One of the emerging talents in Arsenal’s Academy Chris Willock, has confirmed via his twitter account that he has signed a new contract with Arsenal. The 16 year old who happens to be one of three football playing brothers turned down overtures from Manchester United to sign his first professional contract with Arsenal.
The attacking midfielder can play in both wings and can play in an advanced role in midfield. He has played for Arsenal’s U18 and England’s U16.
This signing comes at a time when Arsenal’s Academy has struggled to produce talent in the last few seasons, since the emergence of Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs. A lot was expected from the likes of Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Emmanuel Frimpong, Chuks Aneke, Zak Ansah and others, but either for lack of effort and discipline, they failed to make the grade at Arsenal which led to their eventual release.
The struggles at the youth set up was evident by the result of the club’s U18 last season, which led to them losing their top league status.
However, there are exciting times ahead for Arsenal’s Academy, as a new era starts in July with a new Academy manager, Dutch man Andries Jonker, who replaces Irishman Liam Brady. A lot is expected of that part of the club in the coming years.
The emerging talents in Jack Jebbs, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock are expected to break into the first team in the coming years. Zelalem did make his first team debut against Coventry in last season’s FA cup.
Despite, the calls of close followers of the Academy set up to see more players break into the first team, it is finding the common ground between the cheque book players and getting players in from the academy that has become a pressing issue. Arsene Wenger has not shied away from using players who he sees as good enough for the first team.
However the pressures of success have limited Wenger’s use of players from the academy over the past seasons.
Added to that the inconsistencies common in young players has exacerbated the situation. Gedion Zelalem after his sublime pre-season faded out of the picture after signing his first professional contract. And has been hit by injuries.
The appointment of Jonker provides a platform for the club’s Academy to reinvent itself. Yet emerging talents like Chris Willock can certainly get fans excited but with a dose of caution as few knows whether talents will turn out to be a stand out player.