All Guns Blazing: Promising duo could avoid worrying fate of recent Arsenal academy graduates
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
In our weekly Arsenal fan column, youth blogger Jeorge Bird picks out two stars of Arsenal’s academy, Chris Willock and Tyrell Robinson
It is becoming increasingly difficult for youngsters to make the grade at top clubs, but when a player features for the first team at just 16 years of age, they can be deemed to have a good chance of succeeding in the long term.
That was the honour bestowed upon Chris Willock, who started for the senior side in their pre-season friendly against Boreham Wood last summer just weeks after signing his first scholarship contract.
Arsenal had faced an anxious wait to see whether Willock would stay at the club, with speculation that he would move to Manchester United, where his older brother Matt plays.
However, Willock elected to remain in north London and has enjoyed an impressive season so far, with his confidence no doubt boosted by his first-team excursion.
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Capable of playing on either flank, but most comfortable in an advanced midfield position, Willock isn’t a frequent scorer but his game focuses more on creating chances for others.
He is still rather slight physically, but has already made his debut for the Under-21s this season in addition to featuring prominently in Arsenal’s UEFA Youth League campaign.
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Another worth keeping an eye on is Tyrell Robinson, who recently signed his first professional contract with the club.
A product of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, Robinson is usually deployed as a left-winger and uses his pace and strength to navigate his way past defenders. He has seen his stock rise further of late after an injury crisis meant that he received an unexpectedly early call-up to the Under-21 team as a left-back.
He was excellent in that position in the victory over Brighton & Hove Albion before Christmas as he won the ball back well and also set up a goal for striker Chuba Akpom. The following day, as a reward for his development, he trained with the first-team squad.
Both Willock and Robinson are likely to be in the squad when Arsenal travel to Atletico Madrid for their single-legged last 16 UEFA Youth League tie later this month.
It was in Spain, against the might of Barcelona, that Arsenal’s chances of winning this competition unravelled last season, so the young Gunners, albeit with a much changed team on this occasion, will be hoping that a similar defeat doesn’t befall them this year.
Follow me @jeorgebird