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Meet the kids looking to force their way into Arsenal’s first-team plans

A third consecutive season in the Europa League and a very restricted transfer budget has hugely dampened the mood around Arsenal ahead of the new season.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Gunners have failed in their pursuit of statement signings – including the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Kieran Tierney – and have only brought in Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli for £6million so far.

Arsenal appear somewhat at a crossroads but Unai Emery may look to get around a disappointing summer so far by giving the club’s youngsters an opportunity in the first-team.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look through the 11 youngsters on Arsenal’s pre-season tour of the United States that will be looking to shine… 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery may look to his youngsters next season for some inspiration

Arsenal manager Unai Emery may look to his youngsters next season for some inspiration

ZECH MEDLEY 

19, Centre back

Emery is looking for a new centre-back after captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel to the US, while he remains unconvinced by Shkodran Mustafi and has fitness doubts over the likes of Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos. 

But he may not have to search too far, with Medley currently on his radar in the States. The 6ft 5in teenager, who was named on the bench for Arsenal’s home Premier League clash with Leicester last season, is a tall and powerful central defender who has proved himself to be a reliable force in the heart of the backline.

Medley – a boyhood Arsenal fan, who arrived from Chelsea midway through the 2016-17 season, has become a regular in the youth sides, and he has even shown his quality as a full back and is capable of driving forward into midfield.

Zech Medley is a tall and powerful centre back who looks to dominate against his opponents

Zech Medley is a tall and powerful centre back who looks to dominate against his opponents

DOMINIC THOMPSON

18, Left back

After joining as a central midfielder in 2012, Thompson has converted into a more than reliable left-back for the Under 18 side. 

He has a very calming presence on the ball and threatens opposition defences by pinning them back with his darting runs forward.

The Hale End graduate’s impressive form was rewarded with a professional contract in June 2018 and Emery named him in his travelling squad that visited FC Vorskla in the Europa League last season.

Dominic Thompson has a calming presence on the ball and loves to get forward when he can

Dominic Thompson has a calming presence on the ball and loves to get forward when he can

JOE WILLOCK

19, Central midfielder 

Willock is one of the more experienced youngsters at Arsenal and he will be expecting more game time next season after being given an opportunity to impress in Emery’s first-team last term.

The young central midfielder has long been a standout performer in the club’s academy and was in fact given his senior debut in September 2017 against Doncaster under Arsene Wenger.

Willock has never let the occasion get to him and possesses a comfortable nature on the ball under pressure, with vision to successfully unlock defences. The exciting Englishman has netted three goals for the first-team, scoring a delightful curling effort against Vorskla for his first goal in Arsenal colours.

Joe Willock will be looking to go from strength-to-strength next season in Arsenal's first-team

Joe Willock will be looking to go from strength-to-strength next season in Arsenal’s first-team

ROBBIE BURTON

19, Central midfielder

Perhaps the most surprise inclusion in the pre-season tour of the US but new assistant manager Freddie Ljungberg has obviously seen plenty of talent in the 19-year-old central midfielder. 

The Welshman is often deployed as an advanced playmaker where he can do the damage, tasked with dictating proceedings and unlocking opposition defences. 

Burton, who has previously admitted to looking up to Santi Cazorla by becoming more two-footed, signed his first professional contract in the summer of 2018 and he will have lofty ambitions.

Robbie Burton's biggest strength is his passing and he is tasked with dictating the tempo

Robbie Burton’s biggest strength is his passing and he is tasked with dictating the tempo

JAMES OLAYINKA

18, Box-to-box midfielder

Olayinka, who has been with the club since seven years of age, was recently rewarded with his first professional deal in January 2019 and has stepped up to feature prominently for Arsenal’s Under 23 side. 

The 18-year-old has shown his versatility over the last couple of seasons, featuring as a central midfielder for the most part while also appearing in every available position on the right-hand side, as well as on the left-wing too. 

He labels himself a box-to-box attacking midfielder, showing plenty of grit and determination down the years, and recently claimed his style is closest to new Juventus star Aaron Ramsey.

Arsenal's James Olayinka has proved a very versatile player over the past couple of seasons

Arsenal’s James Olayinka has proved a very versatile player over the past couple of seasons

EMILE SMITH ROWE

18, Attacking midfielder 

‘He has got something a little bit special, and he has a real chance’, Jack Wilshere echoed about Smith Rowe while on Arsenal’s pre-season tour last summer after breaking onto the scene with a fantastic goal against Atletico Madrid.

