Arsenal young guns in profile: The youth stars looking to impress Arsene Wenger in the Europa League

James Benge
Evening Standard

Arsene Wenger promised to name a “young bench” for Arsenal’s Europa League trip to Belarus, and it seems highly likely he is about to oblige.

In addition to the usual young faces who have been a more regular presence on the bench, Arsenal boss Wenger is set to pick a number that may be unfamiliar to many outside Hale End.

Vlad Dragomir, Charlie Gilmour and Marcus McGuane could all be in line to make their senior debuts having impressed for Steve Gatting’s youth team, and they likely won’t be the only ones given a chance to shine.

Standard Sport examines Wenger’s young guns below…

Reiss Nelson

The jewel in the crown, and perhaps the most exciting prospect to emerge from Hale End since Jack Wilshere.

Having spent much of last season eviscerating his contemporaries in Premier League 2, his promotion to the first team - where he is viewed as the likely successor to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - has been inevitable for some time.

Naturally an attacking winger, Wenger’s pet project may well be converting Nelson into a buccaneering right wing-back, having played him in that position both in pre-season games as well as Europa League and EFL Cup ties.

Eddie Nketiah

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

A goal machine at youth level, Nketiah faces as tough a challenge as any youngster in finding any significant opportunities in Wenger’s overloaded frontline. But with 27 goals in 39 youth games, he is making a convincing case.

Once of Chelsea, Nketiah is now an increasingly familiar name on the Arsenal bench and has caught Wenger’s eye.

The coach said of Nketiah: "I like the quality of Eddie’s movement, the quality of the areas he gets into, his strength, his determination to finish things off and his work rate as well.

Joe Willock

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The last of the Willock clan left at Arsenal, with Matty having joined Manchester United in 2012 and the highly-rated Chris having been nabbed by Benfica on a free transfer this summer.

A rangy midfielder capable of pushing play forward from deep midfield, his growing prominence was reflected in Wenger’s decision to name Willock, and not Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, alongside Aaron Ramsey in the Emirates Cup.

Josh DaSilva

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Another from a family of bright youngsters - brother Jay is on Chelsea’s books - Josh made his Arsenal debut in the EFL Cup third-round win over Doncaster. After some initial struggles against the League One opponents, DaSilva settled in alongside Per Mertesacker.

Those difficulties may partly be down to the fact DaSilva is more naturally a deep midfielder, but his versatility will doubtless be popular with Wenger, who has taken a shine to Ainsley Maitland-Niles for similar reasons.

Marcus McGuane

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

An all-action midfielder, McGuane could perhaps merge into the sort of powerhouse Arsenal have often lacked in midfield with the right coaching - though at 18 years of age, he may be one for Wenger's successor.

Still, he seems a particularly bright prospect for his ability to combine defensive duties with attacking bursts.

But with McGuane’s contract expiring at the end of the season there may be cause for concern, as Juventus are reportedly keen to whisk him away.

Vlad Dragomir

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal had to beat the likes of Inter Milan and Monaco to secure the signature of the Romanian Under-16 captain in a £100,000 move from Timisoara in the summer of 2015,

Since then the 18-year-old has advanced to his nation’s U21 side.

Dragomir has compared himself to Toni Kroos and certainly is blessed with exceptional vision. However the youngster is a more natural fit behind a central striker… maybe he should be looking to replace Mesut Ozil instead?

Charlie Gilmour

Part of the Arsenal setup since the age of six, Scottish youth international Gilmour is another natural central midfielder who is inspired by one of the greats in his position.

"I use both feet and am developing my skills with Santi [Cazorla] as a model," he said. "Santi has such quick feet and can go in any direction - that’s why opponents don’t know what he’s going to do.

"Santi has so much footballing talent but he also has the talent to use it. He gives everything for every minute of every game. That’s why I admire him so much."

Matt Macey

(Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Macey first appeared in Arsenal squads as early as November 2014 and has spent time on loan at Accrington Stanley, Bristol Rovers and Luton Town, for whom he made 11 appearances.

The 6ft 7in keeper is established as Arsenal’s third-choice goalkeeper with Emiliano Martinez out on loan, though he is unlikely to be given many opportunities unless Petr Cech and David Ospina are injured.

Chuba Akpom

(Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Now 21, Akpom has seen his progress stall over recent years, particularly after agreeing a four-and-a-half year contract early in 2015. At the time he was featuring in Premier League and FA Cup games, but those avenues have since closed.

A string of loan moves to the Championship have seen him struggle for consistency, and his future at the Emirates does not seem particularly promising.

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