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Five Arsenal youngsters to look out for next season

Sports Mole takes a look at five Arsenal youngsters to look out for in the 2022-23 season.

Ever since the days of Arsene Wenger's illustrious tenure, Arsenal have prided themselves on handing opportunities to the stars of tomorrow, and that philosophy has not changed under Mikel Arteta.

Hale End continues to produce a plethora of highly-rated academy graduates ready to take the step-up to senior football, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in particular showcasing the skills they learned in their youth days on the biggest stage.

Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles can also boast to have featured regularly for the first XI at one point or another, but attention is now turning to the latest crop of talented teenagers in the academy ranks, especially with the return of Europa League football signalling a greater need for depth.

Perhaps the highest rated of them all - Charlie Patino - has already played in front of the Emirates crowd for the senior team and opened his account straight away against Sunderland before starting in the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest, but what about those who are yet to make their first-team debut for the Gunners?

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at five Arsenal youngsters to watch out for in the 2022-23 season.


MARCELO FLORES

Marcelo Flores in action for Arsenal Under-23s in January 2022© Reuters

Making his debut for the Mexico national team before appearing for Arsenal's senior side, Marcelo Flores is a name on all Gooners' lips right now, and not only for his acrobatic celebrations which rival the likes of Nani and Lomana LuaLua.

The Canadian-born 18-year-old - who was also eligible to represent England before pledging his allegiance to Mexico earlier this month - left Ipswich's youth ranks in the spring of 2019 to head for London Colney, and the step-up has hardly phased him one bit.

From 11 appearances in the Under-18 Premier League last season, Flores banked six goals and two assists from his role as the creative hub, including a hat-trick in a 5-3 success over Aston Villa's starlets back in August.

Flores was soon presented with the opportunity to test his mettle at Under-23 level and struck four goals from 10 Premier League 2 matches - demonstrating his versatility from the left and right flanks - as well as scoring against Chelsea at the Emirates in the EFL Trophy.

The teenager already has two senior appearances for Mexico under his belt and continues to impress with his nifty footwork, strong link-up play and an eye for goal that would certainly impress his senior Martin Odegaard.


BROOKE NORTON-CUFFY

"I don't want Arsenal ringing me up saying 'What have you said that for? But I've been saying it behind the scenes, I think he will play for Arsenal's first team on a regular basis."

Words spoken by former Lincoln City manager Michael Appleton when asked by reporters about the development of Gunners loanee Brooke Norton-Cuffy, who took to senior football with aplomb in League One last season.

The 18-year-old right-back made a number of fleeting appearances for Arsenal's Under-23s before moving to Lincoln on a six-month loan in January, and he took no time at all to settle into life in the third tier - totalling 17 appearances in the division in total.

Comfortable featuring as an out-and-out right-back or further up the field, Norton-Cuffy ended his stint at Lincoln with one goal and one assist from 13 League One starts, with his 5ft 11in frame helping him win a lot of battles in the defensive third.

In the teenager's words, he is a defender who simply loves to attack and help out at the back, and the athletic full-back is never afraid to take on his man high up the field.

The upcoming pre-season period could prove to be a campaign-defining summer for Norton-Cuffy, who was named the Gunners' Scholar of the Year for the 2021-22 season and will certainly hope to force his way into Arteta's thinking while injuries continue to bedevil his senior options.


OMARI HUTCHINSON

Omari Hutchinson in action for Arsenal's Under-23s on January 11, 2022© Reuters

Perhaps a more familiar name given his regular appearances on the first-team bench in 2022, Omari Hutchinson is knocking firmly on the door for his first-team debut in 2022-23, and the 18-year-old statistics make him difficult to ignore.

Scoring seven goals and providing eight assists in 20 Under-18 Premier League appearances two seasons ago convinced Kevin Betsy to give the young Jamaican a go in the Under-23s, and Hutchinson immediately repaid that faith.

From 21 games at Under-23 level in all competitions in 2021-22, Hutchinson scored eight goals and set up seven more, with his most notable showing arguably coming in a 2-1 Premier League 2 win over Tottenham Hotspur in which he set up both of Kido Taylor-Hart's goals.

Arteta welcomed Hutchinson to the first-team bench in the EFL Cup, FA Cup and Premier League last season, and having a player who can play here, there and everywhere is invaluable, with Hutchinson regularly featuring either in the middle, left or right of the midfield, while on occasion spearheading the charge or even dropping to full-back.

A former England youth international, Hutchinson made his senior debut for Jamaica in a 6-0 defeat to a Catalonia side boasting revered names such as Riqui Puig, Oriol Romeu and Gerard Deulofeu a couple of days ago.

Do not be surprised to see Hutchinson weave his way in and out of tackles to try to score a magnificent solo goal either - complete with a similarly impressive backflip celebration to that of Flores's.


LINO SOUSA

Arsenal's January transfer window was a forgettable affair for Gooners, who have pinpointed that lack of activity as a reason for their top-four failure, but the mid-season acquisition of Lino Sousa could yet prove to be a masterstroke.

The 17-year-old rose through the youth ranks at West Bromwich Albion before making the switch to Arsenal's academy four months ago, and after just three games for the club's Under-18 side, he was handed the captain's armband.

Six appearances - two of them as skipper - for the Under-18s followed an eye-catching period at Under-23 level for Sousa, whose two starts for Betsy's side brought him two goals from the left-back position.

Whether the teenager's cross-cum-shot against Manchester City was intended to nestle into the back of the net is another question entirely, but the 6ft 1in defender - who has been capped at Under-16 level for England - is another one ready for a major pre-season test.

Kieran Tierney's injury problems and transfer links with Newcastle United is hardly ideal for Arteta, while Nuno Tavares's volatile nature will seemingly not cease anytime soon. As a result, Sousa will hope to be given the chance to strut his stuff over the summer months.


MIKA BIERETH

Interest in Mika Biereth was rife after the young striker scored 21 goals in as many matches for Fulham's youth prospects two seasons ago, but Arsenal are now counting their lucky stars that the 19-year-old headed for London Colney.

A clear path into the first team was cited as one of Biereth's reasons for choosing North London, and the Denmark Under-19 international has staked his claim for a first-team debut in 2022-23 with a glut of goals under Betsy's tutelage.

Biereth netted 11 times in 21 Premier League 2 appearances last season and was handed the captain's armband for the final three games of the season, in which he found the back of the net against both Man City and Manchester United.

The teenager's five appearances for Denmark's Under-19 side have already brought him two goals, and providing five assists throughout the season will be music to Arteta's ears, with the Spaniard seeking a centre-forward who can do it all.

Some anticipated senior striker signings and a proposed new deal for Nketiah could still make game time difficult to come by for the 6ft 1in Biereth, who may very well be sent out on loan to the lower leagues in order to experience his first taste of first-team football next season.


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Gabriel Martinelli celebrates scoring for Arsenal against Everton on May 22, 2022
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