Season Done. No Europe No Problem For Gunners.

So the season has (domestically) drawn to a close, Arsenal ended the season in 8th place in the end. Certainly not a finishing position we would have expected at the start of the season but here we are. I often highlight the impact the pandemic played as part in this outcome and its definitely a factor but not an excuse. All 19 other teams faced the same changes to situation. Some adapted better than others whilst many on assessment would feel they could have done much better.

An inexperienced manager faced a daunting challenge not faced by any experienced manager in history. He faced challenges, struggled to resolve initially then found a way to improve. Regardless of the circulating last 23 games (or now 24 games) form table that did the rounds for the past week enough damage was maybe done in that bad November/December spell to really sway the opinions of many fans on whether he is the right man to take the club forward.

We ended the season strongly and if anything it has shown we have a base to build from, the introduction of a number of youngsters in 2nd part of season played a part in the upturn in form and should lay the basis for Arteta to build around next season. Whether it’s too little too late for the fans and those responsible for the hiring and firing we will see. It’s important that whoever is in charge come August that we get behind the team and be that 12th man.

As confirmed after the results yesterday that assault on the new season will come without European football. For the majority of fans it will come as a blessing to not be involved in the Europa Conference League. A competition that will provide the cons of Thursday/Sunday fatigued football minus the pay off with the golden carrot of Champions League football to expect.

It was a competition when first announced was sneered at; it really seemed a bit of an embarrassment to be part of. Yes its European football but the standard/level of teams involved really hit home how bottom of the barrel we would be scraping if we qualified. The fact it was a reality going into the final round of games had fans calling for the team to lose just to avoid it happening.

I personally never wish Arsenal to lose and wanted a good win against Brighton first then deal with the consequences second. Although I did not agree I did emphasise with the Arsenal fans that thought that way. In the end we avoided qualifying for the competition and missed out on finishing above Spurs. The ideal outcome would have been Everton putting in a better effort against Man City and taking that spot whilst we won and Spurs lost to Leicester. Good thing I’m not a betting man as I’d be out of pocket.

A few positives from yesterday:

Pepe:

The Ivorian has had an indifferent start to his career at Arsenal, not helped by the price tag and expectation to single handedly win games for us because of it. It is refreshing to see his contributions this season have improved and there are signs that the player we first expected has reared his head and leaves us with optimism that his upward turn in contributions will continue into next season. Yesterdays 2 goals showed how much of a danger he can be and how important a run of games can have on a player.

Holding/Gabriel Clean sheet:

Yes, you read right, Holding and Gabriel played together and we achieved a clean sheet. There has been many grumbles that the two cannot play together and through a combination of bad fortune and some avoidable situations the stats backed up that claim. Holding has had a much improved season, whether he is seen as the elite level Arsenal fans expect the jury is still out but there’s no denying he’s always given his all for Arsenal and has registered some impressive performances.

Not toothless in defence

Gabriel seemed to have experienced second season syndrome halfway through his first season. He started the season on fire, looked the player we have missed for many a year then he got struck down with Covid 19 and since his return his performances have not matched the levels prior the sickness.  He hasn’t become a bad player overnight and has just struggled to return to his optimum level,. A full preseason will help him get back to the levels we have witnessed. He has a higher ceiling of potential than any of the other defenders we had this season and there’s nothing to indicate he can’t raise that bar once again. It was nice that the two managed a clean sheet and got that monkey off their back.  

Fans back:

Like a broken record I cannot overstate how the pandemic and crucially the lack of fans have played a part in our fortunes. It was refreshing to witness the fans cheering on the team not just in our game but across the Premier League for the past two rounds of games. It makes a difference, it really does. As an away player the abuse can help raise your own game, look at how Tierney played his part in our opening goal despite getting booed for pretty much the whole game by the Crystal Palace fans. Additionally the roar from home fans can inspire the home team onto victory. There was a feel good factor that could be seen in the player’s faces from playing in front of the fans yesterday. The fans acted as a 12th man and it made a difference yesterday. The freak stats of there being more away wins than home this season in the Premier League will be a thing of the past when the fans are back regularly next season. God forbid Covid 19 doesn’t take control again and some normality resumes. I certainly can’t wait to get back to the Emirates.

For now there’s a lot to reflect on for the season past, there’s likely to be a big summer of transfer activity not to mention the uncertainty of our ownership and whether the #KroenkeOut movement will prevail. These topics I will address in future posts but for now let’s wave goodbye to a season we would rather not experience again in our lifetime. Enjoy the Conference League Spurs!

