Arsenal academy update: Smith-Rowe, Willock & Balogun set for breakthrough campaigns

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The Gunners were crowned PL2 champions last season and will be hoping to produce another impressive campaign this time around at youth level

Arsenal are one of the few top-six Premier League clubs to give youth a chance in recent years. 

Alex Iwobi, Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are among the names who have established themselves in the first team over the past few seasons.

With former Gunners captain Per Mertesacker leading the academy and Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg managing the Under-23s, there is considerable optimism around Hale End that the young guns can showcase their credentials on a consistent basis this season.

Goalkeeper Matt Macey will spend the season on loan at League One side Plymouth Argyle, while highly-rated defensive midfielder Krystian Bielik is already impressing on loan at Charlton, where he scored his first goal at the weekend. Nigeria youngster Kelechi Nwakali recently received his first call up to the national team and is spending the campaign on loan at Porto.

Goal takes a look at Arsenal's current standout performers at Under-23 and Under-18 level...


Under-23s


Emile Smith Rowe Arsenal 2018-19

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Arsenal's highly-rated Under-23 squad includes hot prospect Emile Smith Rowe, the youngster who was heavily involved in the club's pre-season campaign.

Smith Rowe, 19, scored in a friendly match against Atletico Madrid and he also impressed in the recent U-23 win over Tottenham at Emirates Stadium.

League Cup opportunities are expected to be handed to the best of the U-23 crop, with Reiss Nelson heading out on loan to Hoffenheim in a bid to fast track his development.

Joe Willock is another player who was given several first-team opportunities last season and will look to push on in the new campaign. He scored in the match against Spurs, as did Charlie Gilmour - the Scotland Under-19 star - who converted from the penalty spot having incredibly scored a hat-trick of penalties in an Under-18s win over Liverpool last season.

Freddie Ljungberg's side also boast England Under-17 star Tyreece John-Jules who scored a hat-trick for the Under-18s last weekend but clearly looks good enough to play at U-23 level after a dominating performance against Spurs.


Under-18s


Folarin Balogun Arsenal 2017-18

Arsenal started their Under-18 campaign with three straight wins until they met Chelsea at Cobham last weekend.

The Blues have won the FA Youth Cup for the last five seasons and dominated the game, although Folarin Balogun did manage to get on the scoresheet for the Gunners.

Balogun, who was born in New York, is eligible to play for England but was recently called up to the United States Under-18 squad. The 17-year-old admitted last season that he came close to joining Tottenham and was spotted by Arsenal playing for his Sunday League side Aldersbrook.

The likes of Reiss Nelson, Trae Coyle and Bukayo Saka have all been fast tracked into the Under-18s in recent seasons, with Yunus Musah looking the most likely player to follow in their footsteps this season. At 15 years old, Musah has impressed in midfield although he's also able to play on the wing and is expected to sign a scholarship deal when he turns 16.

Summer signing Sam Greenwood, an England youth international who joined from Sunderland, made his first appearance in a recent win over Brighton and is also expected to become a shining light in the U-18s this season.

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