Capital One Cup: Reviewing Arsenal’s Most Exciting Young Prospects
After a grueling run of fixtures in the Premier League and Champions League, the Capital One Cup began in earnest yesterday with Manchester City and Tottenham getting the highest results of the night following their mauling of Wigan and Aston Villa respectively. The pick of the bunch will certainly be Manchester United’s clash against Liverpool tonight but Arsenal has an away trip to West Brom to contend with.
In the wake of Arsenal’s Capital One Cup clash with West Brom, it’s expected that Arsene Wenger would rest a couple of his fatigued first-team stars, handing starts to a couple of exciting young prospects. The blogger of the Gooner of Steel, Samuel Iyoha, has come to share his thoughts on these talented youngsters.
Over to you Samuel
The Capital One cup is here again as a necessary break was really needed from the fitness-sapping rigors of the Champions League and Premier league. The Capital One Cup always has mixed emotions for the Arsenal fans as they have witnessed great displays from the team’s youngsters, who have done really well in the past to go far in the competition, only to crash out under various circumstances.
In 2004, an unfortunate Jose Antonio Reyes own goal cost Arsenal a place in the final as Middlesbrough defeated the Gunners in the semis before beating Bolton in the finals. The Carling Cup campaign of 2006 was also fruitless as a late Jason Roberts goal ensured that Wigan went to the final in Arsenal’s expense courtesy of the away goal rule.
In 2007, Arsene Wenger guided his young lads into the finals of the competition only to lose out to a Didier Drogba-inspired Chelsea. Arsenal hit poor streaks in the tournament and came extremely close to glory in the 2011 Carling Cup final but a lack of communication between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny cost the team dearly as Birmingham City’s Obafemi Martins lurked around and scored what proved to be the match winner.
Last season, following an amazing 7-5 victory against Reading, Arsenal fielded a pretty strong side in the quarterfinals against eventual finalists, Bradford City, but they were made to rue their profligacy, and Gervinho’s miss would go down as one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of the competition.
This season, Arsenal has a realistic chance of winning the Capital One Cup, and starting with a third round fixture against Premier League campaigners, West Brom, the Gunners have to start firing from all cylinders from the first minute.
With the long injury list at the club, Wenger has continually used the same set of players repeatedly and their fatigue showed at the tail end of the game against Stoke City. It is imperative that the manager rotates his squad for the cup game, and the likes of injury returnees like Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen and Nicklas Bendtner are odds on to get some game time tonight.
However, we could see some youngsters from Steve Gattling’s U-21 side make the starting eleven. Let’s take a close look at some of the candidates:
GEDION ZELALEM, D.O.B: January 26, 1997 (16 years old)
Born in Germany to an Ethiopian father and American mother, the 16-year-old protegee is as versatile on the pitch as he is with his family background. Arrived in North London in January 2013, and has not looked back since then.
He has played a good number of U-21 games, traveled with the team for the tour of Asia and has made a huge promotion to the first team. For a teenager nick named the ‘little Fabregas’, he can only get better.
Zelalem was a standout performer in the Asia Tour and comparisons to Cesc Fabregas surfaced after watching his eagle-eyed pin-point passes as well as the way he dictated the tempo of the games he played in.
SERGE GNABRY, D.O.B: July 14, 1995 (18 years old)
The German winger came from Hertha Berlin in July 2012 and didn’t take time to make an impression on Wenger, getting his Premier League debut few months later in the game against West Ham.
Fleet footed, good dribbling skills and a good eye for goal, the German has all the qualities to have a great footballing career. Got his first Premier League start against Stoke a couple of days back and didn’t disappoint. With Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of the side, Gnabry will be set to get an extended run of games. Let’s hope that he seizes the bull with the horns.
RYO MIYAICHI, D.O. B: December 14, 1992 (20 years old)
Like every Japanese winger, Ryodinho, as he was fondly called during his stint in Holland, is very fast on the ball, has good dribbling skills and not afraid to take on the opponent. Once described by Roberto Martinez as a star in the making, the Japanese has a bright future ahead of him.
Arrived from Nagoya Gampus (Wenger’s former club) in the winter of 2011 failing to get a conditional work permit, the youngster was sent to Feyernoord on loan that winter was voted as the fifth best signing of the EreDivisie in 2011, despite coming in January. A loan move to Bolton followed, and Miyaichi impressed a lot before scoring his first goal in English football against Millwall.
Last season, he had an impressive loan spell at Wigan, albeit cut short by a knee injury. He has also been capped by the Japanese senior team. This youngster from the land of the Rising Sun has all the qualities to hit stardom.
HECTOR BELLERIN, D.O.B: March 19, 1995 (18 years old)
The young winger turned fullback arrived from the famous ‘La Macia’ academy in Barcelona alongside Jon Toral in the summer of 2012. The teenager is a very efficient right back in the mold of Dani Alves, contributes a good number of goals like the Brazilian . The right back is held in high regard by the academy staff and his one starlet to watch out for.
He starred in last season’s NextGen series and certainly caught the eye in that campaign.
CHUBA AKPOM, D.O.B: October 9, 1995 (17 years old)
For a striker this young, Chuba Akpom’s composure is worth commending. He bagged a lot of goals for the Under-21s last season and his goal haul in the NextGen Series was a pleasant side for Steve Gatting’s side.
The England youth international had an impressive pre-season tour of Asia scoring four goals and was rightly given his Premier League debut in the game against Sunderland following an injury concern to Olivier Giroud. The Nigerian born striker might still have a lot of work to do before attaining world class status, but the future is bright.
THOMAS EISFELD, D.O.B: January 18, 1993 (20 years old)
My personal favorite, the Borussia Dortmund import is one of the most technically gifted players in the arsenal youth team setup. Has the ability to play across the midfield and reminds many gooners of a young Tomas Rosicky. The young German is not new to the senior team as he had a great substitute appearance in Arsenal epic 7-5 victory over Reading in the Capital One cup of last season.
DANIEL CROWLEY, D.O.B: August 3, 1997 (16 years old)
Crowley is regarded as one of the most talented youngsters in England.
Arsenal pulled a master coup in signing him from Aston Villa in the summer. Made his debut in the Aston Villa U-16 team at the tender age of 12; and at 15, was already a key member of both the U-18 and U-21 of the side. A typical ‘No 10’, great eye for goal and for his age, is the best passer of the ball I have seen.
Tagged ‘the new Wilshere’, Daniel could be the No 10 England have been looking for.
These youngsters would get a chance to show their talents tonight but we would want nothing more than an Arsenal victory to keep the momentum going.
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