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I write for.

What Options Next For Arsenal If They Fail On Thursday?

So, as Thursday approaches in what seems our most important game of the season so far we are left wondering what next based on the outcome from that game? Will an awkward reunion with Unai Emery be on the cards or will there be a need for the whole world to gobble us up as we struggle to come to terms with another failure in the Europa league? A competition we can admittedly say is below the level we aspire to be at but at same time haven’t managed to lift that trophy in the few years we have been competitors in.

Let’s take a look hypothetically at god forbid if we do crash out on the competition this week. What happens next? What do we want to see for the rest of our rollercoaster of a season?

Hang the DJ Manager

It’s hard not to notice the grumbles of disapproval of Mikel Arteta growing louder and louder in recent months across social media. Whether I agree with it or not a lot of fans are not in his corner right now and every result, every passage of play, every team line-up, every decision off the pitch is micro analysed to the point Arteta cannot win (even when he wins!). A firing in my opinion is too easy a cop out at this stage, yes the season on reflection has been terrible but expectations have to be aligned. We signed up for a long term project with a lot of bumps along the way not a ‘We should be challenging Man City to the very end in his first full season in charge’ expectation. Not even the current champions are sitting in a Champion’s League spot right now. Anyway let’s park the Arteta Out debate for now and just consider what do we do next?

Ditch the personnel not in future plans

Now with Europa League success off the table, there’s a debate to be had on whether to go all out to qualify for next seasons instalment of the competition. The true question to ask is should Mikel at this stage with not much on the table to chase; persevere with the players he may not wholeheartedly believe in and/or those he does have faith in but just let him down. Mindset could be switched to next season and those players he wants to keep. Before the season is done it may be an idea to just swing the hatchet now and give minutes and opportunities to those he sees a future in.

I don’t know what goes through Arteta’s mind, it may not simply be a case of those players he picks are the ones he believes in. Is Lacazette seen as part of the future? Has Xhaka been a heavy fixture in midfield not because of his faith from the manager but more so because all other alternative options were worse? Was the choice to sell Martinez and keep Leno agreed by the manager or was rank pulled by higher up to make some money for other transfers? Does Willian have something mandated in his contract to ensure he played? There are many more questions that could be put out there, only one man knows the answer to those questions and that is the manager. What would be nice to see is Mikel being given the freedom of choice to start building with immediate effect and no longer pander to any pressures to play anyone through higher intervention or contract clauses because there’s effectively nothing left to win.

Give the kids minutes

So with that in mind if Mikel was given the freedom to look to next season and with nothing to lose why not blood the kids he sees with big potential to contribute next season. One of the more obvious names to mention is Folarin Balogun, if the rumours that came out the tail end of last week are true that the young prospect is about to put pen to paper on a new contract and commit long term to the Gunners then what is there to lose to play him in all the remaining games. He has been highly talked up by everyone at the cub and it was only the uncertainty of his contract situation that left some negativity hanging over him. When he has played he has excited and offered something different to what we currently have. It would be great to see him get some valuable minutes and Premiership experience in preparation for next season.

Signed Da Ting?

In addition to Balogun the youngster closest to first team action is Miguel Azeez, also very highly rated; he made his first team debut this season and looked impressive in his little cameo. Get him in the midfield from now for some valuable experience, there really is nothing to lose from this and we have a very talented player who could well be our next star off the production line.

Third person I would consider is Joel Lopez, he made the bench in our last Europa League game and although the initial feedback that I’ve read on him is massive ceiling of potential but not first team ready just yet. I can understand with everything to play for chucking him in may have come at a risk but with that side of pressure now off, playing Premiership minutes would be invaluable and actually accelerate his development. It’s no secret we have a problem with cover for left back now that Kieran Tierney is broken so why not play a specialist left back coming through the ranks for rest of season? He may take to it like a duck to water.

You do question how accurate our judgement is on whether players are ready or not and I always like to look at the varying fortunes of our own William Saliba and Wesley Fofana at Leicester. Both very young exciting talents and both starred in the same Saint Etienne team before making big moves to Premiership clubs. One wasn’t deemed ready and shipped out on loan back to France whilst the other was shown some faith and is now considered one of the best young defenders in the league. You just need to look at the league table to see an 11 point difference between the clubs and question who has had more reason to be cautious about impact on their ambitions. It’s a slightly unfair comparison from me as other personal factors did play a part but I do believe we have a talent on our hands who could have at a minimum got minutes in Carabao cup games at expense of maybe Mustafi who clearly wasn’t deemed part of the future.

