Arsenal’s summer transfer window is replicating their end of season form: an unmitigated disaster.
After losing key figures in the dressing room such as Aaron Ramsey and Petr Cech, club captain and long-serving centre back Laurent Koscielny refused to travel with the squad on their pre-season tour as he seeks to push through an exit.
While plenty are leaving, the Gunners only have a reported transfer budget of £45m to fill the gaps, forcing manager Unai Emery to look to the academy ahead of the fast-approaching Premier League campaign.
With a lot of recruitment probably coming from within this summer, here is a list of six young prospects who deserve to muscle their way into the first-team plans for 2019/20.
One of the more obvious weapons in the Gunners’ armory, Nelson enjoyed a fruitful season-long loan at Hoffenheim and earned himself a place in the England Under-21 side at this summer’s European Championships.
The winger scored seven league goals for the German club and was a shining example of how a loan spell outside of England can benefit young players.
Nelson produced enough evidence during his time abroad to suggest he can make an impact in the Premier League next year. Whilst he is still very young and raw, the 19-year-old has the pace and quick feet that can terrify any full back in the top flight.
Whilst he may begin life as a speedy weapon coming off the bench against tiring defences, the youngster could play his way into Emery’s thoughts and into the starting lineup.
Emile Smith Rowe
Smith Rowe has already written himself into the Arsenal record books, as in September 2018 he became the first Gunner born in the 2000s to make a first-team appearance.
The intelligent attacking midfielder has seen his opportunities have remained limited due to Arsenal’s pre-existing creative talent, including the club’s highest earner, Mesut Ozil.
However, with Emery’s faith in the German waning, Smith-Rowe may soon spot regualr first-outings on the horizon.
His determination, quick feet and eye for a pass make him an exciting alternative to the increasingly uninterested Ozil, while Emery has not been afraid to drop the former Real Madrid star in the past. Watch this space.
The London-born striker arrived at Arsenal from local rivals Chelsea in 2015, and supporters are eager to see more of the 20-year-old next year.
His first-team chances have been limited by an abundance of expensive recruitments ahead of him, particularly the current duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Nevertheless, Nketiah has shown glimpses of his talent and bags of potential when presented with an opportunity. He bagged his first Premier League goal in May 2019 against Burnley, and although he may have to settle for more substitute appearances, he may be called upon if the Gunners suffer another injury crisis. If they do, he’ll be ready.
Former Arsenal head of recruitment Sven Mislintat was frustrated by the lack of opportunities handed to Willock, following the arrival of Denis Suarez from Barcelona in January. The youngster made his first-team debut in September 2017 against Doncaster Rovers, but since then he has only gone on to make four league appearances for the Gunners.
Willock is a dynamic midfielder who loves to carry the ball. and break between the lines. His quick feet and neat dribbling make him an exciting prospect in the Arsenal midfield next season.
He also provided a brief flash of his skills as substitute in the Europa League final, creating a great opportunity for himself, only to fire narrowly wide. His efforts made a statement however, that he’s ready to meet the demands of regular first-team football.
Another of Mislintat’s admirers, Saka has been threatening to break into the Arsenal side since Christmas, and has been unlucky not to do so. The infamous Suarez signing stopped the 17-year-old In his tracks, but his time may finally be around the corner.
The winger made one league appearance for the Gunners last season, a seven-minute cameo against Fulham, but he’ll be hoping to show Emery his true potential during Arsenal’s pre-season tour.
The England under-19 international scored for his side in their 3-0 win over Colorado Rapids on Monday night, and his electrifying pace and direct running terrorised the American defence. If he continues to put in performances of this quality for Emery, the youth academy product may start the season at the top of the pecking order.
As Arsenal look to improve their defensive record over the coming season, this youngster could be a wildcard addition to the Gunners’ backline. Ballard is a towering, robust centre back who has shown plenty of determination and desire in his short career so far.
Released by Arsenal as a schoolboy, he was then brought back to the Emirates’ academy, earned himself a professional contract in June, and now looks to be part of Emery’s first-team plans.
With Koscielny unhappy in England, and Mustafi’s Arsenal career in tatters, the 19-year-old Northern Ireland international may be one solution to Arsenal’s defensive woes.