Arsenal FC: Predicting Arsenal's Starting XI in 5 Years
A little speculation is nice sometimes, isn't it?
At a time when all sorts of questions and doubts are being raised over the club and its ambitions while supporters are booing and the end of preseason friendlies, I figured I would take a little time to provide a break in the monotonous negativity with a future starting XI for the Gunners.
We all know how much Arsene Wenger likes to promote youth through the ranks at Arsenal, and with a tremendous amount of talent at his disposal, the future looks very bright for the Gunners in every area of the pitch.
In this list, I exclude all external signings because we all know how unpredictable Wenger is when it comes to transfers, and I cannot predict who the next Laurent Koscielny will be. I will also use Wenger's generally preferred 4-3-3 formation to organize the players.
So, without further ado, your Arsenal stars of tomorrow!
Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny
What a revelation the Pole was when he was forced into the starting XI last season.
At the tender age of 20, young Wojciech saved us all from watching Manuel Almunia climb back between the posts until he got injured, and did all supporters an extra favor by assuring that Lukasz "Flappyhandski" Fabianski will never be first choice again.
His huge frame, cat-like reflexes and commanding presence behind the back four make Szczesny a dominant presence behind the back four, as does his habit of "making himself big" in one-on-one situations, a la Peter Schmiechel.
With glowing praise like this from Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's long-running goalkeeping problem looks to be solved for the next decade at least.
Right Back: Carl Jenkinson
Just recently bought from Charlton Athletic for a measly £1 million, Arsene Wenger looks to be starting to phase out Bacary Sagna at right back with the young Carl Jenkinson.
Though it is only preseason, he has impressed thus far with his high work rate and spectacular own goal against Cologne. Never mind that it was an own goal and was not intentional: that was a moment of sheer brilliance.
After beating out all of his new teammates in early fitness tests and confidently stating that he would like to challenge Sagna for the starting spot as soon as possible, it seems as if the devoted, lifelong Arsenal fan is well positioned to achieve his goals.
It's nice to have a loyal player in the squad, isn't it?
Center Back: Kyle Bartley
I can't wait for this boy to break into the first team.
Kyle Bartley possesses everything that Arsenal lack in defence: height, strength and leadership. Bartley would be the perfect partner to the smaller and more technical Thomas Vermaelen if he were given a chance.
Ask any Rangers fan, and they will tell you how much he impressed last term on loan. At times he looked almost undroppable from their side.
Bartley has bags of confidence, too, boldly stating that he is ready to step up to the first team after his successful loan spell with Rangers, while touting his leadership ability. You don't see many on this largely spineless Gunners team taking that sort of initiative.
And a bonus: Arsenal would finally have an English central defender again!
Center Back: Thomas Vermaelen
Alright, I know, this is sort of a boring selection, considering that these are supposed to be the rising stars of the future, as yet unestablished in the Arsenal team.
But Vermaelen is so good that I found it difficult to leave him off of this list. One can argue that many of Arsenal's disappointing results last season were due to the absence of their best center back.
Both Vermaelen's technical skill and ability to read the game from the back are extremely valuable, as is his ability to keep Sebastien Squillaci off the field. You wouldn't think that the 30-year-old Frenchman would be around in five years, but you never know. Even if Arsenal sell him he might not leave.
At the would-be age of only 29—the same age as Phil Jagielka, who Arsenal are currently trying to buy—I doubt that Wenger will be tempted to sell the Verminator.
Left Back: Kieran Gibbs
This one completely depends on whether Gibbs can stay fit for longer than a few games at a time. However, there is some precedent to suggest that Gibbs can actually improve his fitness and skill as he is thrown straight into the fire this season.
Twice before, with Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy, a young left back with injury issues was thrown into the team upon the departure of their predecessor. Twice Arsenal ended up with premier left backs.
We know that Gibbs has the raw talent to succeed at the highest level. It is just a matter of staying fit and improving defensively that blocks his path to stardom. However, I believe that in five years time, Kieran will have followed the example of the two Arsenal left backs before him.
Except for foolishly keeping players onside and allowing them to score. Manchester City will now have to deal with that.
Defensive Midfielder: Emmanuel Frimpong
You read it here first: Emmanuel Frimpong will be the next Jack Wilshere.