Provide a last chance to those in last chance saloon

Doesn’t take a genius to work out something has gone terribly wrong between Mikel Arteta and Reiss Nelson. Whether it was a disciplinary decision or something else the young winger has really dropped off the first team scene for past few months only making a few recent squad appearances probably more determined by an injury crisis than merit. The young winger in the early days under Mikel looked like he could potentially be taken under his wing and was being managed carefully for a bigger plan. Not helped by the exponential rise of the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, it seems the development of Nelson has gone stagnant. We know there’s ability in his feet but the chances just haven’t been taken as well as he would have liked or in comparison to the other youngsters I mentioned earlier. However with nothing to lose why not let him play and prove right whatever wrongs that are believed to be there?

What has happened?

Similar scenario applies to Eddie Nketiah, despite getting some minutes at the early part of the season, the performances on a whole were a mixed bag. Unfortunately for the modern day striker taking chances isn’t deemed enough and fans (and possibly the manager) want more all round contributions to the team play. Eddie has suffered from not impacting the game much when he isn’t on the end of chances however despite his absence from first team action he captained England  in the recent U21 Euros group games. On one hand it’s great that the manager showed enough faith in him to make him captain, he holds the record for most England goals at that level but unfortunately his impact in those three group games were minimal to say the least. Not helped by a lack of action for his club which clearly upset his fluidity and momentum leading to quite a bit of rust. So why not give him a run in the team to the end of the season. If it is last chance saloon lets give him get a chance to take that chance.

I was going to touch on maybe selection of a new captain but honestly I struggle to see many worthy candidates from the available players we have that are shoe ins for the honour next season. With that in mind I will leave that discussion for another time but for now let’s just hope everything I discussed doesn’t need to be discussed come full time on Thursday. We still have it all to play for and I hope Friday morning we will be having a conversation about the return of Emery.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I write for.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: Will This Move Do More Harm Than Good?

So, Transfer Deadline Day passed through with not too many fireworks from the Arsenal camp. Most of the touted departures happened except maybe for Reiss Nelson.

The most interesting departure to me wasn’t really about the player but the choice of club for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. West Bromwich Albion? I mean no disrespect to the football club and I’m sure the young England international will get the minutes he craves and has been denied at the Emirates.

I don’t know the goings on behind the scenes at the club but when hearing the teams that were interested in signing the youngster such as Leicester and Southampton they seemed a good fit. Clubs at the right end of the table and clubs that play decent football. The perfect setting in my eyes for Ainsley to bring his game along with regular starts.

Now the rumours that were bandied about were that Arsenal was not keen on lending a player to a direct rival. This is something that I personally don’t agree with. I’d have gripes maybe through years of history if one of the clubs were a Manchester United, a Liverpool or God forbid a Spurs but to deny him to hopefully better himself and return to the club a better player then Southampton and Leicester were great choices.

Yes you can call those clubs rivals but let’s put it this way, are Arsenal due to play those clubs every week until the season ends? They will play both clubs once more and through loan rules Maitland Niles won’t be lining up against the club. He is a talented player and will add to those clubs but when it comes down to the crunch Arsenal Football Club is responsible for its own destiny.

If Arsenal fails at the last hurdle it will come down to their results they achieve between now and the end of the season. The results of other clubs should not be their concern, focusing on beating the team in front of them is all that matters.

If Maitland Niles is still part of the long term future for Arsenal then his development at a higher level club should have been paramount.

Now the final decision may not have all fallen at the hands of the club and it is rumoured that Maitland Niles took particular interest in the role he would play at his future temporary club.

He came through the ranks as a midfielder however broke into first team football as an auxiliary full back. His adaptability has been a blessing and a curse for him, many still lead calls for him to be given a run of games in his favoured position in the middle of the park. However he has impressed when played as right back and at times deputising as a left back more so than any of his midfield appearances.

Do I think he play in midfield? Well the answer is yes. Do I think him being solely a midfielder he would be a starter in the Arsenal midfield I would say no. I feel there would be too many specialist midfielders that would be ahead of him in the pecking order, even Joe Willock being one of them.

It’s a tricky situation and having an opportunity to get games in midfield is a perfect opportunity to prove Mikel (and myself) wrong. This is probably why I have the biggest issue with the choice of club. West Brom with Sam Allardyce at the helm just doesn’t scream out to me great football that can bring out the best in our player. This is a club in a relegation scrap being managed by a manager whose philosophy is more likely to bypass neat intricate play in midfield in favour of lumping it up to the forwards. I have to hold my hands up that I haven’t watched West Brom games and they could well be incorporating a quality passing game but I’ve witnessed enough Allardyce games over the years to draw a conclusion that that probably isn’t the  case.