The 18-year-old Croydon-born midfielder has been tipped to have a big future and that was evident when playing for the first-team last season. He showed real composure beyond his age, scoring against Qarabag and Blackpool last season.

He was sent on loan to RB Leipzig in January this year but his spell was not a successful one as he couldn’t recover properly from a groin injury. He will be looking to make an impression on Emery once again.  

Emile Smith Rowe is one of the most exciting players to come out of Arsenal's academy

Emile Smith Rowe is one of the most exciting players to come out of Arsenal’s academy

REISS NELSON

19, Winger

Arguably the youngster that excites Arsenal supporters the most and they are hoping that Nelson is given the opportunity to show what he is made of next season. 

With the club struggling in their pursuit of a winger, 19-year-old Nelson may be called upon by Emery after impressing on loan at Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim last season, where he made 23 appearances and scored seven times. 

Earlier this summer, Nelson said: ‘I not only developed as a player in Germany but also as a person.’ He might just be that solution for Emery next season, and can provide that drive and pace to get in behind the opposition full-backs.

Reiss Nelson is bidding to become a regular for Arsenal after impressing on loan at Hoffenheim

Reiss Nelson is bidding to become a regular for Arsenal after impressing on loan at Hoffenheim

GABRIEL MARTINELLI 

18, Winger

The Brazilian is viewed as one of the most promising talents in his homeland and recently earned a call up to the training squad before this summer’s Copa America.

He was snapped up quickly by the Gunners, with new technical director Edu playing a huge role in his signature, and he was named straight in Arsenal’s pre-season tour squad.

The Gunners have high hopes for their £6million signing, who bases his game on footballing great Cristiano Ronaldo. Martinelli scored 10 times in 34 games for Sao Paulo based side Ituano after making his debut at the tender age of 16.

New Arsenal signing Gabriel Martinelli is viewed as one of the most promising talents in Brazil

New Arsenal signing Gabriel Martinelli is viewed as one of the most promising talents in Brazil

BUKAYO SAKA

17, Winger

Another youngster who Arsenal fans would like Emery to give a go to in the first-team. At just 17 years of age, Saka has shown no fear whatsoever in his couple of games playing for the senior side.

Saka, who loves to drive at defenders and get them on their back foot with his pace, made his full home debut for Arsenal against Qarabag in December last year – proving to be one of his side’s most threatening players on the day.

The teenager was then rewarded with his Premier League debut against Fulham on New Year’s Day in a 4-1 victory over Fulham at the Emirates.

Bukayo Saka has shown no fear when he has featured in Arsenal's first-team of late

Bukayo Saka has shown no fear when he has featured in Arsenal’s first-team of late

EDDIE NKETIAH

20, Striker

Nketiah signed off last season with his first goal in the Premier League with the final kick of the campaign against Burnley. He broke onto the scene with a brilliant brace against Norwich in the League Cup the season before, quickly warming himself to the club’s faithful. 

The 20-year-old has a brilliant eye for goal and holds an impressive return at every level he has played for at both club and country. After an injury to Danny Welbeck, he was seen as third-choice last season behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. 

And he will look to keep that going on the pre-season tour and tempt Emery to keep him at the Emirates next season, with it having been reported that he may get sent on loan to the Championship for regular game time.

Eddie Nketiah hopes to provide a test for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Alexandre Lacazette

Eddie Nketiah hopes to provide a test for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Alexandre Lacazette

TYREECE JOHN-JULES

18, Striker

John-Jules’ talent was highlighted by working his way into the Under 23s side at just the tender age of 17 and now just one year on, he is learning from the best in Aubameyang and Lacazette.

John-Jules, who has been a part of the Gunners’ youth set-up since the age of eight, predominantly plays as a striker but he can also drop off to be more involved in the build up of moves in a deeper role or on the wing. 

The two-footed 18-year-old – whose idol is club legend Thierry Henry – is a clinical finisher with class on the ball, and is a threat anywhere inside the box.

Tyreece John-Jules, whose idol is Thierry Henry, is a clinical finisher inside the penalty area

Tyreece John-Jules, whose idol is Thierry Henry, is a clinical finisher inside the penalty area

Original article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-7248587/Meet-kids-looking-force-way-Arsenals-team-plans.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490

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