Meet the Arsenal kids who could prove key to replacing Mikel Arteta’s first-team flops
Football has not even been back two weeks, yet already Arsenal have had a rollercoaster ride following the resumption of the Premier League campaign.
Consecutive defeats at Manchester City and Brighton left supporters fuming with their side and many of their senior stars have bared the brunt of the angst as hopes of reaching the Champions League next season hang by a thread.
David Luiz was severely criticised by supporters after conceding a penalty and getting sent off in the 3-0 loss at the Etihad Stadium, while Mesut Ozil, earning £350,000 per week, has fallen out of favour under Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has a promising batch of youngsters coming through at the club
Arteta has also lost patience with other first team stars including Matteo Guendouzi over attitude issues, while star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is considering his future away from the Gunners as he enters the final year of his contract.
On the surface it looks bleak for the Arsenal first-team, but a 2-0 win over Southampton on Thursday night suggested hope for the future after youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock got on the score sheet.
Here Sportsmail looks at the Arsenal kids that supporters can be excited about breaking into the first team sooner rather than later…
First-team stars including defender David Luiz have come under severe criticism from fans
Mesut Ozil earns £350,000 per week at the Emirates Stadium but has fallen out of favour
Nketiah has been in and around the Arsenal squad for quite a while now and the 21-year-old’s appearances have steadily increased across the last three campaigns.
The striker has seven goals across 29 appearances, and opened the scoring in Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Southampton on Thursday evening, after forcing goalkeeper Alex McCarthy into a dreadful error.
However, his 2020 appearances for the Gunners came following a disappointing loan spell at Leeds United in the Championship, where he failed to establish himself as a first team regular.
Arsenal supporters appear to be behind the striker though, and were keen to point out that his St Mary’s strike means he already has more Premier League away goals this term than senior forward Alexandre Lacazette.
Eddie Nketiah was on Loan at Leeds for half a season, came back and has now scored more away goals than Lacazette who’s been here all season.
— WelBeast (@WelBeast) June 25, 2020
With Nketiah selected ahead of Lacazette for the Premier League clash at the south coast it appears Arteta may have already promoted him up the pecking order.
Eddie Nketiah opened the scoring for Arsenal in their 2-0 victory over Southampton
Arguably the most exciting of the Arsenal youngsters who have broken into the first team during this campaign.
Martinelli was signed by Unai Emery last summer for what now seems a bargain price of £6million. He has rarely disappointed for the Gunners, already bagging 10 goals from 26 games in all competitions this term.
Liverpool’s Premier League title-winning boss Jurgen Klopp has labelled him as ‘the talent of the century’ and he is already walking in the footsteps of former Arsenal legends after becoming the first player to score four goals from his first four starts since Ian Wright.
The 19-year-old has not featured post-lockdown and will be out for a sustained period due to a knee injury which has prematurely ended his campaign.
It should not be too much of a surprise though to find him spearheading the Arsenal attack at some point during the 2020-21 season.
Gabriel Martinelli has been a brght spark in an otherwise disappointing season for Arsenal
Even at just 18 years old, Saka has already become an established member of the Arsenal squad – with 15 Premier League starts to his name this term.
In fact, the winger has gone on to play 32 times across all competitions throughout the campaign and looks like being an integral member of the side of the future.
Except his future has looked uncertain in recent times. His contract at the Emirates Stadium expires at the end of next season and talks with the club had stalled over him extending his deal.
Such is his talent, Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich have all been monitoring his situation but talks have progressed within the last few days of him committing his future to the Gunners.
Bukayo Saka is close to agreeing a new deal at Arsenal having attracted interest elsewhere
Only Kevin de Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Riyad Mahrez have provided more than his 11 assists in all competitions this term, and Arsenal fans are desperate for him to stay.
One supporter compared him with former Arsenal midfield favourite Santi Cazorla, saying: ‘Bukayo Saka is the closest thing to Santi Cazorla I’ve seen in the past three years at Arsenal. Two footed, penetration into spaces with pace, great dribbling and immense flair. Best Under 19 player in the world.
Bukayo Saka is the closest thing to Santi Cazorla I’ve seen in the past three years at Arsenal. Two footed, penetration into spaces with pace, great dribbling and immense flair.
Best under-19 player in the world ✖️��
— H �� (@_sakalinho) June 25, 2020
Like Nketiah, Willock is also close to completing his third senior year of being in and around the Arsenal squad.
However, the 20-year-old has kicked on this term – featuring 22 times in the Premier League – even if 15 of those appearances have come as a substitute.
The midfielder is making strong progress though and he grabbed his first ever Premier League goal on Thursday evening with three minutes to play.
His versatility across the midfield and home grown status makes him a very useful addition to Arteta, who has only failed to select him in a squad for a Premier League game just once since taking over in December.
Joe Willock’s versatility across the midfield makes him an important option for Arteta
Nelson has been with the club since he was eight years old and came into this season off the back of a promising loan spell at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, where he netted seven goal in 29 games.
But sustained first team minutes have been harder to come by this term, not helped by him falling out of favour under Emery before he was sacked at the end of November.
Although he is yet to convince Arteta his worth in a starting role, he has made it back among the squad and across all competitions the winger has featured 18 times so far.
It appears he may not be ready for frequent first team appearances yet, but time remains on the 20-year-old’s side.
Forward Reiss Nelson is hoping to kickstart his Arsenal career under Arteta