It has become something of a given that Arsenal will produce some new young starlet every season. The famed Hale End academy that has produced Cesc Fabregas, Ashley Cole, Jack Wilshere, Alex Song and numerous others has been complimented by the signing of young talent from elsewhere to make it truly one of the most formidable academies in the world. We all know about the latest crop of youngsters to come out such as Frimpong and Wilshere but here we’re going to take a look at the next in line.
Aneke, of Nigerian descent but playing for England at youth level, signed for Arsenal in 2001 aged just seven years old. However after impressing for Arsenal’s youth and reserved sides Barcelona attempted to poach both Chuks Aneke and Benik Afobe from the North London Club. Both Arsenal youngsters were invited to Barcelona’s training camp in 2009 but both decided that Arsenal was where their futures lay. Aneke is a powerful central midfielder who has recently been likened to Yaya Toure by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
Aneke’s early form for the Gunners’ reserve team has been turning heads and he told the Arsenal website: “I’m feeling good so far this season. I’m optimistic that this will be a big year for me. I intend to produce good things on the field and show people how good I am, and so far I think I’ve done ok…I’ve played three times for the Reserves and been in decent form – scoring a couple of goals and playing pretty well. So overall I’m happy and want to push on from here”
Aneke, who made his debut in the Carling Cup this season, is now thought to be heading out on loan with a host of Premier League clubs interested in taking the youngster. Many Arsenal fans lament the loss of former captain Patrick Vieira who was arguably the complete midfielder – able combine defensive solidity with attacking prowess. With Aneke Arsenal fans will be hoping that finally they have produced a player in a similar mould.
Benik, the other player to be approached by Barcelona, is a powerful striker for the gunners who has formed a powerful on field relationship with midfielder Aneke. Afobe was on loan at Huddersfield last season and helped the Terriers reach the League One play-off final. The speedy striker scored eight times in thirty six appearances for the Northern club and continued his good form at international level too as he was part of the under-17 team that won the 2011 European Championships. He was also named player of the tournament after scoring four goals and notching up three assists.
Afobe is a powerful out and out striker with deadly finishing and pace to match, the type of striker that Arsenal have not had since Adebayor left. Despite the success of the Arsenal academy the one thing they have so far failed to produce is a truly world class striker. Maybe Afobe is about to change that…
To put a spin on an old cliché: goalkeepers at Arsenal are like buses; they never turn up when you need one and then suddenly three come at once. Whilst Szczesny has established himself in the first team and young Argentine goalkeeper Damian Martinez is getting stronger by the day you could be forgiven for forgetting about Arsenal’s latest youth team keeper Reice Charles-Cook. Nephew to James Cook MBE, a former British and European super-middleweight boxing champion, Reice shares the reflexes and presence of his uncle.
Described as an exceptional shot stopper with a firm command of his area the young goalkeeper, at just seventeen years of age, may have a long way to go before he can even think about breaking into the first team. However the improvements noted in him in the past years have been vast and his reputation at the club is growing as fast as his talent.
Most Arsenal fans would say that they are extremely happy with their current goalkeeper but there’s nothing like competition to get the best out of your players.
For more Arsenal news and stories follow Hamish on Twitter @H_Mackay
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