The move almost mirrors that of the loan Serge Gnabry had with West Brom under Tony Pulis. Totally different players I understand but both loaned to a team that play in a style that doesn’t compliment the strengths of the player.

That makes you question the thought process behind the move and hope Ainsley has thought this through properly with his agent. Especially when you consider the other factor that was noted for the midfielder’s desperation to get minutes: his new England career.

As we all know Maitland-Niles has been a feature in the last few England squads based on his performances for Arsenal as full back. His adaptability on either flank was something that appealed to Gareth Southgate and led to a call up. Now it is known that Ainsley is desperate to get a taste of International Football at a major tournament and pushed for a loan to ensure he gets a chance to fulfil this at the upcoming Euros.

You have to realise that he has earned his England caps so far on the basis of his full back performances and has played in that position for England. Will he be enhancing or hindering his chances for selection by now playing in Midfield? A position just like at Arsenal he would struggle to dislodge the specialist midfielders. Admittedly his England chances were being harmed just as much by staying at Arsenal and hardly playing. He’s going to be getting the minutes but not in the position he earned his England caps for.

His adaptability is still a big sell and just playing puts him in the sights of Gareth Southgate. Whether it pays off time will tell. I hope he makes a success of his loan as I am still a big fan of the player in the full back position he’s not as keen on compared to other positions. He has the athleticism and I feel he fits the mould of the type of fullback that makes Mikel Arteta’s game plan work by transitioning between full back and midfield during the game. Feels like it was the perfect fit but dislodging Hector Bellerin has been a challenge he has struggled to win.

Given the timing of his signing he could be making his debut against Spurs. West Brom has got a lot more interested spectators now for the rest of the season. I hope they can put in a good fight to beat relegation inspired by Maitland-Niles in their team. He has a few former Arsenal players to help him settle in as a relegation threatened team needs players to hit the ground running which I’m sure he can do. Can’t think of a better way to start than with three points against Spurs. Good luck Ainsley.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I write for.

Gunners To Seek Revenge Minus Aubameyang

The FA Cup weekend is over now, the last one of the season for Arsenal. However disappointing it all felt we have to always look forward. We won’t be adding to our record number of FA Cup wins but there’s still plenty football to be played and targets to be achieved.

We entered this week ready to conclude round two of the matches away to Southampton, a match now with a lot at stake especially for Mikel Arteta’s reputation. The strength of the team was sacrificed at the weekend with one eye firmly placed on obtaining maximum points in the Premier League match up. A masterstroke when it comes off but serious questions will be asked of the manager if that isn’t the case at the final whistle tonight.

With the news breaking yesterday on the dismissal of Frank Lampard as head coach of Chelsea it really does shine a different light on how little time there is allowed for the modern day manager. Admittedly Chelsea have form for sacking managers on a whim and all the goodwill of being deemed a legend player for the club means absolutely nothing when you consider the amount invested over the summer that hasn’t reaped the rewards in the Premier League. Calls for the dismissal of Mikel only weeks ago were rightly ignored as he needed to be afforded time to address the problems he was experiencing. He has a transfer window to make some changes and of course he will live and die by those decisions. Time will tell but as a club Arsenal would be best to not follow the Chelsea blueprint for hiring and firing.

Southampton went full strength against the Gunners in which they are entitled to but the hope is that extra bit of fatigue will show when the two teams meet again. Our saviours so far this season ‘the kids’ will be unleashed from the off and it is hoped they will make the difference.

As per the reasons for Aubameyang to miss the weekend game it seems highly likely he will miss the game tonight which will be a massive miss. Just as it looked like a corner could have finally been turned in his patchy form, any continuity will now be disrupted as he takes time to process his personal issues. We wish our captain well and hope he can overcome his situation with full support from the club, family and close friends.

Even with an off form Aubameyang the opposition will always have a game plan that focuses on nullifying his strengths which in turn opens up spaces for the likes of Saka and Smith Rowe to exploit. Now with him out of the mix for the game who will take his place? There are a number of options, whether they are earned on merit is down to the interpretation of the reader.

