Arsenal: Youngsters promising, but not dependable

SINGAPORE - JULY 26: Joe Willock #59 of Arsenal looks on prior to the International Champions Cup 2018 match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Arsenal at the National Stadium on July 26, 2018 in Singapore. (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images for ICC)
SINGAPORE - JULY 26: Joe Willock #59 of Arsenal looks on prior to the International Champions Cup 2018 match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Arsenal at the National Stadium on July 26, 2018 in Singapore. (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images for ICC) /

Arsenal have a fresh crop of talented young stars who many want to start the 2019/20 season, but while they are promising, they can’t be relied on yet.

Throughout the International Champions Cup, Gunners were given glimpses of the young talent that had been brought up through Arsenal‘s Hale End. As is the case every year, fans were very impressed with what they saw, just as I was.

Eddie Nketiah showed a real knack for finding space in the box as well as the back of the net. Joe Willock showed his athleticism and creative ability in midfield. Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson illustrated their dangerous pace and 1v1 ability.

These players all clearly have a future ahead of them but to many Arsenal fans, their future is now. Much of the Gunners media has demanded them to be thrown into the mix for a first team spot right off the bat. This is a problematic approach to say the least, reflectant of one thing: desperation.

As Arsenal fans, It is apparent to me that our standards have dropped notably and yet we still question why we perform the way we do. Our patience and commitment to our players is a blessing but also a curse. For years, Arsenal fans have molded their opinion to fit the current state of the team and it is problematic to me that four young players who performed well in preseason matches can be talked up in the way they currently are.

This sounds harsh and unfair to the youngsters, but let me break it down.

The intensity of the Premier League is something that cannot be replicated in the International Champions Cup. The abundance of space, time on the ball, and a lack of physicality is essentially impossible to come by in first tier English football. I would still attest to the fact that Reiss Nelson is the most game ready due to the fact that he has extensive first team experience with Hoffenheim, where he performed very well for half of the season.

Eddie Nketiah has been the main talk of many Gunners this summer and he will have a moderate role in the first team as a backup to Aubameyang and Lacazette (he’s the only other striker in the squad). Nketiah did score three goals in preseason but two were tap-ins (to give him credit the other was quite nice) and other than his poaching ability, he does not provide enough in the open field of play.

Saka appears to me as very raw and although he is pacy and elusive, I just don’t see him being able to provide Arsenal with anything special quite yet in the Premier League.

Related Story. 3 Takeaways From United States Tour. light

Lastly, is Joe Willock, who is already being debated by many as capable of starting in midfield or at least to compete for a job. As much as I like Joe Willock, this idea is laughable. In the ICC he got caught out several times with a sloppy touch or a poor pass in midfield. It was not incredibly apparent at the time but you can bet that in the Premier League, it would be.

Yes, he is a true box-to-box midfielder which we have lacked but the (hopeful) signing of Dani Ceballos along with the competition from Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka should see that he does not gain a regular spot in the first team.

I will use Calum Chambers as another example to emphasize my point about desperation. Still just 24, Chambers is seen by many Gunners as a bright player for the future. Let me make this perfectly clear: he is not.

I have watched Chambers perform countless times for the Gunners as well as for Fulham on loan this season where he earned their player of the season award. Chambers is still the same player even after that season. He is still plagued by his lack of athleticism as well as his overall mediocre ball playing skills. Perhaps he belongs on a lower tier side such as a Fulham, but his ability should not be prominently featured in a side that seeks to qualify for the Champions League. If Chambers had played for a Spurs, United or Chelsea he would have been sold off already and yet, we keep him around thinking that just maybe he could be something.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

Yes, in a sense we are desperate. We have fallen behind where Arsenal teams aspire to be and we do need some radical changes to ensure that we can seriously compete for a top 4 spot. With that being said, that does not entail that our standards as to who is a quality player and who is not need to drop.

For too long we have relied on players who do not deserve to be relied upon. Gunners have been waiting and waiting on Ozil, Xhaka, Mustafi and many others to perform up to expectations and this clearly reflects the fact that you cannot rely on people that you are still regularly letting you down.

If Nketiah, Willock, Saka or Reiss Nelson break into the first team over the course of the season I will be brimming with excitement at the prospect of having such a young up-and-coming star.

However, the fact that we are discussing the possibility of players like Joe Willock already being capable of starting is repeating the same mistakes we have already made. Throwing someone who is unproven and not entirely reliable into a necessary position is problematic.

Ideally, Arsenal will lock down the signing of Ceballos and hopefully a winger such as Everton Soares to ensure that we do have more reliable players who have proven first team quality. If the youngsters truly possess that first team quality which I am yet to clearly see evidenced, then they will either earn their spot in the first team or force Emery to choose between several good, reliable options. Which is not the worst problem to have.

When Harry Kane broke into the Spurs first team in 2014 he started as a substitute who eventually earned his way to the starting spot and the stardom that he now possesses. It’s not as if after several good preseason games, he was immediately granted the starting spot.

10 Things Learned About Unai Emery In Year One. dark. Next

We need to hold ourselves to higher standards if we truly seek to take that next step forward as a club. The youngsters who we are all excited for need to earn their way into the first team this season, it will not simply be given to them because they just haven’t earned it yet.