COMMENTARY | With Arsenal's 2012-2013 Barclay's Premier League season coming to an end this weekend, it comes time to consider the future of the team. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is widely regarded as one of the best soccer minds on the planet; especially when it comes to discovering, and developing young talent. Despite the fact that Arsenal's under-21 team finished their season in a mediocre fifth place out of eight teams, and their under-18 team finished fourth out of seven academy teams, there were some definite bright spots for the young Gunners. With the pure talent that the following players have, and the ability to develop players that Wenger possesses, I can definitely see these teenage stars make an impact on the first team in the very near future.
Chuba Akpom - Striker
The 17-year-old England under-19 international forward has impressed during his 2012-2013 season. Aside from playing in Arsenal's under-21 squad, he also featured in the newly evolved NextGen Series (which showcases Europe's top under-19 club teams). Akpom scored 4 goals in his team's 10 total games in the NextGen Series, tying him for the fourth most goals scored in the tournament. The 6-foot tall youngster has pace, power, and the knack to finish from close range. One look at Chuba's YouTube videos, and you'll see what I mean. (And yes, I do realize that I could possibly make my 7-year-old niece look like Pelé in a short, edited video.) During his current under-19 international soccer career, Akpom has scored 5 goals in only 4 appearances. There is no question that he could be the next great striker to come out of England. Current international star he reminds me of: Poland's Robert Lewandowski.
Serge Gnabry - Midfielder/Winger
Also at 17-years old, Serge Gnabry is one of the most promising teenagers in European soccer. The Germany under-18 international midfielder/winger has impressed Wenger so much so that the manager has played Gnabry in 4 first team games during the season (1 in the Premier League). The Premier League appearance made Gnabry the third youngest Arsenal player to ever play in a Premier League game (behind Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fàbregas). The speedy youngster featured in the NextGen Series as well, compiling 2 goals in the tournament. At the youth international level, Gnabry has appeared for the under-16, under-17, and under-18 German sides. In 18 games with these squads, he has tallied a total of 6 goals. With Arsenal's lack of depth at both midfield and winger, Gnabry could be making a substantial impact on the first team very soon. Current international star he reminds me of: Germany's Mario Götze.
Hector Bellerin - Defender
Bellerin might be a tad under the radar at the moment to most soccer fans, but it won't be that way for long. The eldest of the trio at 18-years old, Bellerin has represented his country, Spain, for the under-16, under-17, and under-19 year old teams in the past. Watching him play, one can tell that he has been converted from a winger in recent years. The attack-minded right back has pace, vision, and solid tackling ability. Like Akpom and Gnabry, Bellerin also shined in the NextGen series for the Gunners. With current Arsenal starting right back Bacary Sagna possibly moving away from the Emirates this offseason, Bellerin could quite conceivably step up to be the backup to first teamer Carl Jenkinson. Current international star he reminds me of: Brazil's Dani Alves.
Christopher Moore has followed Arsenal Football Club for over 10 years.
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