Will Pepe be that guy to play on the left? He certainly isn’t the flavour of the month right now with many fans that were keeping the faith giving up. He didn’t have his best game against Southampton. In reality none of his best games have come in the league yet this season. If I’m being honest there is an extra level of scrutinising applied to the Ivoirian’s performances, every touch, every pass, every shot  gets analysed more so than other players. This may lead to a bias on the overall view of his performances and he is almost written off before he kicks a ball. However given the amount of money we paid for him the expectation for him to do more goes hand in hand with the extra scrutiny he receives.

For as much as he didn’t do on Saturday there were some good pieces of play, not enough consistently throughout the 90 minutes but I could think back to a peach of a free kick laid onto Martinelli’s feet that wasn’t capitalised or a sweet through ball to Nketiah that was also wasted. We had a number of years where Ozil would be anonymous in games but his one or two moments of magic would result in chances on goal which when scored would be the only thing we crow about. Before you pick up your pitchforks and demand my extradition to Alcatraz I’m not comparing him to the German I’m just merely stating the fine margins in football when chances are taken.

If Pepe is not the option then we could go with Martinelli? The young Brazilian has been a breath of fresh air since he returned to the team this season after his long layoff. His energy and quality has been a major boost to the team and provided more options for Mikel when choosing his team. If we are being honest on Saturday he didn’t cover himself in glory and was actually more ineffectual than Pepe. This could be down to a number of reasons having just overcome that ankle jarring recently before the Newcastle game. This will likely have led to a bit of time off training and he just needed a tiny bit more time to get his groove back and fire on all cylinders. Time is on his side, he’s young and a one off bad game doesn’t trigger any red flags. The only worry is the stop start to his routine since returning with a couple niggling injuries picked up that could act as a hindrance; other than that he is comfortable operating that left wing. He seems the type that would want to play regardless of his injury state and Arteta needs to fully assess him to ensure he doesn’t trigger anything that could lead to a longer time amount of time on the treatment table.   

If Martinelli isn’t risked to start then another option is Willian… erm. No comment, I have a family I need to provide for.

Two options could be to switch either Saka or Smith-Rowe to the left side, it may not be ideal to remove them from the positions where they have been excelling in recently however both are capable to play there. I doubt Mikel would get any reluctance from either if asked to play in that position and I have every confidence they wouldn’t disappoint.  Playing either there would most likely lead to one of the names I mentioned earlier taking up the vacated spots. It’s a dilemma Mikel will have to think about, it’s good to have options but you have to ensure you make the right choice for the optimum possible outcome.

I didn’t add Reiss Nelson to that list because it’s hard to see how he gets back into reckoning at the moment. His absence from the Arsenal squad on Saturday could be down to a number of things, could there be an impending loan deal in the works? Does Mikel after now having spent a year with him decided he’s just not had an effective enough impact on the team like some of his fellow Hale end graduates? Or has Reiss simply been outed as the mole in the squad? Your guess is as good as mine but the youngsters absence is a question that certainly needs to be addressed to Mikel Arteta. I can’t imagine him being elevated into the match day squad for tonight after his lack of involvement in any capacity on Saturday. As far as I know he has been training regularly and there have been no updates on injuries so let’s see how that one plays out.

Roll on kick off, I’m itching to see the team get over the disappointing result from the weekend and take advantage of the immediate chance to exact revenge on Southampton.

Come on you Gunners!

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I also write for.

Balogun: Will He Be Making A Mistake Leaving?

Yesterday news had broke through the Athletic that our own Folarin Balogun was due to sign a pre contract agreement with an unnamed foreign club. News that is a bit gutting to many Gunners fans as it is clear as day this kid is a talent and has the potential to be a top player. The speculation on whether he would sign a new contract is something that has swung above the head of the club like Damocles sword for the best part of a year now.

It’s the nature of the beast when it comes to youth football, these kids initially sign medium length contracts to start with in the hope that they develop to the levels that result in being ready for first team football. It is always a gamble and a game of chess between Player, Club and of course their family/agents on whether they prove their worth resulting in a more lucrative, longer term contract.

It’s that in between grey area period in which a player can weigh up their options and then struggle to resist the temptation to peer over into other fields and see if the grass looks a little greener when it becomes apparent  they are a wanted man. When a player is not deemed quite the level that the club are looking for; to then release them is a swift and ruthless process no young player wants to experience. There’s potentially a villain on either side of the negotiation table.

Clubs invest a lot in their youth development and to see fruition of their time and money is always gratifying so when in the odd times when a player decides pass up on a new contract and move elsewhere it can be quite gutting and frustrating. Questions get asked and learning’s are made to avoid losing big talents for nothing in future.

