Ever since the Invincibles, Arsenal have always seemed to be one piece short: a star striker, a brick wall defender, a box-to-box midfielder. The puzzle seems prematurely complete.
I’ve always shied away from glorifying young players. It seems the more we want them to be world-class, the more they miss the mark. There was a time where we expected the core of Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Walcott, The Ox, and Jenkinson to lift the EPL trophy.
Now, however, I’m ready to forgive and forget. Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Mattéo Guendouzi, Kieran Tierney, Nicolas Pépé, and Calum Chambers have shown me everything I need to see.
Calum Chambers, 25, always seems as if he’s about to take the next step before he runs into another injury. During the 16/17 season at Middlesbrough, he missed 9 weeks with a foot injury. In 17/18 he missed 8 weeks with a hip injury and now he’s recovering from an ACL tear.
If Chambers can stay on the pitch and build a good partnership with another youngster, Saliba, we could have the diverse defensive wall we’ve been craving.
When asked on a Reddit threat what his favourite thing about living in London is, Kieran Tierney, 22, replied: “Just playing for Arsenal. I didn’t move to Arsenal to live in London. I came here to London so I could play for Arsenal.”
The Scottish international has the strength, pace, and level-headedness required to flourish. If he remains injury-free he’ll be in a good position to lead the backline with Chambers.
Mattéo Guendouzi, 20, is Arsenal’s wildcard. If his attitude and hot-headedness aren’t in check, he will risk being dropped again by Arteta. But, if he works on his decision-making, timing, creativity, and defence over the forthcoming years, he could be truly dangerous.
Guendouzi is the raw embodiment of a perfect box-to-box midfielder: quick, relentless, strong, and determined. Guendouzi’s potential seems limitless. Whether Arteta is able to mould him into a calm and rational midfielder is another story.
Of all the Arsenal prospects, none have impressed me more than 18-year-old Bukayo Saka. The makeshift left-back is lethal in the final third (4 goals and 8 assists this season) and has added much needed defensive versatility to his game. Once Tierney is fit, the left flank will host a dangerous combination.
Next, my favourite talking point: Gabriel Martinelli. To be likened to Ronaldo by none other than Ronaldinho, Martinelli has some serious shoes to fill. The 18-year-old has netted 11 goals and 2 assists this season including a incredible solo effort against Chelsea.
Martinelli has strength, pace, agility, and most of all, hunger. When asked which player he was most blown away by and which player has the most potential at Arsenal, Kieran Tierney’s answer was the same: Gabriel Martinelli. If Arteta can develop Gabby and fend off big clubs, we may have a genuine star on our hands.
Finally, the future leader of our front line, 24-year-old Nicolas Pépé. Mesut Özil, Alexandre Lacazette, and Granit Xhaka are all high-profile transfers who had ough first seasons at Arsenal. Pépé has 7 goals and 8 assists this season, equalling his record at Lille and showing that his playmaking prowess has not been lost.
When Pépé regains momentum and adjusts to Premier League football, he will be just as scintillating, electric, and confident as we all expect him to be.
Honourable mentions: Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira, William Saliba, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Arteta has mountains of potential in his roster; whether he can cultivate the class of 2020 into a true championship-winning side remains to be seen.
Header Photo: Davidhc, 2007.