Tuttosport published their list of 100 players that were considered finalists to win the 2020 Golden Boy award which featured four of Arsenal’s finest youngsters. Well, three and one Arsenal loanee listed under St. Etienne.
Three of the four players may not come as any sort of shock to you, but as Arsenal make a large overhaul of their squad and become more reliant on the presence and production of youth players, the club can take solace knowing they have some of the best.
First up is the young Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli who at 18 years old, because you’re 18 until you’re 19, has been one of the highlights of Arsenal’s season. Brought over from Ituano, Martinelli staked his claim early in the preseason when fans were shocked and dazzled by his workrate, pace, finishing, and attacking prowess.
Making 26 appearances across all competitions, he has turned that into a remarkable 10 goals and 4 assists, while showing he is capable of making a great impact from the wing or down the center. But he’s not just pinching goals, his movement and game IQ show a natural goalscorer and level of play well beyond his age.
In the Premier League, Martinelli has 14 appearances, 3 goals, and is managing to contribute on the defensive end as well with 1.4 tackles per game.
With question marks surrounding the futures of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, fans will be happy to see Gabriel get more time this season when everything resumes.
The second Arsenal name on the list is young Bukayo Saka, who blossomed in a much more unusual way than Martinelli who was playing in a more comfortable attacking role. Saka came up through the academy and besides early on in his career for a year, mostly played in the midfield. This year, with injury troubles to Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney, Saka took his opportunity and made more than the most of it.
Playing mostly as an attacking threat from the back, Saka has made 30 appearances in all competitions resulting in 3 goals, 9 assists, and droves of created chances. Building an incredible relationship with Martinelli and Aubameyang on the left wing, Saka has been a constant threat on the overlap. While some may argue he lacks a little bit of the defensive discipline to pick and choose his moments to get up the field, he still is tallying just under 2 tackles a game. Arteta really unleashed him by tactically having Xhaka supply him with defensive cover.
His contributions have no doubt earned him the right to be strongly considered for time in the midfield in a winger role, especially once Kieran Tierney is back and fully fit.
While William Saliba had to spend his year at St. Etienne before Arsenal could officially have him, he has certianly stayed on everyone’s radar with his performances at the heart of the defense. St. Etienne had more than their fair share of problems this year as they battled to stay out of relegation, but the young Frenchman may have been the brightest spot.
With the ability to read the game and place a well timed tackle, Saliba has not committed a foul this year from an attempted tackle. An astounding feat for a 19-year-old one a team that is asked to do a lot of defending. At 6’4″, Saliba is capable of winning the ball out of the air, adds 1.6 tackles per game, and 1.8 interceptions – a number that highlights his ability to read the game and act quickly.
There no doubt will likely be a learning curve as he adjusts to the fast, more physical, and more technical game of the Premier League, but if partnered with the right mentor, Gunners across the world will be hoping he offers a real solution to their defensive woes.
Trae Coyle has spent almost all of the year with the academy and youth teams, but with their seasons curtailed and Premier League clubs facing a compact schedule with the ability to use five subs a game – it opens the door for him to make a potential appearance.
He was recently seen training with the first team and managed to make his debut against Brentford in Arsenal’s 3-2 loss. To be honest, I dont know the most about Coyle, but by all accounts he is one to keep an eye on. Making this list certainly confirms that.
Exciting times for Arsenal youth and a clear sign that the efforts being put into the academy are paying off. There has been a suggestion that Brexit will cause Arsenal to adjust their recruiting strategy, but hopefully this won’t result in fewer players pushing for first team spots. All four of these boys have big futures ahead of them – hopefully the Gunners can keep, grow, and find continued success with them in the side.