The Gunners have some promising youngsters coming through the ranks, we take a look at who impressed the most during 2018/19
It’s been a season of change at Arsenal as Unai Emery attempts to take the Gunners back towards the top of the Premier League after the decline of recent years.
Securing Champions League football again – and the riches it brings with it – is seen as vital at the Emirates having missed out on qualifying for Europe’s top competition for the past two campaigns.
And that is not always the perfect recipe for bringing youngsters through, with experience often seen as the more risk-free option for a new coach who is trying to achieve such difficult objectives.
But there have been a few exceptions at Arsenal in the past 12 months. Here Goal takes a look at three youngsters who have impressed at the Emirates throughout the 2018/19 season.
It’s been an incredible season for 17-year-old Bukayo Saka, one that saw him make his Premier League debut.
When he came on for the final seven minutes against Fulham on New Year’s Day, he became the first ever player to play in the Premier League who had been born in 2001.
That was one of four first-team appearances for Saka, who made his first start in the 1-0 home win against Vorksla in the Europa League at the Emirates.
The young winger is an exceptional talent, one who Arsenal believe can go on and make it to the very top. It’s no surprise that there is already significant interest in him from abroad.
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Despite being just 17, he made 20 appearances for Freddie Ljungberg’s Under-23s this season, scoring five goals and setting up seven.
Speaking about his team-mate, Joe Willock said: “He’s a brilliant player. We all know in the camp that he’s one of the most talented players we have.
“He’s very fast and if you play to his strengths he’s unstoppable at times.”
Saka also made four appearances for the U18s last season, scoring five times and he netted once in four Checkatrade Trophy games for the U21s.
Given his performances at Under-23 level this season, Joe Willock can count himself unlucky that he only made five senior appearances in all competitions.
That’s six less than he made under Arsene Wenger in the 2017/18 campaign, which is a surprise given how he has played when handed a chance by Unai Emery.
In those five showings this season, Willock has scored three goals for the first team. He netted an excellent strike in Kiev against FC Vorskla in the Europa League and followed that up with a brace when Arsenal won 3-0 at Blackpool in the FA Cup third round.
But after that double at Bloomfield Road in early January, Willock had to wait until the final day of the league season to make another start when he was named in the XI to take on Burnley at Turf Moor.
The only other time he appeared for Emery’s side was a two minute cameo at the end of the 2-1 success at Huddersfield Town in February.
Despite his limited showings for the senior side, this has still been an impressive season for Willock who has taken his performances to a new level under Freddie Ljungberg in the Under-23s.
He made 13 appearances in Premier League 2, scoring seven times and contributing two assists. He has also scored three times in two games for the U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy.
The French youngster’s debut season in England has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Guendouzi was the last of Arsenal’s five signings last summer and was by far the least heralded, with the £7 million deal from Lorient coming somewhat out of the blue.
The midfielder, who grew up dreaming of Arsenal, was secured by former head of recruitment Sven Mislintat – with Arsenal beating a number of other clubs to the signature of the former Paris Saint Germain youth product.
Unai Emery said straight away that Guendouzi would link up with the first-team squad, but the expectation was that he would spend much of the season acclimatising to his new surroundings having arrived from the French second division.
But from the moment he started the first of Arsenal’s pre-season games in Singapore against PSG, it was clear that Guendouzi had something special about him.
There were no nerves. In fact he took the game by the scruff of the neck and he continued that form throughout the summer to earn himself a starting spot against Manchester City on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
He went on to make 47 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners, only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Iwobi and Lucas Torreira made more.
It’s true that Guendouzi’s performances did dip over the second half of the campaign, but that is to be expected from a 20-year-old adjusting to the demands of the Premier League.
He finished the season having made 1,598 passes in the Premier League for Arsenal, only Shkodran Mustafi (1,765) and Granit Xhaka (2,245) made more.
He was also ranked fourth in tackles made (44) and fifth in terms of interceptions (30).
There is still plenty of room for improvement for Guendouzi, especially in the attacking third where he has to start becoming far more of an influence.
He scored just once during his 47 games last season and only provided three assists. Those numbers must start to improve and you expect they will as he continues to mature as a footballer.