Arsenal’s Hale End Academy has produced few strikers during Arsene Wenger’s 18 years as manager of the club. During this period, no particular striker could be said to have risen through the ranks. Nicklas Bendtner did arrive as a 16 year old in 2004 and formed a prolific partnership with Arturo Lupoli at youth level, while the former went on to make 171 appearances with 47 goals for the first team, the latter was more or less a failed project.
English forward Benik Afobe did follow that path of a youth striker that many expected to come good for the first team. He scored lots of goals at youth level, but he is yet to make an appearance for the first team, while injuries have blighted his career, he is currently doing well in this loan spell with League One side MK Dons.
Also Nigerian born English forward, Chuba Akpom, is another in the long list of youth strikers that many expect to make the step up. The 18 year old has been in good form for Arsenal’s Under-21s this season. He played in the wings in Arsenal’s Capital One Cup penalty shoot out win over West Brom last season, while he appeared as a late substitute against Southampton in the same competition last week.
Yet, the path is not clear in respect of whether he would make a sustained step up to the first team.
There is however another rising sensational at Arsenal’s Under-18s who is currently taking that division by storm at the moment. He is English born striker Stephy Mavididi. The 16 year old has scored 10 goals in six matches for the Under-18s this season. He is a striker, who can also play as winger. With his goal scoring form, he is expected to rise through the youth ranks rapidly. True to that, he came off the bench for the Under-21s to make his debut at that level last week.
Besides, the aforementioned Nicklas Bendtner, no striker has actually risen through the youth ranks in Arsene Wenger’s time in North London. There is always that affinity between the fans and a player that came through the academy, and the importance of a striker that comes through the academy cannot be overemphasized.
Yet, the realism on ground is that, it is a scenario that is far off at the moment. The path of either of Chuba Akpom or Stephy Mavididi to the first team in the coming years is far at the moment especially with a relatively young Danny Welbeck now leading the line for the club, while Yaya Sanogo is still in the background, before the small matter of Oliver Giroud is mentioned.
The crave for signings, together with giving opportunity to players coming through at youth level, would always be an issue that remains unresolved.