Fans don’t always understand or should I say accept such decisions but when playing devil’s advocate it is not always greed that can lead a player to want to take a slightly different option to take their career to the next stage.

Factors come into play, do they see a path to the first team or is it blocked by other players ahead of them. Some youngsters just want to play football wherever they can get it and see first team opportunities may present themselves a lot sooner at other clubs or it could simply be bad advice from an agent or family. There isn’t always patience from young players and when being told they are not ready yet it may be hard to take especially if they glance at the first team and see themselves as better than senior players in their position. Some may not accept being told they still have flaws to work on when other clubs tell them the opposite and promise first team football.

Arsenal have had their fair share of players lost on a free through reluctance to sign a contract over the years, some of those players have gone on to carve top level careers whilst others have not quite hit the levels they may have envisioned. It really is a gamble and being the star player or biggest prospect at one club doesn’t always equate to being that same stature of player elsewhere.

You could list such names as Marcus McGuane, Josh Dasilva, Xavier Ameachi and Chris Williock as players over recent years who decided to refuse a contract and move on. Let’s have a little look at how those players have fared.

Josh Dasilva was highly rated and it was a bit of a surprise when he went to Brentford, admittedly he has carved out a decent career with the Championship club so far and recently caught the eye in the Carabao Cup victory over Newcastle. He is very much a part of the England youth set up and a regular feature in the U21 squads.  He is definitely on the radar of bigger clubs and it won’t be long before he is gracing the Premiership with either Brentford or another club.  

Marcus McGuane must have believed he hit the jackpot when he secured a move to Barcelona. You can’t begrudge a player when such a European super power comes a knocking. At the time he was on the fringes of the first team making his debut, gaining some valuable minutes in the Europa League for the Gunners. However he made the move to Spain after letting his contract run down, I believe making a first team appearance in a Super Cup game but primarily played for the Barcelona B team. After a while he went on loan to Holland for a season and was then signed by Nottingham Forest playing for their reserve team initially before being sent out on loan this season to Oxford United.  He could well turn out to be a fine player but you can’t help but feel he has taken a lot of sideways moves in his career so far and wonder was it worth leaving Arsenal when he did.

Xavier Ameachi you have to say has been a bit unlucky in his Arsenal career. He looked a top talent in all the times I had seen him and looked a dead cert for the first team. He was up there with Reiss Nelson at the time in my opinion and making that left side of attack his own. Then misfortune struck, he suffered a bad injury that put him out of the team and the limelight for a while. In that time he was on the treatment table the first team then had a requirement for an attacking left sided player and low and behold a kid from the group of scholars younger that Ameachi’s was promoted to the reserves to fill in. Based on impressive performances for the reserves that certain Buyako Saka was afforded minutes in the first team and hasn’t looked back since. Ameachi on the other hand returned to fitness but wasn’t in a position to usurp the new star kid on the block. Seeing his pathway blocked he decided to take on a new adventure abroad in Germany and is currently plying his trade for Hamburger SV. He is still very young and I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before we see him back on these shores hopefully at highest level.

Chris Willock’s name is better known given to the fact his brother Joe is very much a current first team player at Arsenal. Chris was probably deemed as the most talented of the three Willock brothers. He was certainly highly rated within the club and was given first team minutes in the League cup by Arsene Wenger. Sadly he didn’t see his future at the club and upon the expiration of his contract decided to take on an adventure in Portugal by signing for Benfica. Similar to McGuane this didn’t result in first team football for Benfica but a playing career for their B team. This resulted after a couple seasons with some loan spells back in the UK firstly with West Brom and then with Huddersfield Town. He eventually left Benfica and was signed permanently by QPR this season where he’s plying his trade in the Championship.

There’s no guarantee that any of these players if they stayed on with the Arsenal would be first team regulars and still at the club today however we have always had a history of giving opportunities to youngsters. Many of whom carved out good careers for themselves based on the experience provided in the Arsenal team. If Balogun does indeed pass up on signing a contract and moves on he isn’t the first and he won’t be the last to make that choice. There’s no guarantee he will fulfil all potential if he stays same way he cannot be guaranteed he will fulfil it elsewhere. One thing we can assure him as fans is there is a massive belief in his abilities and a massive push mainly on social media for Mikel Arteta to afford him more minutes in the first team.  I for one hope he does stay but if he does decide to move on then good luck to him. We move forward as a club regardless if it’s a first team player or a youth prospect that chooses to leave.

Enjoy you day people.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I also write for.

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