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Nelson, Smith Rowe & the six youngsters Arsenal must build their future around

12:00 PM GMT+4 08/06/2019
Emile Smith Rowe Matteo Guendouzi Reiss Nelson Arsenal
The Gunners have some of the most exciting young talent in the Premier League

Arsenal are heading into another period of change as the club looks to close the gap on the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool at the summit of English football.

But failure to secure a top four spot last season, combined with the defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League final, means the Gunners are facing up to a third successive season outside of the Champions League.

That means money will once again be tight at the Emirates, with owner Stan Kroenke still insistent that he will not be putting in any of his own money and that the club will continue to operate to a self-sustaining model.

That means Unai Emery will have a transfer budget of around £45 million ($57m) this summer, which is far from enough to oversee the type of rebuild that is being planned.

That figure can of course be increased by any player sales this summer, but Arsenal are also planning on giving more opportunities to some of the club’s impressive young talent that is waiting in the wings to make a serious impression with the first-team.

That is one of the big reasons that Freddie Ljungberg, who was Under-23s head coach last season, will be moving up to become part of Emery’s coaching staff for the coming season.

Here, Goal takes a look at six of the best rising stars at the Emirates who could play a key role in the club’s future over the coming years.


This has to be the year that Nelson makes a significant step towards cementing his place in the Arsenal first-team.

Last season’s loan spell in Germany will have been an important learning curve for the 19-year-old, who started the campaign in scintillating style for Hoffenheim - scoring six goals in his first 11 games.

Nelson was unable to maintain that level of form, but still ended the season having made 29 appearances and was one of six candidates for the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year award.

He will return to Arsenal this summer looking to show Emery that he is ready to make the step up at the Emirates, although he will unfortunately miss the pre-season tour to the United States due to his involvement with England at the European Under-21s championships.

Arsenal were crying out for wingers last season and Nelson can play on either side and has the attributes needed to make a real impression under Emery. He’s quick, can run with the ball, can beat a man and - as he showed in the Bundesliga last season - he can score goals.


Whether Emile Smith Rowe will be at Arsenal next season remains to be seen, it could be that he will go out on loan once again.

But even if that does happen - with a return to the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig possible - he is a player who has an excellent chance of making it in north London.

Smith Rowe demonstrated during the first half of last season that he is more than capable of making the step up to senior level, despite being just 18.

He scored three goals in just six games for the first-team before a hip injury disrupted his season.

The teenager spent the second half of the campaign with Leipzig in the Bundesliga, but that same hip injury limited him to just three appearances in Germany.

Like Nelson, Smith Rowe has attributes that others currently in Emery’s first-team squad lack. He is a ball carrier, looks to break the lines between the midfield and defence and is a real threat in front of goal from the attacking midfield positions.

He signed a new long-term contract last summer and could go on to be an integral part of Arsenal’s plans over the coming years.


What a talent Arsenal have on their hands in Bukayo Saka.

The winger does not turn 18 until September, yet he has already made his Premier League debut - as well as appearing in the Europa League and the FA Cup.

He made 28 appearances at youth level last season, with 20 of those coming for the Under-23s, scoring 11 goals and contributing 10 assists.

Saka has been viewed for some time as one of the best young talents progressing through from Arsenal's Hale End academy and made a big impression on Ljungberg last season.

He played as a winger, but also as a wing-back. And that versatility will interest Emery who ended last season using a 3-5-2 system.

Despite being just 17, Saka is physically strong and looks capable of coping with the demands of senior football. If Arsenal don’t sign a left winger this summer, it would be no surprise to see him putting Alex Iwobi’s place in the team under real pressure next season.


There are many who view Amaechi as the best of the current crop within Arsenal’s youth ranks.

But the big issue is, he has just one year left on his contract and as it stands it’s looking increasingly likely that Arsenal could lose the right-winger - with Bayern Munich one of several European clubs hoping to lure him away from the Emirates.

Arsenal need to prove to Amaechi that he will get his chance in the first-team if they want to keep him, but their hopes were not helped when he travelled all the way to Baku for the Europa League final, only to be replaced on the bench by Dejan Illev - despite Arsenal already having named Bernd Leno amongst the substitutes.

Amaechi is a right-winger who has fabulous technique and possesses rapid pace. He can beat his man for fun and score goals from the wide positions.

Arsenal should do all they can to get him to sign a new contract before it’s too late.


It’s easy to forget that Matteo Guendouzi is just 20 years old.

The France Under-21s midfielder arrived at Arsenal as a virtual unknown last summer but ended his debut campaign in England having made 47 appearances for the first-team in all competitions - only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Iwobi and Lucas Torreira made more.

There is still plenty of room for improvement in Guendouzi, especially in the final third where he needs to become more of an influence, but the potential the midfielder possesses is huge.

For just £7m ($9m) he has already proved to be a bargain and if he continues to progress at his current rate, then Arsenal will have an incredible talent on their hands in the central midfield area.

It’s true that Guendouzi’s performances did dip over the second half of the campaign, but that is to be expected from a 20-year-old adjusting to the demands of the Premier League.

He finished the season having made 1,598 passes in the Premier League for Arsenal - only Shkodran Mustafi (1,765) and Granit Xhaka (2,245) made more.


A star in the making.

Arsenal have two hugely exciting young strikers just below the first-team at the moment in Eddie Nketiah and Tyreece John-Jules, both of whom could go on and make it at the Emirates.

Nketiah will hope to have even more opportunities to impress under Emery next season, while John-Jules could also get a chance - although he is in a similar position to Amaechi, having just one-year left on his deal with interest mounting from abroad.

But in 17-year-old Balogun, Arsenal have another incredibly talented young centre-forward who produced a goalscoring clinic in 2018-19.

He scored 25 goals in just 19 games for the Under-18s, including four in one match as the Gunners thumped Reading 8-0.

Emery has already given the forward some opportunities to train with the first-team and Balogun has made a big impression on the coaching staff, as well as on Arsenal’s star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

He is a forward who likes to get on the shoulder of the last defender and run in behind. And, as his goalscoring record suggests, he tends to hit the target more often than not when he does get in front of goal.

It would be no surprise to see him taken on the pre-season tour to the United States.