Maybe he won't have quite the same impact on the team at first and will not make an imrpession as immediately as Wilshere, but at the same age as Wilshere was last season—19—Frimpong's raw skill is already separating him from the rest.
Just ask Juan Riquelme. After his Boca Juniros side played Arsenal in the Emirates Cup, he said that Frimpong was the most dangerous Gunner on the pitch and the hardest to play against.
With his incredible strength and ball-winning skills that are unmatched by anyone on the current squad, Emmanuel Frimpong is guaranteed to make a significant impact on the team in the near future.
If only he had not been injured last season.
Central Midfielder: Jack Wilshere
By far the easiest selection on this list. FIve years from now, Wilshere will still be relatively young—only 24 years old. However, he already will have had hundreds of games of experience and will be a well-seasoned footballer by that point.
Indeed, many have earmarked Wilshere as a future captain, and he certainly has the look of one. Unlike Cesc Fabregas, Wilshere not only leads by example, but is very vocal and gives everything he has for an energetic and passionate 90 minutes.
With incredible ability to boot, it looks as if Arsene Wenger will look for Jack Wilshere to be the rock that be builds his team around in the future. And unlike the last rock, Fabregas, young Jack is not going anywhere; his loyalty to the club has deep roots.
Central Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey
Rounding out our (incredibly) all-British midfield is the supremely gifted Aaron Ramsey.
After regaining form and fitness following Ryan Shawcross's horrific tackle which broke his leg, Ramsey has shown that he is every bit the player that he was before the injury.
He has shown moments of sheer brilliance during this preseason, and with the departure of Cesc Fabregas imminent, it looks as if the Spaniard's boots are set to be filled by a Welsh wizard.
Ramsey's creative and shooting skill make him a significant asset to an Arsenal team that sometimes struggles to create chances and finish them when they are made.
With the thump of Frimpong and the creativeness and skill of Wilshere and Ramsey, the Arsenal midfield trio of the future will be sure to leave all Premier League teams quaking in their boots.
Right Winger: Theo Walcott
When Lionel Messi calls you "one of the most dangerous players I've ever played against," you know you are pretty good. He was not talking about Cesc Fabregas or Robin van Persie. No, Messi was lavishing praise on Theo Walcott.
Another member of the squad who is destined to stay in the starting XI, the jet-heeled English winger is the single most dangerous player on the pitch for Arsenal when he plays. And in five years time, when he is 26, Walcott will not have lost any of the pace or finishing ability that makes him so dangerous.
In fact, he will be in the prime of his career. And with one of the fastest players in the world continuing to run right at defences, Theo may give us the most dangerous wing tandem in the Premier League with...
Left Winger: Ryo Miyaichi
If Arsene Wenger has given any early indication, Ryo Miyaichi is destined to become a star for the Gunners.
Incredibly, Miyaichi was a massive hit at Feyenoord after jumping straight from high school football to the Eredivisie. And if Arsene Wenger is successful in getting a work permit for his 18-year-old sensation, Arsenal fans could be seeing Miyaichi regularly at the Emirates sooner rather than later.
Blessed with great pace and lovely skill, when one watches Miyaichi one discovers that it is no wonder the Japanese winger is so highly touted, even at his young age.
In five years, though, Miyaichi will be 23 and fully developed physically and as a footballer. Then we will really see what his true ability is.
Striker: Benik Afobe
Admittedly, this was the toughest decision on the whole list. Robin van Persie turns 28 years old on August 6, thus making him 33 at the start of the Premier League season five years from now.
While one may consider his time at Arsenal due to be over well before that due to Arsene Wenger's staunch policy of excluding players over the age of 30 from the squad, he kept Dennis Bergkamp around until he was 36, and the two Dutchmen play a similar style.
Ultimately, though, despite the fact that van Persie's legs are fresh due to his time spent out due to injury, he will probably not be a 90 minute forward at that point, especially with so many promising youngsters in the squad.
And spearheading that list is Afobe, who, like Ryo Miyaichi, will be 23 and nearly fully developed in 2016.
Simply put, the boy knows how to score goals. The number of goals Afobe has scored at the youth and reserve level is plain silly, and it seems as if Wenger is recognizing his immense talent by giving him some playing time in preseason.
In this mostly English team of the future, Afobe could spearhead a lethal attack which is fed by a creative and skilled midfield and backed up by a rock solid defence. The future looks bright, indeed.