Three To Watch: Who Are the Next Breakthrough Stars from Arsenal’s Hale End Academy
Arsenal’s academy is a goldmine full of young talent. In the past couple of seasons, talents such as Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe, and others have broken into Arsenal’s first-team squad and impressed. In this article, I’ll aim to take a look at some of the talents that are on the cusp of following in their footsteps.
Folarin Balogun is a striker very highly rated amongst the Arsenal hierarchy. He is just 18 years old but has scored goals endlessly at every level he has played at. He got 25 in just 19 appearances last season playing U18 football and that’s without mentioning the four assists he got too. Similarly to Nketiah, Balogun likes to play off the shoulder of his defenders, often latching onto through balls before finishing with ease. He is a penetrative dribbler and a good passer of the ball too but his finishing is without a doubt his best quality. With a composure that is rare amongst those his age, he consistently beats keepers with either foot unleashing venomous strikes that seem to always find the corner.
It’s fair to say Arsenal are a team without a shortage of strikers. With the first team strikers and also Tyreece John-Jules to compete with, it may take a loan for Balogun to get his first chances of first-team football. One thing is for certain, and that is Arsenal’s value of the teenager. According to reports, Balogun was subject to a £5m bid from Brentford in the January transfer window which was met with a swift decline from Arsenal, the club making their unwillingness to depart with the striker well known.
Miguel Azeez is another highly rated Hale End youngster. A central midfielder, Azeez most commonly plays in either a box-to-box role or a slightly deeper, defensive position for the Arsenal U18s. His quick feet and confidence have caught eyes often this season, as well as a beautiful strike against Aston Villa U18s which had Arsenal fans raving. Many have tipped Azeez as the ‘next big thing’ to come out of Hale End and his ability seems to have been more than recognised by the club already. Azeez has managed to feature for the U23s this season, despite not being 18 until September. More impressively, however, Azeez has been added to Arsenal’s Europa League squad.
It’s perhaps unlikely Azeez will feature save for unforeseen circumstances but the fact he has been selected says everything about the ability of the midfielder. Certainly, one to watch for the future.
Sam Greenwood hasn’t been in Hale End for long. He joined from Sunderland at the start of the 18/19 season and signed his first professional contract with Arsenal in 2019, amidst incredible interest from Serie A giants AC Milan and Juventus. Greenwood is an extremely versatile forward with the ability to play all across the front line. This is made possible by his fantastic ability to strike the ball with both feet effortlessly. Greenwood has played most commonly on the right wing for Arsenal scoring 10 goals and registering 5 assists for the U18s last season, but also has featured as a Striker for England U17s where he bagged 12 goals in just 14 games. One of Greenwood’s biggest talents is for sure his ability with set pieces. He is deadly accurate with free kicks and a specialist in corner taking, having the talented ability to take them with either foot, something Santi Cazorla was famous for.
Greenwood has too managed to break into the U23s this season, scoring a goal off the bench for them against Derby. He is most definitely another to be watched, as a breakthrough is surely not far away if current performances are kept up.
Hale End is bursting at the seams with talent right now and these players are only the tip of the iceberg. It truly is a very exciting time for Arsenal right now and the opportunity is there to bring these players through and build towards that Hale End core in the first-team squad. Whether these three players are loaned out or follow in the footsteps of Saka and co is yet to be seen but what we know for certain is that these young men have incredibly bright futures ahead of them and it will be very exciting to watch how they unfold.