While there are still three games left to play in the Premier League, this season is effectively over for Arsenal.
After their Europa League semi final elimination at the hands of Villarreal last week the Gunners now have to face up to the fact that they will almost certainly not be playing European football for the first time in 25 years next campaign.
Far from just hurting the club’s pride it is also set to damage them heavily in the transfer market where the lack of continental competition will impact both their finances and pulling power ahead of the summer.
With the impacts of COVID-19 also still yet to be truly felt at the Emirates, money is set to be tight in the red half of North London unless the Kroenkes stick to their promise of breaking a near 14-year trend by investing heavily in the window.
All this means that Arsenal will probably have to look internally for solutions to some of the problems with their squad as Mikel Arteta seeks to build for next campaign.
While there have been suggestions that the Gunners highly talented crop of youngsters could be used to boost the transfer budget, there are also several who the club will want to keep a hold of in order to make some contributions to the first team.
With that in mind here is a list of eight Arsenal youngsters who could be ready to make their step up to the first team in 2021/22.
It might not seem like it now, but come the summer Arsenal could find themselves very light in the goalkeeping department.
Mat Ryan is set to return to Brighton when his loan spell finishes as things stand, while Runar Alex Runarsson has done little to inspire much confidence in his limited game time this season and Bernd Leno has also been linked with a move away.
All this could open the door for highly rated Hale End stopper Arthur Okonkwo.
The 19-year-old is yet to make a senior appearance for the Gunners but has been on the bench for their recent Europa League ties against Villarreal, signifying that he has moved above Karl Jakob Hein in the pecking order.
football.london understands that Okonkwo is set to leave the club on a free in the summer as things stand, but if Arsenal are able to convince him to stay he could well be in with a shout of battling for the number two spot.
Something of a forgotten man after not featuring for Arsenal for two seasons now Dinos Mavropanos has a genuine argument to being one of the club’s most successful loanees this season.
At Stuttgart he has impressed consistently leading to rave reviews from the Gunners former head of recruitment Sven Mislintat.
The 23-year-old is one who is ready to make the step up to Mikel Arteta’s first team almost straight away and his versatility when it comes to playing in either a back three or a back four may play into his favour on that front.
football.london understands that talks have begun about extending the Greek international’s loan spell in Germany, but given that he has two years remaining on his contract at the Emirates, doing so without some form of buyout or extension would make little business sense.
With all that in mind he could well be the man to replace David Luiz who is expected to leave when his deal runs out in the summer.
Like Mavropanos, William Saliba also hasn’t played for Arsenal in two years, but there can be no suggestion that anyone has forgotten about him.
The expectation was that the 19-year-old would break into the Gunners first team after the end of his loan spell at St. Etienne last season, but instead he bizarrely found himself out of the squad entirely behind Shkodran Mustafi for the first half of this campaign before heading out on loan to Nice for the second part.
He has impressed back in France and won Les Aiglons’ player of the month award for January. For one so young his leadership has really come to the fore among an inexperienced back line.
football.london understands that the 19-year-old is set to be given a chance to impress in pre-season when he returns from Ligue 1. A decision will then be made on where his future lies.
With Luiz’s departure imminent and Arteta having stated his preference for having “four or five centre backs” in the past it’s easy to see where Saliba gets into the team.
Gunners fans will be hopeful that next campaign is the time for him to finally play get a chance to deliver on his potential at the Emirates.
Having featured in a Premier League squad last month for the first time there can be no doubting that Miguel Azeez is very much on Mikel Arteta’s radar.
The 18-year-old has been in brilliant form for the under-23s this season, but perhaps most impressively just as much against senior opposition in the Papa John’s Trophy, having scored a goal against Crawley.
His fine performances at youth level were rewarded with a first team debut against Dundalk in December and there could be plenty more where that came from next campaign.
This could open a pathway towards some more minutes in the Arsenal midfield for Azeez, who is very highly rated within the club.
Goals from midfield have been a real problem for Arsenal this season.
Between them Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard have managed just four Premier League goals this season, while Joe Willock has five on his own.
The 21-year-old was sent out on loan to Newcastle in January to get some consistent game time and is really thriving at Premier League level.
There is a strong argument that the Gunners should look to cash in on Willock while his stock is high.
Steve Bruce has consistently stated his desire to sign the Hale Ender permanently and the £20 million fee being quoted would do wonders for the transfer budget.
But if Arsenal want to fix a massive problem in their squad then they need look no further than the England under-20 youngster who is set to return in the summer as things stand.
This pretty much goes without saying but Bukayo Saka is going to be huge for Arsenal next season.
He already has been this time around, managing seven goals and ten assists in in 43 appearances.
Only Granit Xhaka has played more minutes of the outfield players in the Gunners squad and it is easy to lose count of the number of times Saka has saved his side with crucial interventions.
The hope will be that a return to form for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and more contributions from other players in the squad will reduce the burden on the 19-year-old next season.
His versatility will also be crucial as Mikel Arteta looks to streamline his squad to cope with a significantly reduced playing schedule.
Emile Smith Rowe
Another who has already done it this season is Emile Smith Rowe.
It is no coincidence that Arsenal’s form upturned dramatically around Christmas after he was introduced to the first team and with his first Premier League goal against West Brom on Sunday he has shown what is still to come.
Arteta has challenged him to do more with his end product and backed him to get 15 goals and ten assists with the natural ability that he possesses.
The only concern with the youngster is whether his body will be able to keep up with the demands of performing consistently at senior level.
He has picked up his fair share of minor knocks this season and was subbed off at the weekend after cramping up in his hamstring.
In this regard the lack of European football may be a blessing in disguise for the 20-year-old who will be able to maintain his physical freshness with a much more relaxed schedule.
It seemed for so long like Folarin Balogun‘s Arsenal career was going to be over before it even started as he was set to leave on a free transfer this summer.
However, the club were able to convince the 19-year-old striker that his future prospects were best served in north London if he was willing to hang on and be patient for game time until next season.
Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah have both been linked with exits this summer, which could open up a pathway for the Hale Ender to compete with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli for the centre forward spot in Mikel Arteta’s side.
In the limited appearances we’ve seen so far the youngster looks capable of making the step up, having scored a goal every 32 minutes in the Europa League this campaign.
Last by no means least on this list is Gabriel Martinelli.
The Brazilian has had to be patient as he makes his way back into the first team after recovering from a long term injury lay-off that kept him out for six months.
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Since coming back though he has shown exactly why Arsenal fans are so eager to see him play more often and with standout performances against Sheffield United and Newcastle there have been signs of the potential he possesses.
That said though there are still aspects to his game that are a little bit raw which need to be moulded before he is able to start on a regular basis.
But with the aforementioned departures in the Gunners frontline scheduled this summer the 19-year-old is set to get plenty more first team exposure next season to learn his craft as both a left winger and a number nine.