By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Chuba Akpom has been handed a Champions League squad number by Arsenal and could be fast-tracked into the senior squad before Christmas.
The 17-year-old striker has been registered on Arsenal’s ‘B’ list for their Champions League campaign as recognition for his rapid development through the club ranks.
Akpom marked his 17th birthday last month by signing professional terms and has been earmarked for big things at club and international level.
The precocious forward is a regular for Arsenal Under-21s and he has also been called up to the England Under-19 squad this season. Akpom, who can play in any of the three roles across the forward line, has scored five goals in 12 matches for his club in the Under-21 league and NextGen Series this season.
The teenager was on the verge of being named in Arsenal’s squad for the Capital One Cup trip to Reading last month but Arsene Wenger opted for the experience of Olivier Giroud at the last minute.
Nonetheless, sources have told Goal.com that Akpom is likely to be involved in the first-team squad before Christmas and then sent out on loan to a lower league club in the New Year.
He will wear the number 67 shirt if he features in either of Arsenal’s final two Champions League group fixtures, or in the knock-out stages later this season.
Each club competing in the Champions League is entitled to register an unlimited number of players on the ‘B’ list during the season, provided they are 21 or under and have been at the club for at least two years without interruption.
Academy players Zak Ansah, Nigel Neita, Austin Lipman, Joshua Rees, Jack Jebb, Samir Bihmoutine, Sead Hajrovic, Isaac Hayden, Elton Monteiro, Jordan Wynter and Reice Charles-Cook, none of whom have played for the first team, have also been handed Champions League squad numbers.