competition that he scored in every round in.
JET has had a very impressive start to this season with 10 goals in nine appearances for the reserves, including a hat-trick at West Ham. However, it will be a tough task for JET to break into the first team with the likes of Robin Van Persie, Marouane Chamakh, Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner higher than him in the pecking order. Like Lansbury, he has gone on multiple loans over the last few years to gain first team experience.
He went on loan to Blackpool for the first half of last season, where he had 12 appearances, two goals and three assists.
He went on loan to Doncaster Rovers for the second half of the season and had 14 appearances, five goals and two assists.
He went on loan to Cardiff 11 days ago and he will remain there until the end of the season.
6: Wojciech Szczesny
Name: Wojciech Szczesny
Previous Club: Legia Warsaw
Wojciech Szczesny was relatively unknown before the start of this season. However, after earning a few starts while Fabianski was injured, the young Pole looks set to challenge for the No. 1 jersey at Arsenal.
Szczesny has great reflexes and is very efficient at dealing with crosses. He was very impressive last year while on loan to Brentford, where he made 28 appearances and kept 10 clean sheets. Szczesney has carried that form through to the first team and he has had some great performances recently. He managed to pull of a great save from Wayne Rooney's chipped effort at Old Trafford and he looked unbeatable against Newcastle in the Carling Cup.
If Szczesny can keep impressing, he might just keep his starting place when Fabianski returns from injury.
Although he is prone to the odd mistake (his clash with Sagna last Tuesday is a good example), Szczesny is a top class keeper who has the potential to make a great name for himself at Arsenal. With a bit more experience, I believe he will be the best keeper we have had for a quite awhile.
5: Kieran Gibbs
Name: Kieran Gibbs
Previous Club: None
Kieran Gibbs signed his first professional contract for Arsenal in September 2007 and since then, he has gone on to become a very promising young talent. A former left-winger, Gibbs was moved to left-back by Arsene Wenger upon his return from Norwich City on loan. He has adapted extremely well to his new position and has been dubbed by many to become England's next left-back.
He has pace and a great attacking instinct that comes from his days of playing as a winger.
Gibbs has proven his talent while filling in for Gael Clichy during injury and at International level with the England U19, U20 and U21 teams. He also made his debut for the senior team against Hungary on August 11th last year. He replaced Ashley Cole at half time.
He made seven appearances for Norwich City during a loan spell in the '07-'08 season and has made a total of 41 appearances for Arsenal so far, including starts in the Champions League.
Gibbs suffered a setback last year when he broke a metatarsal in his right foot, which put him out for the rest of the season. However, since returning this year, he has made 12 appearances for Arsenal and I think its only a matter of time before he replaces Clichy in the starting eleven.
4: Carlos Vela
Name: Carlos Vela
Previous Club: Guadalajara
Arsenal signed Carlos Vela from Guadalajara in November 2005 for €125,000. However, the Mexican was unable to play in England without a work permit, so he was forced to go out on loan to Salamanca for the '06-'07 season and after impressing there, he went to Osasuna the following season. He received his work permit in May 2008.
He was extremely impressive in his first start for Arsenal against Sheffield United, where he scored a hat-trick in their 6-0 win. Vela has also been called up to play for Mexico and has scored nine goals in 34 appearances for them. He was a part of the Mexican team that went to the World Cup last year.
He had 32 appearances, eight goals and 15 assists at Salamanca.
At Osasuna, he had 33 appearances, three goals and four assists.
His record for Arsenal is 59 appearances, 11 goals and six assists.
Vela is a very talented striker. He has pace, skill and loves to chip the keeper. However, he has found it hard to break into the first team and went on loan to West Bromich Albion yesterday to gain more first team experience. Although some people believe Arsenal should sell Vela, I believe he is an extremely gifted player that we should keep and hopefully he can prove that while at West Brom.
3: Aaron Ramsey
Name: Aaron Ramsey
Previous Club: Cardiff City
Arsenal signed Aaron Ramsey from Cardiff in 2008 for £4.8 million. He had a promising start to his career at the Emirates and made 22 appearances in his first season. He became the fifth youngest goalscorer in the Champions League when he scored against Fenerbache in the group stages.
He broke into the first team last year and looked to be on course for a great season until he suffered a horrific injury away to Stoke, where he broke his leg.
He has also featured for Wales on numerous occasions at U17, U21 and senior level. He has scored two goals for the senior team, most notably his solo effort against Scotland.
Ramsey returned to competitive football in November of last year and since then has gone on a loan spell to Nottingham Forest, and more recently to Cardiff City until February 26th.
He is a very gifted player who has vision, technique and a great eye for goal. Wenger has likened Ramsey to "an offence-minded Roy Keane." If he can put that injury behind him, Ramsey has the potential to become a world-class player and should have no problem returning to the first team in the future.
Ramsey has a total of 51 appearances, five goals and six assists for Arsenal.
2: Jack Wilshere
Name: Jack Wilshere
Previous Club: None
Jack Wilshere has been very impressive throughout his career at Arsenal and this season he has been rewarded appropriately. The 19-year-old has cemented his place in the first team as a holding midfielder alongside Alex Song. He is a huge talent who can pass, dribble and link up with players very efficiently.
He was also praised by Owen Coyle for his ability to "tackle and take a knock" while on loan to Bolton Wanderers last season.
He has also played for England at U16, U17, U19, U21 and made his debut for the senior team against Hungary last year.
Wilshere had 14 appearances, a goal and an assist at Bolton last season.
He has made a total of 44 appearances for Arsenal. He has scored three goals and had nine assists in these appearances.
Wilshere has received a lot of first team experience this year at Arsenal and he should be able to retain his place in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. He is already very talented and looks set to improve even more over the coming years.
1: Theo Walcott
Name: Theo Walcott
Previous Club: Southampton
Signed from Southampton in January 2006, Theo Walcott has rapidly become one of England's brightest young talents. Walcott is one of the fastest players in the world, but he has often been criticised for his lack of a football-brain. However, this statement is a load of nonsense in my opinion. The 21-year-old has proved that he isn't just a sprinter this season, after cementing his place on the right wing with 24 appearances, 10 goals and seven assists so far.
Walcott was also in contention to go to the World Cup in Africa last year, but Fabio Capello dropped him from the 23 man squad. This shocked many people around the world, including Lionel Messi, who believed Walcott could have made the difference in their game against Germany. Capello later admitted he was wrong to leave Walcott out.
Walcott has begun to find the talent to match his blistering pace and he has the potential to become an all-time great at the Emirates.
He has a total of 160 appearances, 28 goals and 23 assists for Arsenal.