Arsenal: Daniel Crowley situation requires careful handling

Crowley spent the end of last season on loan at Go Ahead Eagles in the Netherlands (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Crowley spent the end of last season on loan at Go Ahead Eagles in the Netherlands (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) /

Arsenal’s Daniel Crowley, once touted as the next big thing, faces an important point in his career. Decisions about him this summer must be taken carefully.

There has been a range of speculation about Daniel Crowley and his role next season, with decisions to make about potential loan clubs, a spot on Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Australia, and his club future. All before his contract expires in 2018. However, the situation will require delicate handling from Arsene Wenger.

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I have almost lost count of the number of potential stars who have fallen by the wayside with Arsenal in the last few years. The club, and Arsene Wenger, were renowned for supporting and developing youth, with such talents as Cesc Fabregas and Ashley Cole coming through the ranks.

However, the production has stalled in recent years, with only Alex Iwobi, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere even in the first-team discussion.

To paint a more depressing picture, the list of unsuccessful youth talents reads: Yaya Sanogo, Isaac Hayden Ignasi Miquel, Serge Gnabry, Wellington Silva, Benik Afobe and Ryo Miyaichi. There’s certainly more, this list was just off the top of my head from the last three years.

One talent who was being heralded at one point as the ‘next big thing’ was Daniel Crowley. He was a young English attacking midfielder who could play either out wide or through the middle as a No. 10.

He showed a sophistication that belied his years, possessing elegant ball control and a keen eye for a pass. He provided cohesion to the attack, along with goals and assists. He was very easy on the eye, if a tad inconsistent. The downside to him was primarily his physique. Short and not very strong, he could be bullied off the ball or kept on the periphery of matches.

The very same paragraph could be used to describe Jack Wilshere.

Jack Wilshere was supposed to be the future of both his club and country, but has not yet fulfilled his potential: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jack Wilshere was supposed to be the future of both his club and country, but has not yet fulfilled his potential: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

This was one of the reasons for fans getting so excited about him. However, as Wilshere’s star has fallen in recent years due to injuries, inconsistency, injuries, smoking controversies, injuries and injuries, Crowley’s has had a similar trajectory.

Having arrived from Aston Villa highly rated and with rave reviews, Crowley has also had a slight fall from grace, though not as pronounced. Little came of his first loan spell at Barnet, and his loan at Oxford United was unsuccessful and had to be terminated early.

Crowley bounced back with a fairly good half-season on loan with the relegation threatened Go Ahead Eagles in the Netherlands. In his own words he had ‘matured as a person and I’d like to think managers can trust me more. As a player, I’m getting stronger and I’m learning not to take too many touches in the wrong places.’

As he now returns from the Eredivise, Arsene Wenger must decide whether to take him on the preseason tour or not. A select few young talents will be taken, but Crowley is not among the names being circulated the most widely. As many will testify, one good preseason does not a first team player make, but the show of faith and opportunity to impress would do wonders for Crowley’s confidence.

On the other hand, he is only 19. Other youth players have less time on their side, and he is likely to go straight out on loan again once the season begins.

Even the choice of loan destination for the season will be an important choice. Crowley performed well in the more technical Eredivise, while struggling in the physical, blood-and-guts environment of England’s lower leagues.

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This might make it sensible to send him somewhere where he can thrive. Back to Holland, perhaps. Or maybe to Spain, following in the footsteps of Joel Campbell and Jon Toral last season.

This would guarantee him more playing time, as well as space to hone his technique and develop his playing style. On the other hand, it has been a longstanding criticism of Arsenal academy players that they are too technical, and lack the physical attributes necessary in the premier league.

A loan in the other leagues of British football, as Kristian Bielik and Gedion Zelalem had done, might also be beneficial. It looks to be a trade off between game time and comfort, and physicality and exposure.

Wenger must be careful to choose a club that is not too far to one extreme of this spectrum, as this would risk leaving him unprepared and undermining his confidence. Several European sides have expressed an interest in signing him on loan, as have Fulham in the Championship. Crowley has had this to say:

"I know I’ll be a Premier League footballer and if that’s at Arsenal then great but if the manager doesn’t think he can give me that chance then I’ll have to go elsewhere. I’m fine with that and I’ll still respect the boss. But I don’t want to stay for the sake of it."

Crowley’s contract will expire at the end of next season, and while it is unlikely he will be released while only 20, he does still have an awful lot to prove between then and now.

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What do you think, Arsenal fans? Is Crowley still the future of this club? Another over-hyped, overrated English youngster? What do you think is the best way to harness his talent in the season to come? Have your say in the comments below