NEXT BIG THING: Top 8 kids inside Arsenal youth system

Arsenal’s famed youth academy continues to churn out some top quality youngsters as it has done over the years.

In tribalfootball.com’s first ‘NEXT BIG THING’, we take a closer look at the Top 8 talents on the Gunners' books in 2013/14.

 
Joel Campbell

Signed from Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa in August 2011, 21-year old forward Campbell has massive wraps in north London.

Since arriving at the Emirates, Campbell has spent time on loan with Lorient in France, Real Betis in Spain and is currently on a season-long loan with Olympiakos in the Greek Super League.

Campbell, who has scored eight goals in 28 internationals for Costa Rica, has the ability to operate as a central attacker or out wide and has already made his presence felt in Athens with four league goals for a total of five from 14 outings in all competitions. He even made his first Champions League start against PSG on Wednesday night in Olympiakos’ 2-1 loss.

Back in March 2012, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger suggested that Campbell needed to become more consistent: "He shows good talent," he told Arsenal Player.

"He lacks consistency and that is where he learns his job at the moment. To be a professional is a job and that's what he has to learn."

From the looks of his most recent scoring performances for Olympiakos, against PAOK and Panthrakikos, it appears as though Campbell is certainly improving that element of his game.

Serge Gnabry

The 18-year old German forward arrived in north London from VfB Stuttgart in 2011 and has gone from strength to strength since his move to Arsenal.

Gnabry signed his first pro contract in the summer of 2012 before he was handed his first-team debut as a substitute against Coventry City in the League Cup that season. He also made his Premier League bow against Norwich City in October and managed some Champions League action with minutes off the bench against Schalke in the same month.

The supremely talented Gnabry has now gone on to make a total of 10 appearances for the Gunners which included his first senior goal in a 2-1 win over Swansea City in September which came prior to him signing a five-year deal in late October this year.

Of that contract, Wenger told arsenal.com: “We signed Serge Gnabry because I believe that he will be a great player.

“He's nearly there now, and competes for a regular place in the team in the Premier League.

“He has technical ability, he has power, he has pace, he has finishing quality and he can give a final ball. He's a powerful offensive player and I believe that he will be a great player for Arsenal football club.”

Chuba Akpom

The 18-year old English striker, of Nigerian descent, entered Arsenal’s youth system as a six-year old before making his U18s debut as a 15-year old.

Akpom, who penned a senior contract with the Gunners in 2012, has been a regular scorer for England youth teams since 2011 and has so far appeared twice for Wenger’s senior team – as a sub against Sunderland in the Premier League in September and against West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup in the same month.

In November last year, Akpom told Arsenal Player that Wenger had told him to work on a few areas of his game in order to improve his overall ability.

“He told me that he’d been watching me play and liked what I do, but said I should be scoring more headed goals – so I suppose he set me another challenge there and then,” Akpom said when he signed his first pro deal.

“It was a proud day for me and my family, who were there to share in the occasion with me, but I know that this is just the beginning. What it has done is instil even more responsibility.

“My job is doing what I love, playing football, and you cannot get better than that.”

Thomas Eisfeld

Another promising German on Arsenal’s books, Eisfeld made his way to the Gunners academy from Borussia Dortmund in January 2012.

The 20-year old attacking midfielder made his senior debut in the astonishing 7-5 League Cup win over Reading last season before gaining a start in this season’s version against West Brom.

Eisfeld has already gained comparisons to the great Robert Pires and upon signing for the Gunners, manager Wenger said: “Thomas is a player we have liked for some time. We’ve watched him closely this season, where he has excelled for Dortmund’s youth team.

"He is young but has proven to us that he can play, that he has the attitude and technical ability to be a valuable addition to our squad. We’re very pleased to welcome him to the Club and look forward to his contribution in the coming seasons.”

Dan Crowley

The England U17 international is being tipped for very big things from the inner core at Arsenal.

Midfielder Crowley was signed from Aston Villa this past summer which infuriated the West Midlands club as they had seen him develop so nicely within their youth ranks.

However, Crowley ended up making the move to north London and the Gunners are now basking in what could be a very warm sunlight if the youngster they are dubbing ‘the next Jack Wilshere’ reaches his full potential.

Crowley, who has represented England at both U16 and U18 level, recently received a glowing endorsement from Wilshere himself who posted the following on his Twitter page.

Alex Iwobi

The nephew of former Nigeria and Bolton star Jay-Jay Okocha has a very bright future and has been touted as ‘one to watch’ at Arsenal.

17-year old Lagos-born Iwobi is a left-sided winger who can also operate in central midfield and has already impressed at U16 and U17 level for England. He also scored in a UEFA Youth League win for the Gunners against Marseille in September.

Iwobi has been with the north London club for almost a decade already and is ready to sign a professional contract when he turns 18 in May next year.

A player profile on Arsenal’s official website offered the following on the highly-talented Iwobi: “Skilful and quick with an eye for goal, Alex can play on either wing or just behind the striker in a three-pronged attack. While capable of scoring goals, Alex has also built up a reputation as a creative forward who can play an incisive pass.”

Gedion Zelalem

German-born of Ethiopian descent, 16-year old midfielder Zelalem is one of the brightest prospects to spend time in Arsenal’s youth academy.

Zelalem took part in the Gunners’ tour of Southeast Asia this past summer and quickly showed fans why he is being compared to ex-captain Cesc Fabregas.

Inclusion in the matchday squads for Premier League wins over Fulham and Tottenham this term show that the first year scholar is nearing a first team debut but for the time being he will have to continue impressing in the U21 team and in the UEFA Youth League with the north London giants.

Jack Jebb

Jebb is an attack-minded creative midfielder who has been capped at both U16 and U17 level by England.

The London-born 18-year old showed so much promise that Arsenal signed him to a professional contract in September 2012 and he is now expected to kick on an eventually force his way into the senior line-up.

Jebb was on target in the 4-1 UEFA Youth League win over Marseille a couple of months ago and continues to be a key contributor for the U18 and U21 sides.

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