The Championship is often overlooked as a Premier League recruitment pool, with sides from the top flight often preferring cheaper, better-proven talents from abroad.
But there’s still plenty of talent in the English second tier, should you know where to look, and just to prove it, here’s a list of FIVE Championship prodigies that have reportedly caught Arsenal’s attention over the last 18 months or so.
The Gunners snapped up Carl Jenkinson from the lower leagues back in 2011 – could we see one of these hotshots follow the defender’s path to the Emirates in the course of the next few transfer windows?
Kicking off this list is the most recent Championship prodigy to be linked with an Emirates switch – Ipswich Town’s Tyrone Mings:
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger steps up pursuit of Ipswich Town defender Tyrone Mings: The 21-year-old left-back has… http://t.co/mryxfkRu8J
— Football-News (@Bot_Football) October 18, 2014
Many feared the worst when West Ham swooped for the Tractor Boys’ star full-back Aaron Cresswell this summer but Mings has filled the void in abundance, winning the Championship’s Player of the Month award for September after bagging assists against Brighton and Wigan.
The 21 year-old’s defensive displays have been equally impressive this season, as detailed below, and it’s Mings’ ability to contribute heavily at both ends of the pitch, creating 22 scoring chances in 16 outings this term, that’s earning him such rave reviews:
Measuring in at a towering 6 foot 3, the former Chippenham Town youngster already possesses the physique to handle the rigours of the Premier League.
Arsenal’s squad needs some defensive reinforcements in January too, but having penned new terms at Portman Road in September – a very busy month for the defender – the tabloids believe he’ll now cost the Gunners around £10million.
Charlton Athletic run one of the most successful academies in the Football League, with some of their more recent Premier League-reaching alumni including Jonjo Shelvey, Diego Poyet and Arsenal’s very own Carl Jenkinson.
And the latest prospect to emerge from the Valley youth ranks is England U21 Jordan Cousins – heavily linked with the Gunners last January:
Arsenal track transfer targets Jordan Cousins and Alex McCarthy as well as Jamaal Lascelles for next generation:… http://t.co/4DwYxT6WB3
— Football-News (@Bot_Football) January 23, 2014
The 20 year-old is an impeccable athlete with appealing versatility; often considered a defender in his younger years, Cousins has featured predominately in midfield for the Charlton first team and this season surprisingly finds himself out on the wing.
The flanks don’t particularly play to the Junior Lion’s strengths – he’s more stocky and industrial than quick and graceful – but even so, Cousins has claimed the joint-most assists of any player in the Charlton squad this season:
He also scored an absolute stunner against Wigan last term, demonstrating his technical quality:
Cousins is certainly a little rough around the edges and a long way off the Arsenal first team.
But he’s held down a slot in the Addicks’ starting XI almost permanently since his Championship debut in August 2013 and is the kind of youngster that could be moulded into anything – be it a holding player, a full-back, a box-to-boxer, an offensive midfielder or even a ball-playing centre-half.
He’s tied down at the Valley until 2016, but Charlton are often forced to surrender their brightest prospects for relatively modest fees.
It seems virtually every major Premier League club, including Arsenal, wants to get their hands on Fulham youngster Patrick Roberts:
— FootballFanCast.com (@FootballFanCast) September 22, 2014
Liverpool step up efforts to land 17-year-old Fulham wonderkid Patrick Roberts: Kop scouts made another personal… http://t.co/JkiNas86bh
— Football-News (@Bot_Football) November 9, 2014
So is this sought after whipper-snapper?
Well, following their relegation doom last season, the Cottagers are rebuilding from the ground up, throwing a number of impressive young talents – some academy products, others brought in from other clubs – straight into the first team fray this year.
The 17 year-old’s only made two starts, in addition to nine substitute appearances, amassing the solitary assist in just 301 minutes-worth of Championship action. That may not seem much to get excited about, but here’s the winger’s vitals this season based on per-90-minute metrics:
Also boasting 12 goals in 26 appearances for England across the junior levels, ranging from U16 to U19, Roberts’ development has been documented for some time.
He was also a key component of the Fulham side that reached last term’s FA Cup Youth Final, even netting in the 7-6 aggregate defeat to Chelsea. Here’s a clip of the Fulham hotshot in action:
If Arsenal aren’t continuing to monitor Derby County’s Will Hughes after being linked to the midfielder last season:
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) October 31, 2013
…then quite frankly, their scouting department needs an overhaul.
The Rams reached the play-off final last season and this year look dead-certs for automatic promotion. The 19 year-old’s form has played a significant role in that, contributing six goals and eight assists in his last 61 Championship outings – including this goal against Blackburn in September:
Soon followed by this effort against Fulham:
Here’s a look at Hughes’ vitals over the last 18 months:
As you can see, it’s the England U21’s quality in possession that particularly stands out, allegedly even enticing scouts from Barcelona to Pride Park in November 2012, and would furthermore make him an ideal acquisition for the Gunners.
Hughes appears destined to reach the top flight at some point and likely the England national team too. Resultantly however, he’s been mooted with fees as high as £15million.
Arsenal have been linked with Moses Odubajo before, and may feel compelled to revive their interest after the Brentford starlet’s solid start to life in the Championship.
The 21 year-old was at Leyton Orient last season, with his twelve goals across all competitions firing them to the League One play-off final – where he netted this stunning volley against Rotherham:
The Bees snapped him up during the summer, despite rumoured interest from Tottenham and West Ham, and the winger-come-full-back has gone on to produce some decent form in the second tier, as shown below:
The Greenwich-born hotshot is quick, industrial, versatile and possesses a decent eye for goal – in other words, there’s a lot the coaching staff at Arsenal could work with.
Having only moved to Griffin Park last summer however, Arsenal will likely have to wait until at least next summer to attain Odubajo’s signature.