A lot has been made of the need for Arsenal to buy some experienced players this summer to strengthen their team for the challenges ahead. Yet again last season Arsenal failed at the final hurdle, and it seemed like the team just didn't have the experience required to keep their challenge going. I'm sure Arsene Wenger will do his utmost to tackle those issues this summer, and bring in the players the squad obviously needs.
It has to be remembered that Arsenal have a very strong youth set up, and there are plenty of young players looking to make the breakthrough into the senior squad too. Last season Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny, and Johan Djourou all played very big parts in the first team, and they had 110 appearances between them. Each of those players would have been seen as players with potential at this time last year, and when their chances arrived they all too them.
Arsenal have quite a few young players who could be currently viewed in the same light as those three were at this time last year, and I will attempt to judge the chances of five of them making their breakthrough in 2011/12. Of course each player Arsenal sign will hamper the chances of those youngsters to make the step up, but I hope they can still do enough to make a name for themselves.
Ryo Miyaichi joined Arsenal straight from school in Japan in January 2011 after impressing on trial with them. He was very quickly loaned out to Feyenoord in Holland, and in the 12 games he played for them last season he was very impressive. He managed three goals and four assists in those games, and his style gave rise to the Dutch media calling him "Ryodinho".
He is only 18 years old and he still has a lot to learn, but his raw talent looks like it could take him a long way. As with any player from outside the European Union there might be difficulties obtaining a work permit, but if Arsenal can sort out the paperwork he could make a big impact next season. Arsenal are in need of a winger who can take defenders on and beat them, and Miyaichi fits the bill perfectly.
Hopefully the Arsenal fans will get to see him ply his trade in the Premier League next season, and thrill them as he turns defenders inside out.
Henri Lansbury is a very highly rated midfielder who joined Arsenal from Norwich City at a very young age in 1999. He spent much of last season on loan to Norwich, and he helped them to gain promotion to the Premier League in the process. He is now 20 years old, and he's approaching the age where he needs to make the step up to the Arsenal first team squad.
His progress was hampered a couple of seasons ago by a bout of glandular fever, and despite making a relatively quick recover it's possible that it is still affecting him slightly. Over the last three seasons he has racked up almost 100 appearances on loan to Scunthorpe United, Watford and Norwich, and he managed 14 goals and 14 assists in the process. He is definitely the most experienced of the five players, and this quite simply has to be his breakthrough season.
He played once for the first team last season, and he was by no means out of place as he scored in a 4-1 Carling Cup victory away to Tottenham Hotspur. I think he should be given some opportunities as part of a full strength team where he can show how easily he can fit in with Arsenal's style of play.
Arsenal signed Kyle Bartley from Bolton Wanderers in 2007 when he was only 16 years old, and he has gradually progressed over the last four years. He is a tall and strong centre back who can also play in a defensive midfield role if required. Over the last couple of seasons he has been loaned out to both Sheffield United and Glasgow Rangers, and he has impressed at both clubs.
He learned to play football the hard way at a struggling Sheffield United, but he was still impressive in his central defensive role. When he was loaned to Rangers he was deployed in a defensive midfield role, and he was making a great impression when his season was ended by injury. A few teams are keen on taking the 20 year old on loan next season, but he has made it clear he feels it's time for him to progress at Arsenal.
If Arsenal fail to find suitable cover for Alex Song he could be the man to take the role despite his lack of games in that position. He has the physicality needed to play the position, and he was very impressive in doing so for Rangers. Like so many others his chances might just depend on how Arsenal fare in the transfer market, or on injuries to other players at crucial times.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas joined Arsenal when he was only seven years old, and now at the age of 20 he is another player who will feel it is time for him to make an impression in the first team. He has spent much of the last two seasons on loan at Blackpool, Doncaster Rovers, and Blackpool, and he has impressed at times with those clubs. His attitude has also been called into question at times too, and he needs to work a lot harder on his game if he is to be a star of the future.
He started last season in spectacular form for Arsenal's reserves with 10 goals in his first six games, and he seemed destined to make an impact in the first team. Unfortunately his first team appearances were restricted to brief cameos as a substitute, and his form for the reserves seemed to suffer as a result. In January he was loaned to Cardiff, and he went on to make 16 appearances for them as they lost out in the promotion play offs.
He is a very talented player with bags of potential, but there have been rumours of attitude problems at times. If he can get his head down and work really hard there is no reason why he cannot make a huge impact for Arsenal. However, if he doesn't get his chance this season he might possibly decide that his future lies elsewhere.
Francis Coquelin is a 20 year old midfielder who joined Arsenal in 2008 from Stade Lavallois in France. His appearances for Arsenal have been few and far between so far, but on his last appearance at right back against Stoke City he looked out of his depth. Since then he has spent a season on loan with Lorient in France where he made 25 appearances.
Most of those games were played in midfield and he would look to be the most likely player to cover for Alex Song next season. At the moment Arsenal have no experienced cover for Song, but Emmanuel Frimpong was thought to be the man to fill the role last season. His season long injury means he has not played in almost a year, but Coquelin spent that time gaining valuable experience in the top flight of French football.
If Arsenal decide to keep Coquelin at the club next season he is the man most likely to fill in when Song is injured or rested, as he has the experience of playing that role at a high level already. It's up to the player to show what he can do when the chances come his way, and if he can do that Coquelin could have a long and fruitful career ahead of him at Arsenal. However, like so many other players he will know that his future at Arsenal will be in serious doubt if he fails to take the chances when they arrive.
Arsenal won the FA Youth Cup in 2009, and four of those players were part of that team. The only player not involved in both games was Miyaichi, as he was still playing in Japan at the time. That Arsenal team were very impressive in the winning the trophy, and it's getting to the stage where some of the players from that team need to make an impression in the first team.
Jack Wilshere was also a member of that team, and he played 49 times in Arsenal's first team last season. He will be seen as the yardstick for any of those players to measure themselves against, but he will be a hard act to follow. I hope all five of them can make a real impression on the first team next season, and give Wenger some real selection headaches.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at why JET is rated so highly.
See You Tomorrow