Lansbury deserves Arsenal chance after years spent waiting in the wings

The 21-year-old midfielder scored the winner for the Gunners in a friendly victory over Anderlecht on Saturday but faces an important season if he is to break into the first team
By David Lynch

There is an undeniable feeling of 'now or never' for Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury following his goal in Saturday’s friendly win over Anderlecht.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has previously hailed the 21-year-old’s ability to “smell when [he] has to be in the box”, and he evidenced this brilliantly against the Belgian side as he tapped Carl Jenkinson’s cross home to secure victory.

Of course the Frenchman knows plenty about Lansbury’s other qualities – his work-rate, commendable attitude, and eye for a pass – but he is the one who must decide on the most important factor of all: whether he is ready for first-team action this season.

It is now over four-and-a-half years since the Enfield-born midfielder made his debut for the north London side as a substitute in a League Cup tie against Sheffield United. During that time, Lansbury has seen the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere establish themselves as regulars at the Emirates, despite both being younger than him.

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 1-0 Anderlecht
The midfielder must surely feel that he should now be afforded the opportunity to break through, and his record during several recent loan moves more than backs that argument up. Initial spells with Scunthorpe and Watford saw him look the part at League One and then Championship level, respectively, and his goal return provided plenty of encouragement.

At the start of the 2010-11 season, Lansbury then scored his first goal for the club in, of all games, a north London derby victory over Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the League Cup. Many Gunners fans were predictably baffled by the subsequent decision to loan him to Norwich City, as Denilson toiled in a midfield lacking the steel which the Englishman provides. But the Arsenal youth product continued to impress, scoring four times in 23 Championship appearances as Paul Lambert's men gained promotion to the Premier League.

His time with West Ham last season was perhaps his least fruitful on loan thus far, as he made just 13 league starts under Sam Allardyce despite having scored on his debut. Bizarrely, his most notable contribution came as a substitute for goalkeeper Rob Green following his sending-off against Blackpool, as he kept a personal clean sheet in a 4-1 win for the east London side.

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It is fair to say that former Bolton boss' reputation for a more direct style of football and the Hammers’ status as favourites to gain promotion made Upton Park a difficult environment for a young loanee. Regardless, Lansbury kept his head down, showing the professionalism which has previously seen Wenger compare him to Gunners legend Ray Parlour.

It is that sort of resilience which he must show if he is to emulate the former England midfielder at the Emirates, but whether Wenger will give him the chance to do so is another matter entirely.

After nearly half a decade's toil, you can't say that he doesn't deserve it.

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